I know, I know, brandishing placards and waving flags is not going to change the world and produce a clean Brexit overnight! But one has to start somewhere and sometimes leave the keyboard behind to express oneself in a different manner ! Reading the frontpage of the Sunderland Echo posted by a GPer the day before (whereby 70% of its readers back a No Deal Brexit) confirmed my intent to take part: I wanted to be counted in the crowd outside Parliament for people in Sunderland and elsewhere to see, that it is not all remainiacs in London. If they rise in London, we’ll rise everywhere !
The previous evening Gisela Stuart told a meeting of the Bruges Group, “Now is not the time for anger” to which an attendee replied: “Isn’t the problem the fact that we’re not angry enough?”. Cue clapping.
Gisela did not want to be seen and recorded as encouraging street protests and actually nobody mentioned the rally outside Westminster the next day. Somebody asked: What can we do in the next few weeks? The reply was: Put pressure on your MP. As Stout Yeoman said to a GPer, Leave MPs were in a sense part of the problem. It was now Parliament versus the people and leave MPs did not see just how serious it was getting. They were parliamentarians and could not be relied on to stand up for the people.
I checked the weather forecast, how many layers to wear for a grand but long day out, and prepared my go-bag. I knew I would see people I knew: LeaveMeansLeavers, kippers, Leavers of London, and Vote Leave alumni, but it was the prospect of turning this into a GP event that was really exciting – not least because a pause in the pub is always included.
On College Green, GPers found each other near the Democracy Cart from which came a steady racket with a bell (the Liberty Bell) and a bass drum. The constant boom boom of the drum was deafening and quickly unbearable (adding to the atmosphere of madness) … Well, it was unbearable but effective ! You could even hear it on the telly and viewers complained (says The New European today)
By 7pm, they had moved but were still at it – complete with ear muffs ! :
Generally speaking, I would say there was a cacophony of messages. But we were not there to convince anyone, just to be “counted”.
Having done our bit for the cause GPers retreated to a pub nearby, wood-panelled and adorned with portraits of Prime Ministers, where a couple more GPers joined us. We were grateful for the puffin fund that allowed us to gain strength for the afternoon and celebrate getting acquainted with new GPers. Suitably refreshed we went back into the fray. It was actually a shock as the Remain contingent had swollen markedly.
I don’t know if Leavers could be seen clearly, in the course of the 12-hour day, by the passing traffic or on TV screens, such was the sea of EU flags. Leavers were less visible in the morning because Remainers have the biggest flags; they were swamped in the afternoon as coaches spewed out their hordes of beret and cape-wearing provincial Remainers; and still outnumbered as night fell. Leave Means Leave correx boards must have been snapped up early in the day as there were not enough. Some of us already had placards from previous vigils outside Westminster. Fortunately LmL had bigger banners this time and a new slogan “Let’s go WTO”, and they had learnt from the Remainers to tie banners and placards to the railings to be (hopefully) seen in the background of the TV reports. However their bus did not seem to do the rounds as much as the bright yellow Bollocks to Brexit bus or the “Brexit is a Monstrosity” carnival-style float with Grotesques of May, Boris, Gove and David Davis or the People’s Vote truck with electronic signage on the sides. The LmL’s open-top double-decker which was empty looked a bit pathetic; and being white it did not stand out very much either in the traffic. It was a far cry from the purple ‘We want our country back” open-top from where Farage was waving at the crowds!
There have been similar days of OUTrage for several weeks now, on a much smaller scale of course, but it’s been clear that Remainers are better organised, better financed and even more PR savvy. I don’t like the slogan “Bollocks to Brexit” (especially when those who wear the badge also chant to your face, “You can stick your Brexit up your arse”) but it is snappy. We have not done better yet than “Vote leave – Take back Control”! The main Leavers’ slogans to be seen were: Leave means Leave; No Deal, No Problem; Believe in Britain; Let’s Go WTO; Hoot for Brexit (some did); and my favourite for its succinctness: JUST Leave, which I think appeared in the course of the day.
