Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Neutral but My Friend David's Memoir Is a Truly Great Political Read; David Cameron Has a Strong Sense of Duty That Prime Ministers Should Explain Why They Did What They Did

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Neutral but My Friend David's Memoir Is a Truly Great Political Read; David Cameron Has a Strong Sense of Duty That Prime Ministers Should Explain Why They Did What They Did

Article excerpt

Byline: George Osborne

BOOK OF THE WEEK For the Record by David Cameron (William Collins, PS25) THE past in our politics is a foreign country; they did things differently there. That's the impression you get from reading David Cameron's memoirs. It's only 38 months since he left Downing Street but the struggles he chronicles feel like they belong to another age. It's all gone: the long-term economic plan; deficit control; coalition with the Lib Dems; the Big Society; education reform; Tory modernisation; vote blue to go green; hug a hoodie; the fight with Labour for every inch for the centre ground. Of course, it's my past too I was intimately involved with the government whose life and death my friend David sets out to tell.

All that has happened since makes all that came before look like a prelapsarian Eden. Hands up everyone who yearns for a time when the biggest row in British politics was whether to tax Cornish pasties? That doesn't mean the chapters on turning around the fortunes of, first, the Tories and then the economy aren't relevant now. Far from it. The failure to recollect the lessons we learned endangers both. The absence of any serious effort to build on reforms such as free schools and the sugar tax detailed in this book is not because these tasks are any less urgent it's just there's no time, energy or parliamentary majority.

The decision not to intervene in Syria may haunt those, like me, who sat around the National Security Council at the time, but the chances of our inward-looking country getting involved in stopping the next tragedy look even less likely now. That's what makes David's book as much a guide to our future as to our past. It's also a very good read well written, well edited, pacey, the substance laced with anecdotes about life at the summit. Scores are settled too. What's the best way to get back at Michael Ashcroft for commissioning that whole book about you? Don't mention him at all when you write your own. I'm sure David wishes he could get away with the same on Europe. No such luck. He knows he has to bang on about it. Like a great meteorite hurtling towards an unsuspecting Earth from space, its arrival is tracked throughout the 700 pages of this book from its distant origins to the final, devastating impact that kills off the moderate, centrist politics we had spent our adult lives practising and perfecting. Page 42, firsthand witness to the crash out of the ERM. Page 84, the leadership race pledge to leave the European People's Party. Page 119, Tony Blair's promise to have a referendum on the proposed European constitution. Page 337, the prime ministerial veto of a European fiscal treaty. …

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