David Cameron last night tore into Boris Johnson and Michael Gove over their conduct during the EU referendum.
Breaking his silence three years after he resigned, the former prime minister accused the pair of acting ‘appallingly’ and ‘trashing the government’.
He said they ‘left the truth at home’ with claims that EU membership cost £350million a week and that Turkey would join the bloc.
Mr Cameron also accused Mr Johnson of blundering in his short time at No 10. He cited ‘sharp practices’ such as the decision to prorogue Parliament, and condemned the expulsion of 21 rebel Tory MPs.
Despite the Government saying Britain must be prepared for a No Deal Brexit, he said he opposed leaving without an agreement.
Mr Cameron made his explosive comments in an interview with The Times ahead of the publication of his memoirs next week. Using the interview to open up about his personal anguish over his decision to call a referendum, he hinted that a second vote might be needed.
He spoke candidly about his family and his past but his criticism of Mr Johnson and Mr Gove is likely to attract the most attention.
Despite the Government saying Britain must be prepared for a No Deal Brexit, Mr Cameron (pictured with his wife last year) said he opposed leaving without an agreement
Mr Cameron accused Mr Johnson (pictured together in 2015) of blundering in his short time at No 10. He cited ‘sharp practices’ such as the decision to prorogue Parliament, and condemned the expulsion of 21 rebel Tory MPs
Mr Cameron tells how he sent Mr Gove (pictured together in 2015) a text message saying: ‘You are either a team player or a w*****’ as he resisted being moved from education secretary to chief whip in 2014
In the memoirs, For The Record, which will be released on Thursday, Mr Cameron apparently brands Mr Gove, who is now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, ‘mendacious’, saying the referendum ruined their close friendship.
He tells how he sent Mr Gove a text message saying: ‘You are either a team player or a w*****’ as he resisted being moved from education secretary to chief whip in 2014.
Although Mr Cameron praises Mr Johnson’s ‘good works’ as London mayor, the memoir is understood to include a number of unhelpful anecdotes, including how he was late to emergency Cobra meetings during the London riots in 2011.
Mr Johnson last night tried to play down the rift by insisting that ‘absolutely nothing’ Mr Cameron says ‘will diminish the affection and respect in which I hold him’.
Speaking at an event in Rotherham, Mr Johnson he added: ‘He has a very distinguished record and a legacy to be proud of.’
- He accuses Boris Johnson and Michael Gove of acting ‘appallingly’ and ‘trashing the government’ during the EU referendum campaign.
- He says they ‘left the truth at home’ and criticises the Leave campaign for offering £350million a week for the NHS and warning that Turkey would be joining the EU.
- He reveals he sought to persuade Mr Johnson to back the Remain side ahead of the 2016 referendum by dangling the prospect of making him defence secretary.
- He makes clear his opposition to some of Mr Johnson’s decisions as PM, citing ‘sharp practices’ such as suspending Parliament.
- He defends his decision to call the 2016 referendum but admits anguish, saying he thinks about the pain of losing every day and believes some people will never forgive him.
- He discusses how he suffered from depression after leaving No 10 and admits he finds the current crisis ‘painful to watch’.
- He suggests a second referendum may be the only way to break the current Brexit deadlock as he warned that pursuing a policy of No Deal would be a mistake.
- He admits getting ‘off his head’ on dope at Eton and smoking it again later on with his wife Samantha.
Mr Cameron’s book threatens to intensify the Tory civil war as the Prime Minister prepares for his first party conference as leader in a fortnight’s time.
In his interview with The Times, Mr Cameron accused the Vote Leave campaign, which Mr Johnson and Mr Gove led, of misleading voters over the claim that Britain sent £350million per week to Brussels that could be spent on the Health Service instead, and over the issue of whether Turkey could be stopped from joining the EU.
He said: ‘Over the issue of whether or not we had a veto over Turkey [joining the EU] and over the issue of the £350million on the bus, I think they left the truth at home.’
Mr Cameron claimed Mr Johnson decided to back the Leave campaign in the hope that it would boost his career. ‘Boris had never argued for leaving the EU, right?
