Reading corner: All Out War

All Out War

By Tim Shipman

William Collins

Brexit. A word that few had heard of this time last year has come to dominate British politics like nothing else. The earthquake of the referendum was just the start – its aftershocks continue to reshape life at Westminster, Brussels and beyond.

This book by Tim Shipman, political editor of The Sunday Times newspaper, is one of the first efforts to chronicle events in the run up to the vote and the turmoil it let loose. A doyen of the Westminster press pack, Shipman blends his deep talent as a storyteller with an ability to stay above the partisan fray, offering straight reporting on the many twists and turns of what has been an extraordinary period in British contemporary history.

Thanks to what must surely be one of Westminster’s richest contacts book, Shipman leaves no stone – or detail – unturned. Starting with the background to David Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum in the first place, Shipman moves to a detailed analysis of the campaign proper, before turning to the “all out war” of the book’s title – the fallout from the vote which saw Cameron’s resignation, a frenzied battle to replace him and the emergence of Theresa May as the UK’s second female prime minister.

Shipman understands how to pace a narrative. He has that priceless knack for making you want to turn the page in the hunt for yet more revelations and nuggets of insight. He also peppers each chapter with compelling portraits of all the key players – from the leading politicians to the backroom strategists on both sides – as they locked swords over the future direction of the country.

I suspect that those in the Leave camp will be more keen to pick up a book about Brexit than those who voted Remain – the wounds of defeat may well be too raw for them to want to delve deep into why they lost. While understandable, this would be a pity. Shipman or “Shippers” as he is known to many and on Twitter, has produced a first-rate book in an amazingly short amount of time that deserves to be read far and wide.

There is no doubt that the decision of British voters to exit the EU will be analysed and discussed, celebrated and mourned (depending on your viewpoint), for years to come. Shipman’s account of what actually happened will be a cornerstone of such debates – and is essential reading for anyone interested in the biggest British political event in generations.