Media Spotlight: Cameron at 10 – The Inside Story 2010-15, by Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon

Spotlight

This week’s review – of Cameron at 10: The Inside Story 2010-2015 – looks at an in-depth analysis of UK prime minister David Cameron’s time in power. Or at least, that is what this book promises. 

Sadly, it fails to deliver on its word – much like its subject matter, some people would say.

Given that authors Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon are respected political writers, and given the unfettered access that both were afforded by the prime minister’s closest advisers, readers would be forgiven for expecting a deep insight into the private conversations held in the darkened rooms of Whitehall and at least a glimpse of what goes on behind the closed front door of 10 Downing Street.

Those expectations are left unrealised, however, as the book consistently teases with the hint of revelation before disappointingly moving on, leaving the reader unfulfilled. 

A particular example is the failure to delve deeper into Cameron’s relationship with media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his young protegée, Rebekah Brooks. It is made clear that the prime minister had concerns about the details of these relationships being exposed by the Leveson inquiry, but apparently there has been no investigation as to why. 

There are transcripts of discussions between Cameron and his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, in which he clearly states his “passion for the single [European] market”, but he cannot openly say this for fear of the public response. There is a suggestion of weakness and pandering to polling data but, again, no further investigation. It is just something that happened.

Other examples litter the book, which in itself serves as a reliable retelling of Cameron’s first five years in government but is not marketed as such. 

This was supposedly the “inside story” but it reads as an account of what the people on the inside in fact want the public to know. The dirty laundry remains firmly within the basket. 

A rival biography, co-authored by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, is due to be published soon and is reportedly more likely to contain the inside information on Cameron’s premiership that readers may be seeking. 

Perhaps the authors of Cameron at 10 should have looked – as Lord Ashcroft apparently has – to those outside their protagonist’s group of trusted ‘Yes men’ and included the insights of those who may have struggled to get their voice heard in the past five years of coalition and then Conservative government.

There is little input from Liberal Democrats who surely felt marginalised during their purported shared tenure. And there is an all-too-brief section on the troubled relationship between London Mayor Boris Johnson and his distant cousin in power. 

In summary, what we have is more of a history book than any political exposé and, while some may enjoy a factual retelling, it is easy to feel short-changed by this account of what has in fact been a fascinating five years in the seat of power.