Remainers had more placards, more professionally produced, bigger flags and higher poles ! They tied up flags on all the railing at intervals but did not man them, which explains that any Leaver standing anywhere with their placards had some EU signage next to them, and an EU flag flapping in their face. Having said that, our very own Attack Dog’s puffin and ukip flag on a pole was a masterstroke, spoiling THEIR photos ! When in the evening we were wondering if AD’s puffin needed rescuing, we learnt that the police had said not to untie anything that was on the railings.
I don’t think there is another country where there is a roaring trade in blue star-spangled berets, gloves, flags, wigs and other accessories ! In London you can’t now find a street kiosk of souvenirs which does not also sell EU flags! Mad! I was kind of mesmerised looking at all these people dressed from top to toe in EU colours, their chests adorned with stickers and badges – Bollocks to Brexit, I am not a bargaining chip, It’s not a done deal, I (loveheart) EU… I could just about try to understand why some people think remaining in the EU is a good idea, but this “I love the EU” motto, complete with lovehearts is just bizarre – How does one “love” a bureaucratic and unaccountable oligarchy?
I actually came quite close to some of them to take photos – reckless me.
You see the woman on the left with an EU flag on the photo below – she’s photobombing the group of Leavers who had attracted the attention of numerous photographers, both professional and amateur (she was not there on my previous photos).
And that’s what they were doing. Another example of their intellectual dishonesty was to stick pro-EU stickers on the back of Leavers, unbeknownst to them. I took it upon myself to remove those I spotted. Here are my trophies :
I wondered why Remainers came out in force – from the provinces (from Devon, Suffolk, Coventry, Newcastle…), in subsidised coaches. OK, they love the EU, we got the message, but did they want the WA to be passed (since it was Remain in all but name) or voted down? By the evening the People’s Vote lot had set up a giant screen in Parliament Square that relayed the vote in the House of Commons. And the morning after it was a bit unnerving to learn that they cheered at the news of the so-called deal being blocked. Based on the msm coverage they also see the government’s defeat as a victory.
Us GPers had left the maddening crowd by that time and had resumed our seats in the wood-panelled pub and were watching on Snots’ small screen: when the result came through, we stared open-mouthed at the extent of the defeat and then raised and clicked our glasses. As I often say, let’s drink to small victories, one never knows what’s around the corner. A couple more GPers had joined us, new and known faces, and quickly we were chatting like old friends.
The evening before at the meeting I already referred to, Gisela admitted that Vote Leave (of which she was chairman) had made the mistake of disbanding Vote Leave. They were out-manoeuvred by Remainers, they thought the cross-party campaign they had set up was over, they believed the government and were not prepared for them undoing the result. Yes, they foolishly disbanded the next day, destroyed their database of supporters and sat and watched as the 11+ Remain groups set up shop on several floors of a tower building. Galling ! They probably also binned the VL merchandise: sweats, caps, clipboards, which would have come in handy on this big day of OUTrage! After disbanding, when it quickly became obvious Brexit was being undermined, why didn’t they re-form? Why didn’t they update the merchandise as “Voted Leave”. It would have made for a wonderful red sight on Tuesday and would have competed with the sea of blue!
In a nutshell and to conclude, it was bonkers. That befitted the going-ons in Parliament. The atmosphere was carnival-like, but only tourists would be fooled by this; politicians had better sense the underlying anger. Most Remainers were scowling at Leave placards but several were benignly smiling at Leavers. One even said to us, ‘I don’t agree with your message but I wish you good luck. And we must re-unite the country.” Bonkers, as I said.
I have no doubt that this was not the last Leave street rally (there is one indoors on Thursday evening, probably more sedate and less colourful) but I cannot wait for LmL and like-minded groups to unite, merge, think bigger and take this to a higher and more efficient level. Two and a half years ago Leavers were taken unawares by the Remain mobilisation but it’s high time they regain their mojo in earnest. The Remainers are pumped up and mobilised to the hilt. Just Leave needs a Leader.
When I went to bed I was a bit worried I was going to dream of EU flags and EU berets as I had never seen so many and so close, but I didn’t, I think.
I leave you with this sweet pic:
© Sunshine & Showers 2019