Cameron offers the same defense for Brexit that Blair gave for Iraq: yes, things might have turned out disastrously, but my mistake was honest, I acted in good faith, I only did what I truly believed was right. Which is not to say that For the Record is not self-critical ... On Brexit, he is scathing, counting off the judgments he got wrong ... At first, all this makes Cameron an appealing narrator ... But that’s not the chief reason why this litany of confessed errors gradually loses its charm. At a certain point, the reader stops feeling sympathy for the author and concludes that he was just serially and unforgivably wrong. For the Record is meant to be the case for the defense. In fact, Cameron has written his own indictment ... Nevertheless, For the Record reminds you why Cameron dominated British politics for so long. The prose is, like him, smooth and efficient. There are welcome splashes of color... Cameron’s most unbending critics will put down this book as sure as ever that he was a hollow man lacking in any ideology or conviction beyond a vague, patrician faith in public service and his own ability to do the job of PM well.
Brexit is the giant, dark cumulonimbus that squats over the pages of this long memoir from its first sentence. You can sense that the author dreaded arriving at the chapters where he would have to explain himself, for the earlier ones are bulked up with some stodgy padding that could have benefited from more ruthless editing. In the build-up to the breaking of the storm that sweeps away his career, the tone is largely sunny ... He tends to the bland when discussing other leaders, but there are a few tangy titbits ... The book’s voice is not as humble as the interviews he has given to promote it. There are lengthy tracts of self-justification as he relitigates every controversy of his career before almost invariably coming to the conclusion: 'I was right' ... the memoir oozes bitterness from the still weeping wounds of a man who feels betrayed ... Cameron says he knows 'I failed.' This memoir doesn’t convince me that he fully grasps why.
The reason this book is so long, and ultimately so wearying to read, is that he is determined to recount it all and to remind us of everything that made up his premiership ... Cameron...has plenty of blind spots. He prides himself on his far greater openness to appointing women to important positions than any of his predecessors, including his ultimate hero, Margaret Thatcher. He boasts that by the time he left office nearly half his special advisers were female. He resents the accusation that he was running a ‘chumocracy’, which is one reason Gove’s jibe about the Old Etonian coterie at Number 10 really stung. Yet in this book it is noticeable that, with the exception of his wife and Angela Merkel, almost all the important conversations he recounts are with men. Women are often present, but usually in the background, and sometimes they aren’t there at all ... the person who is really missing from this book is his successor. He barely mentions her, even after he appointed her home secretary in 2010 ... the oddity is that Cameron managed to retain his non-binary view of politics when he had such a binary view of other people. And it’s not just his fellow politicians that he sorts into team players and the rest—it’s society as a whole ... This is absurd: if politics can be multifaceted then so too can everything else. Society does not have to be either broken or fixed: it can be both and it can be neither.