‘Michael was a very strong Eurosceptic but someone whom I’d known as this liberal, compassionate, rational Conservative ended up making arguments about Turkey [joining the EU] and being swamped and what have you.
‘They were trashing the government of which they were a part. It was ridiculous.’ Mr Cameron also took aim at Mr Johnson over his first weeks in Downing Street, suggesting he was pursuing the wrong Brexit strategy.
He said: ‘Of course, as a new prime minister I wished Boris well. I wanted him to get a deal from the EU that would have passed in the House of Commons. If that was to happen, I would have been elated.
‘But clearly while he started down that road, the strategy has morphed into something quite different.
‘Taking the whip from hard-working Conservative MPs and sharp practices using prorogation of Parliament have rebounded. I didn’t support either of those things.’
Mr Gove declined to comment last night.
Quitting left me depressed: Cameron reveals he thinks of Brexit vote ‘every day’… and ‘worries desperately about what is next’
By David Wilkes for the Daily Mail
David Cameron has revealed his deep personal anguish over the EU referendum and its aftermath.
He said he thinks about it every day, worries ‘desperately’ about what will happen and was ‘hugely depressed’ at losing the job of prime minister.
Mr Cameron said he knows a lot of voters remain angry with him for holding the 2016 referendum.
And he acknowledged some will ‘never forgive’ him because they did not want to leave the EU –something he was not in favour of, either.
In an interview with The Times Magazine published today, Mr Cameron admitted he has had ‘robust exchanges’ with members of the public who confront him in the street. And he recognised the ‘painful and difficult’ period of uncertainty which the referendum’s result has created over the last three years.
David Cameron has revealed his deep personal anguish over the EU referendum and its aftermath (he is pictured resigning as Prime Minister outside Downing Street in 2016)
On the Prime Minister, Mr Cameron said he wishes Boris Johnson well and that he wants him to get a deal from the EU that would have passed in the House of Commons. And on Michael Gove he says that he texted him ‘you are either a team player or a w*****’
He said: ‘I think about this every day. Every single day I think about it, the referendum and the fact that we lost and the consequences and the things that could have been done differently, and I worry desperately about what is going to happen next…
‘I think we can get to a situation where we leave but we are friends, neighbours and partners. We can get there, but I would love to fast-forward to that moment because it’s painful for the country and it’s painful to watch.’
When asked in the interview ahead of publication of his memoirs if he has difficulty sleeping, Mr Cameron, 52, said: ‘I worry about it a lot. I worry about it a lot.’
He also told how he was ‘hugely depressed’ about giving up the job of prime minister, which he ‘loved’, but said he was not on medication.
Mr Cameron said holding the referendum ‘was not a decision that I took lightly’ and that he had thought about it ‘more than any other decision’ he took.
But he felt there was a ‘genuine problem’ between Britain and the EU that ‘needed fixing’, with the eurozone crisis and the development of the euro.
Asked if he would have gone ahead with the referendum if he knew how it would split the country and the impact it would have on the Conservative Party, he said: ‘When I think through all the things I thought and all the arguments I had with colleagues and with myself, I still come to the same conclusion, that we were going to have a referendum.’
Despite admitting he felt ‘shell-shocked’ by the result in favour of Leave, he maintained it was still right to have held the vote.
But he spoke too of his ‘great sadness’ at ‘the path not taken’ – meaning what might have happened if Britain had not voted to leave the EU.
He said: ‘It pains me what has happened and the fact that we lost and the mistakes I made… but it also pains me because I think the option of staying on a reform basis would have been a great boon for Britain.’
The revelations come ahead of Mr Cameron’s tell-all book release, For the Record, which is due to be published this month
The Tory former leader is said to have received £800,000 for the book, which he penned partly in a £25,000 shepherd’s hut installed in the back garden of his home (pictured)
Mr Cameron also spoke of his disabled son Ivan, who died aged six in 2009, and how he, wife Samantha, and their children Nancy, Florence and Elwen give him ‘an update’ when they visit his grave.
‘I don’t think you ever really get over it,’ he said. ‘Some people say to me, “I’m very glad you took him for walks out in public and you didn’t hide him away”. I’d never thought about that because, of course, I wouldn’t hide him away. He’s my son. I love him.’
