Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Brexit Club

The Inside Story of the Leave Campaign’s Shock Victory

Do you want to know what drives such haters of the European Union to spend millions of pounds and years planning a campaign to pull the United Kingdom out of Europe? If you do, don’t read this book.

While the egos of the likes of Arron Banks and Matthew Elliott are well and truly massaged as movers and shakers in secretive luncheon groups, the real psychology behind their loathing of the EU and their desire for Brexit is not explored.

Perhaps my need for this level of explanation is because I keep asking myself, ‘Why would someone do something like this?’, as I see my holiday euros costing more and more, and my dreams of one day returning to this world as my 20-year-old self and going on the Erasmus programme rapidly dissipate.

Anyway, we are all now in a space where we just want to get the best deal from Brexit meaning Brexit, so I will park the need for answers for now.

Farage, Aker, Redwood, Heaver, Bruni-Lowe, Kassam, Carswell, Reckless, Hannan, Banks, Elliott, Campbell Bannerman, Cummings. These are the key players in the formulation of the ‘Leave’ campaigns. All men. The whole enterprise seems very male. Decided by men, around men’s concerns, businesses, careers, finances. Only time will tell who Brexit really advantages in the long term.

However, Owen Bennett’s book is a wonderfully gossipy read.

Detailing the meetings, how furtive they believed they were (‘no-one would ever think of politicians meeting in an art gallery’), the content from those involved also exposes the deep suspicion of David Cameron by many ardent Leavers, and the derision with which long-standing Leavers were treated when they allowed space for Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’. The rivalry between those setting up different camps is also quite fascinating, with Banks’ method of negotiation seeming to be along the lines of ‘my wallet’s bigger than yours’.

Reflecting on the impatience of some for a ‘Leave’ group to be pressuring the government in the early stages highlights a political naivety. While John Redwood was heavily criticised for being a Eurosceptic sellout, it strikes me that it was deeply more politic than the forceful pushing and shoving of the fanatic leavers and moneymen. The Conservatives know the importance of being in power. So, as Redwood took a more cautious approach to labouring the point of a referendum, it served the Conservatives well that they were seen to be more considerate, that they could temper their enthusiasm and not frighten the British public with rabid nationalism.

From the United Kingdom Independence party side, slightly less so. It went off guns blazing, but ended up failing to be part of the official campaign. Eventually, it was permitted stage-sharing roles with the official campaign and it achieved its raison d’être. But while the Tories carry on in government, albeit with a new prime minister, Ukip struggles to remain relevant. Its leadership has collapsed, and without its founding purpose to focus on, its role as the most successful pressure group in British history seems to be coming to an end.


Melanie Onn is member of parliament for Great Grimsby


The Brexit Club: The Inside Story of the Leave Campaign’s Shock Victory
Owen Bennett | BiteBack Publishing | 352pp | £9.99



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Melanie Onn MP

is member of parliament for Great Grimsby

1 comment

  • Surprised that the MP for Grimsby has not grasped the fact that opposition to membership of the EU is shared by huge numbers of Labour supporters. It does not bode well for our future does it?

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