Former prime minister David Cameron slams home secretary Priti Patel in memoirs

David Cameron (R) walks with Priti Patel during a visit to a children's nursery on June 1, 2015.
(Photo by Carl Court - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
David Cameron (R) walks with Priti Patel during a visit to a children's nursery on June 1, 2015. (Photo by Carl Court - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Former British prime minister David Cameron has slammed home secretary Priti Patel, alongside prime minister Boris Johnson and other prominent leaders who backed Brexit in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum.

In his memoir For The Record, Cameron makes a withering attack on some of his former Conservative Party colleagues who he said shocked and betrayed him in their attacks on his then government.
He singles out Patel, who was an employment minister in his cabinet at the time and also the Indian Diaspora Champion, for her attacks over his government’s immigration policies.

“It was the behaviour of the employment minister, Patel, that shocked me most,” says Cameron in his book, which is serialised in The Sunday Times.

“She used every announcement, interview and speech to hammer the government on immigration, even though she was part of that government. I was stuck, though: unable to fire her, because that would make her a Brexit martyr,” he said.

Patel, currently one of the frontline cabinet ministers as UK home secretary, was a prominent Brexiteer and member of the Leave campaign, which was led by Johnson and cabinet minister Michael Gove. She had made a series of speeches during the referendum campaign calling for a visa regime that did not favour the European Union (EU) over migrants from non-EU countries like India.

Cameron blames the entire Leave camp of stirring up a “cauldron of toxicity” with lies about the facts and figures around immigration and what the UK’s membership of the EU cost Britain.

He writes: “While we were saying membership of the EU was worth £4,300 to each family, the leave campaigners claimed Britain was spending £350 million a week on it. On May 11 [2016] they unveiled their liveried battle bus, emblazoned with the words, ‘We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead’.

“It wasn’t true. As Boris rode the bus round the country, he left the truth at home. The bus was disingenuous, it was tenuous — but it was also ingenious. The fact that it was inaccurate actually helped the leave campaigners.”

In the book, which releases next Thursday, Cameron says that he is “truly sorry” for the uncertainty and division that had followed the 2016 referendum, and has suggested a second Brexit referendum or a vote might be necessary.

“I don’t think you can rule it out, because we’re stuck,” he said.

His memoirs come as the Boris Johnson led government insists it is determined to get a deal to leave the EU by the October 31 deadline.

“The entire machinery of government, now, is focused on getting that deal and is planning and preparing to leave on 31 October with a deal,” Patel told the BBC on Sunday.

However, the pressure on Johnson is immense because while he is determined not seek another extension to the Brexit deadline, he is now bound by parliamentary law to delay if a deal is not in place by the time of the European Council summit on October 17.