Tory Eurosceptic Bill Cash is to publish his diaries of almost 30 years in parliament, in a move which threatens to aggravate old schisms in the Conservative party over Europe.
With the debate over the Britain's future in the EU opening deep rifts in the Coalition, Cash's memoirs could make awkward reading for many, and are likely to rake over troubled ground for the Tories. They will include what he describes as a "graphic account of the political assassination of Margaret Thatcher" and a "detailed entry on the rebellion over Maastricht".
Following David Cameron's keynote speech on Europe, in which he warned that Britain risked "disillusionment" with the EU unless there was fundamental reform, Cash said his diaries will push the case for a referendum on Europe. In the long-awaited speech, Mr Cameron pledged to hold a referendum during the early part of the next parliament - by the end of 2017 at the latest - if the Conservatives win the next general election.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, Cash went further, saying the government must hold a referendum on Britain's involvement in Europe as soon as possible. "In the diaries, I will outline why I believe there ought to be a referendum on Europe before the end of this parliament," he said. "I believe it is essential that we have a referendum now, within the framework of this parliament."
The diaries cover the period since 1984, when Cash entered parliament, to the present, and will lift the lid on seismic events from the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union to Britain's crashing out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wedsnesday in 1992, the Poll Tax riots, the premiership of John Major and the long period of Tory opposition during Tony Blair's premiership.
The working title of his memoirs, said Cash, is The Great Betrayal. The MP for Stone is also chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, and has served on the Select Committee on European Legislation since 1985. He was previously chairman of the Conservative Backbench Committee on European Affairs.
He led the rebellion over the Maastricht treaty that seriously derailed John Major's government, and was once described by Kenneth Clarke, currently Minister without Portfolio, as the "most Eurosceptic" man in parliament.
Confirming he had kept detailed diary entries throughout his career in parliament, and daily entries since 1988, Cash said: "The diaries throw significant light on events that are of considerable concern to the electorate, as seen through the eyes of a backbencher.
"There has been a great deal of change in the way we have been governed over the last thirty years. The diaries cover a very turbulent time in politics, and run to considerable length.
"I have comprehensive entries of every day since 1988. The only question remaining is, when would they be published? It very much depends on the political circumstances.
"I may or may not want to set out the whole case on Europe. The outcome depends on what takes place over Europe. That will determine the sequence of events that may lead to bringing it forward for earlier publication.
Cameron is coming under intense pressure from the right of his party, with Conservatives in marginal seats fearing a haemorrhage of support to UKIP, which has overtaken the Lib-Dems to take third place in the polls. Tory Eurosceptics are pressing Cameron to negotiate a repatriation of key powers from Brussels, including on banking, social policy, employment law and the Working Time Directive, or to quit the EU altogether.
Cash recently published a paper with fellow Tory MPs Bernard Jenkin arguing that the benefits of the single market to Britain were "vastly overstated", and claiming that the EU was in long-term decline while expanding non-European markets offered greater opportunities.
Increasing the prime minister's difficulties, a group of 25 pro-EU Tory backbenchers have urged him to set out a "positive British vision for leadership in Europe", saying: "We are concerned that an over-emphasis in your speech on renegotiation and a referendum rather than leadership could undermine the single market."
Cash's memoirs are likely to inflame old wounds. In his interview with IBTimes UK, he lashed out at the position of Germany under Angela Merkel, saying: "Events are coming to a head. There has never been a better indication of that than now, with the German government telling us we are trying to blackmail them."
The MP for Stone added: "My diaries place a particular focus on our economic relationship with the EU, though they are not confined to that issue. They cover successive Conservative leadership elections, from William Hague to Michael Howard to Iain Duncan Smith to Cameron, and my position in the shadow cabinet in the Duncan Smith period."
He said his work was comparable to the bestselling diaries of Tory MP Alan Clark, and the voluminous memoirs of Labour's Tony Benn. Cash said: "Because of the length, they will need to be edited. Tony Benn had the same problem - and Alan Clarke."
Cash's previous editor was Eric Jacobs, who edited diaries of Labour backbencher Richard Crossman, died in 2003. Though final work still needed to be done before publication, Cash said he was minded to bring forward publication due to the current furore over Europe.
"The book could be published after the next parliament, or before. The soonest would be in about a year. I certainly haven't spent 25 years compiling these diaries and memoirs for nothing. Various publishers have expressed a very keen interest."
He confirmed that his agent for the book deal would be Caroline Michel, one of the leading figures in literary publishing in London. "The material is all there," he said. "The only remaining questions are, what is the right time, how will the publishers handle it, and what is the political landscape?"
Michel said: "Yes, I am representing Bill Cash. We have been sitting down, going through the notes he's kept since 1988. It's fabulous stuff. Bill's an acute observer, with wit and eye for detail. He's one of the great characters in politics, aptly called the 'John the Baptist of the Eurosceptics'."