Andrew Roberts

Diary - 22 June 2016

Also in Andrew Roberts’s diary: the email ‘con’ that paid my daughters school fees; how I predicted Brexit in 1995

Diary - 22 June 2016
Text settings

It was a nice touch that MPs sat in each other’s seats in the Commons during the tributes to Jo Cox on Monday. I hope it helped remind Tories where they’ll be sitting permanently after 2020 if they don’t bind the party’s wounds on Friday. If Remain wins, then everyone must coalesce around David Cameron; if it’s Leave then Michael Gove. These things were managed much better before 1965 when the Queen decided on Tory leaders. For all his reservations about the premiership, Gove wouldn’t refuse Her Majesty’s request to form a government, not in the year of her 90th birthday.

How do you think Jeremy Corbyn voted in the privacy of the booth? Might he have kept his 100 per cent record of rebellion by even rebelling against himself, and voting Leave in line with his long-held anti-EU beliefs? It won’t be long before politicians start tweeting selfies with their ballot papers; a ghastly development, obviously, but I’d like to have seen his.

I live in a split marriage. My wife Susan Gilchrist, global CEO of Brunswick Group, is a firm Remainer in the way top international business types so often seem to be, while I’m an equally firm Leaver. I suspect there are a lot of other split marriages too; though I’ve tended to notice it’s usually the wife who’s the Leaver. Susan and I have pledged to reunite on Friday in peace, love and reconciliation. Like the Tory party.

Back in 1995 I wrote a novel called The Aachen Memorandum which predicted a referendum on British membership of the EU in 2015 (not that far out, all things considered) and that it would be won fraudulently by the pro-Remain government by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent. It attempted to be a whodunnit, a futuristic dystopia, a thriller and a comedy all at once, and failed so badly on all levels that I now beg friends not to read it. Nonetheless, in the novel, there is another referendum in 2045 when Britain votes to leave, so when I’m 82 I’ll know whether I’m the Tory Nostradamus.

If you’re reading this and Leave has won, I can claim to have been the last person to offer David Cameron a way out of his travails. At a party at No. 11 Downing Street on 11 February, I suggested he take command of the Leave campaign, saying that if he took us out of the EU he’d be one of the few postwar ‘rainmaker’ premiers who will be remembered alongside Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher, and sadly also Ted Heath for having taken us in. He tipped back his head and laughed.

Last month I received an email saying that I’d won a $250,000 prize for ‘innovative thinking’. All I had to do was turn up and hand over my bank details. Of course I assumed it was yet another of those West African cons, and was just about to delete it when I noticed that the list of previous winners included friends of mine such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the late Sir Martin Gilbert, Bill Kristol, Ambassador John Bolton and Charles Krauthammer. So I re-read the email much more excitedly and it turned out that two brothers, Lynde and Harry Bradley from Milwaukee, had left a vast sum to a foundation which gives to very good causes, one of which turns out to be my daughter’s Wycombe Abbey school fees.

All they needed me to do was give an eight-minute speech on any topic I liked at a ceremony in the Kennedy Center, so I decided to attack President Obama for threatening to send Britain ‘to the back of the queue’ — ‘the line’ in American — in the event of Brexit. ‘Was my country at the back of the line in 1941 when Winston Churchill promised to go to war with Japan “within the hour” if it attacked you in the Pacific, a promise he kept?’ I asked, somewhat grandiosely. ‘Was Great Britain at the back of the line when America was searching for allies in the Korean War? Was she when Harold Macmillan stood shoulder to shoulder with JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Did you see Margaret Thatcher at the back of any line when she won the Cold War alongside Ronald Reagan? When America needed her right flank protected during Operation Desert Storm, didn’t my country send the 1st Armoured Division? After 9/11 — whatever views you might have over the rights or wrongs of the Afghan and Iraq wars — no one can deny that Britain was in its accustomed place: at the front of the line, in the firing line. So it’s not for President Obama today to send us to the back of the line.’ It felt good getting that off my chest in front of an American audience, who applauded with admirable gusto.

Great ad spotted at a Washington health club: ‘Politicians! Get into shape for your next scandalous photo.’

Andrew Roberts’s books include Napoleon the Great and The Storm of War.