2016 saw many a Remaining politician, Theresa May included, convince themselves that there was merit in "Leave" after the EU vote was in. But few pulled off the manoeuvre with the audacious swagger of historian Niall Fergusonby Michael White / January 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
Back in the 1970s, when I was a lad on the Guardian’s staff, I interviewed AJP Taylor, then Britain’s most celebrated historian. The occasion was Taylor’s biography of newspaper magnate and politician William Maxwell Aitken, the first Lord Beaverbrook. It was an enormous tome that seemed rather on the generous side. But it was a labour of love. Taylor had lavished praise on Politicians and the War (“Tacitus and John Aubrey rolled into one”), Beaverbrook’s insider account of backstairs political dealings during 1914-18. As a result the two became friends and Taylor, also a prolific journalist and broadcaster, became a regular contributor to the then-mighty Daily Express—owned by Beaverbrook. Bashing Germans and bashing motorists were two of Taylor’s niche interests.
I often think of Taylor when reading anything by historian Niall Ferguson, another clever outsider (Glasgow, not Lancashire), bursting with self-confidence and determined to cause trouble. A born contrarian, he announced last month that despite backing “Remain,” in the EU referendum, he now regrets not having voted for Brexit. Theresa May and many Remain-voting Cabinet ministers may appear to have been on the same journey as they accommodate themselves to Brexitland, but none has done so with the quite the same unapologetic swagger.