Mr Cameron also paid tribute to his wife for having been ‘amazing at helping me’ and told how he hoped that since leaving No10 he was ‘being a better husband and father.’
He said that his friendship with Michael Gove has not recovered since the referendum, when they campaigned on opposing sides, adding: ‘We’ve spoken. Not a huge amount. I’ve sort of had a conversation with him. I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister a little bit, mainly through texts, but Michael was a very good friend, so that has been more difficult.’
He also criticised Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, for her ‘blue-on-blue’ assaults during the referendum campaign.
Mr Cameron said: ‘I remember her attack that wealthy people didn’t understand the problems of immigration.
‘It felt like she was put on point to do some attacking of the government and its record. I suppose some people would say all is fair in love and war and political campaigns [but] I thought there were places Conservatives wouldn’t go against each other. And they did.’
I WAS OFF MY HEAD ON DOPE AT ETON
The former prime minister has admitted smoking cannabis with his wife Samantha.
According to The Times, Mr Cameron says in his forthcoming memoir that he would get ‘off his head’ on dope when he was a schoolboy at Eton.
Mr Cameron met his wife, a former schoolfriend of his younger sister Clare, on a family holiday in Calabria in 1992 (they are pictured together in 1995)
He also reportedly owns up to later smoking the drug with a group that included his wife and some of her friends.
However, Mr Cameron refused to answer questions on whether he had ever taken cocaine.
Mr Cameron met his wife, a former schoolfriend of his younger sister Clare, on a family holiday in Calabria in 1992.
At the time she was a 21-year-old art student in Bristol while he was a 25-year-old working as an adviser for the then Tory chancellor Norman Lamont. The couple married in 1996.
A biography of Mr Cameron published in 2007 reported that he was almost expelled from Eton for smoking cannabis.
On a second referendum, he said: ‘I don’t think you can rule it out because we’re stuck.’ Asked if he would campaign for another poll, Mr Cameron replied: ‘I’m not saying one will happen or should happen. I’m just saying that you can’t rule things out right now because you’ve got to find some way of unblocking the blockage.’
Mr Cameron said No Deal would be a ‘bad outcome’ for the country, adding: ‘I very much hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it should be pursued.’
Asked twice if he trusts Boris Johnson, Mr Cameron replied: ‘I want him to succeed… we’ve had issues. Even before Brexit there were sometimes tensions and disagreements but, on the whole, we’ve got on well. He’s got a very clear strategy and plan. It’s not the approach I would have taken, but I want him to succeed.’
Mr Cameron insisted the decision to hold a referendum was not one he took lightly – and was not taken because of the results of the 2014 European election, when Ukip emerged as a genuine threat to the Tories.
‘It’s simply not true,’ he said. ‘The referendum was announced a year beforehand and I thought about it more than any other decision I took, because I knew it was an enormous decision.’
The morning after the referendum he rang Barack Obama and leaders of the 27 other EU countries to say: ‘I am sorry.’
With the benefit of hindsight, he now acknowledges that he misjudged the mood of the Conservative Party and the country, saying: ‘Something I got wrong was that the latent Leaver gene in the Conservatives was much stronger [than I thought].’
He said he accepted that Dominic Cummings, the Vote Leave campaign guru who is now Mr Johnson’s senior strategist, managed to reach voters who had never voted before.
In the interview ahead of publication of his book For The Record, Mr Cameron also addressed the cuts imposed on the public sector by the Coalition government.
He said the ‘last thing’ the Tories and Liberal Democrats wanted was to pursue an austerity drive, insisting it was ‘an economic rescue job’.
He said: ‘That was the most important thing we had to do. We were faced with a budget deficit that was forecast bigger than anywhere else in the world, 11 per cent of GDP, and a genuine danger to the British public. That had to take precedence over everything else.’
Mr Cameron claimed ‘difficult decisions’ were required to reverse the country’s economic fortunes – and this included reining in public spending and raising taxes.
The former prime minister will embark on a media blitz next week with a series of interviews planned.