Boris Johnson “didn’t believe” in Brexit, but backed the leave campaign to further his career. Johnson wanted to become the “darling of the party” and “didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile – Michael Gove in particular – to win that crown”, Cameron claims. “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.” Furthermore, Cameron claims Johnson privately believed there should be a second referendum to confirm the terms of Brexit – something Johnson has strongly resisted since. He reveals he tried to stop Johnson joining the Brexit campaign by offering him the post of defence secretary. Johnson, he says, believed the leave camp would lose, and if it did win, there could always be a fresh negotiation followed by a second referendum.
Cameron turns on Michael Gove, once a close friend, in a blistering attack, referring to him as “mendacious”. He reveals he texted Gove: "You are either a team player or a wanker.” He adds: “One quality shone through, disloyalty. Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris”. While Cameron claims Johnson did not believe in Brexit, he says of Gove: “Michael had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends – while taking up positions that were completely against his political identity.”
Cameron has no regrets about calling the referendum, saying it was “necessary” and “inevitable”. But he says he is sorry about the divisions it has caused. He writes that he thinks about the consequences daily and worries “desperately” about what will happen. He claims he was disadvantaged in campaigning for Remain. Both Johnson and Gove “behaved appallingly”, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions. But, as prime minister, Cameron felt he could not hit back as hard, resulting in “asymmetric warfare”. The referendum turned into a Conservative party psychodrama, he writes, and he was “hugely depressed” about leaving his post as prime minister. “I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed. The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed.”
Cameron describes his despair at the death of his first-born son Ivan, who died aged six in 2009, and had Ohtahara syndrome, suffering multiple seizures daily. “Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy in this way. It was as if the world stopped turning,” he writes. Then leader of the opposition, he was due to attend prime minister’s questions in the commons on the day after Ivan’s death. But Gordon Brown, whose daughter Jennifer Jane died a few days after birth in 2002, adjourned the house for the day. Cameron writes that Brown’s “real warmth and humanity” meant a lot to both him and wife Samantha.
One of the proudest moments of his premiership, Cameron says, was the introduction of same-sex marriage, though he had worried and “wobbled” over the issue and faced heated opposition within the Conservative party: “Equal marriage was one of the most contentious, hard-fought and divisive issues during my time as prime minister.” One party member tore up his card in front of him. But, he acknowledges, he did regret abstaining from voting on an Iain Duncan Smith motion to block gay couples’ right to adopt children. “I should have proactively supported that right,” he wrote.