Brexit: The Uncivil War (Channel 4) ****

FROM obscurity to infamy. That looks set to be the trajectory of Dominic Cummings, former campaign director of Vote Leave, after this blistering dramatisation of how the EU referendum was won. If you ever doubted the campaign to take the UK out of Europe was run by sociopaths, cowboys, shysters, and cyclists, Brexit: The Uncivil War, did not just confirm those fears, it multiplied them.

Benedict Cumberbatch played Cummings as a mixture of vision, menace, and pure ego. He was as articulate as Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, but with none of the charm and William Hague’s hairline besides. The chap - and there were lots of posh chaps around - who suggested hiring Cummings called him “different”. A Tory grandee dubbed him “a geeky anarchist who wants to show off”, while Craig Oliver (Rory Kinnear), Cummings’ counterpart in the Remain camp, described him as “basically mental”.

Writer James Graham opened the drama with Cummings, post-referendum, trying to find a job. He then cut to his anti-hero, sitting in a supply cupboard, his favourite place to work at Vote Leave HQ. “Everyone knows who won,” said Cummings, straight to camera, “but not everyone knows how.” With that, and a devilish smirk, we were off.

Graham had a gallery of grotesques to choose from and he duly had some fun with the usual suspects. Boris was Boris (or rather Richard Goulding was Boris), Michael Gove, whose Scots accent came and went like a dodgy radio signal, came across as weak and dithering. Then there was UKIP funder Arron Banks and Nigel Farage, one portrayed as an oaf, the other as lured back on board by Banks the money man. “People come back from the dead all the time,” Banks said to Farage. “Look at Jesus”.

Shrewdly, Graham’s emphasis was on the backroom boys, the ones who made the campaigns tick. We saw how Cummings’ obsession with running a cyber campaign eventually gave the Leave side access to millions of potential voters Remain did not know about. We watched the honing of the campaign’s central message, with “take back control” supposedly the result of Cummings reading a book about bringing up baby while in bed with his pregnant, sleeping wife. We were there, too, as he unveiled the infamous campaign bus and its £350 million a week to the NHS lie.

“They can say literally anything they want with zero consequences because they are not the government,” fumed Oliver. “It’s kind of genius in a way,” said a Remain staffer.

Graham, who wrote the acclaimed play This House, about the Callaghan government, and the TV drama Coalition, knows his stuff. He has an inside track to the gossip and a love of the political chase. With all this, and Cumberbatch on terrific form, he brought the recent past roaring back to life.

The impression left was that Cummings had played a blinder, but to what end? He was left angry, disillusioned, out of a job and believing politicians, not him, had turned his vision to “crap”. Oliver came out of the drama slightly better. “There’s a danger which we saw in Scotland of having unleashed something which we can’t then control,” he warned the Remain camp early on. Later, he was part of the Greek chorus mourning just that outcome.

The drama’s sharpest scene came towards the end as a focus group collapsed into fighting and recriminations. “I’m sick of feeling that I am nothing!” shouted one woman. As Oliver realised, too late, this was how millions had felt for decades.

Cummings asked his wife one night why everyone hated him. “At least they will remember you,” she soothed. We certainly will.