STEVE ANGLESEY on the soggy throng of the pro-Brexit protest March to Leave
‘We were somewhere outside Barnsley when the drudge began to take hold.’ As opening lines go, it’s not quite up there with Hunter S Thompson’s original but it will do fine when someone finally comes to write Fear And Loathing On The March To Leave.
When tens of thousands of Remainers are cramming into Parliament Square for the Put It To The People March on Saturday, less than 100 from the opposite side will be skirting the Nottingham suburbs of Hucknall and Kimberley, halfway through their 277-mile route from Sunderland to London. The optics will not look good for the Brexiteers, although they insist that isn’t the point.
A March To Leave spokesperson told me: ‘I don’t want to put down the People’s Vote march. Okay, they will get people from the Westminster bubble to turn up but we are trying to speak to the wider general public. Yes, there will obviously be people there from around the country but I would hazard a guess that the core will be from London.
‘That is why it is important for us to go around the whole country and the support we have received from ordinary people has been incredible.’
The pro-Brexit protest set off in foul conditions last Saturday with a soggy throng of just over 100. They were temporarily bolstered by cameo appearances from Nigel Farage, Kate Hoey and Andrea Jenkyns, the weird trio no doubt entertaining the troops by chanting ‘When shall we three meet again? / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?’
The Brexiteer journalist Isabel Oakeshott explained on Twitter that numbers had been ‘limited for security’ and organisers had been ‘overwhelmed by people wanting to take part’. Which made it curious that even fewer turned up for the next day’s leg, which included a lengthy detour when the Tees Transporter Bridge was found to be shut, as it is every Sunday. Farage was by now absent and had not returned to the march by the time TNE went to print.
By midweek, the security limitations seemed to have kicked in still further and the march was now smaller, though no less colourful, than the procession of assorted weirdos which steers poor Sergeant Howie to his doom in The Wicker Man.
One photo, much shared on social media, appeared to show around 50 poor souls plodding along a grass verge by the side of a B-road, heads bowed. It was, Remainers said, a perfect Brexit metaphor – the ordinary punters doing the hard slog while the likes of Farage sat in comfort with their trotters up, protected from the elements.
The March To Leave spokesperson admitted to being frustrated by how much of their coverage had focused on Farage and his absence. ‘The headlines have been pretty much ‘Where’s Nigel?’, which is frustrating because it isn’t a Farage march,’ they said. ‘This was never his baby.
‘Nigel is an MEP and he has a successful radio show and he was always going to fit this around those things and his other commitments. He said as much from the start.
‘He will be returning to the march but we can’t say when because of security reasons. We know the proposed dates, but we will not be announcing them much in advance because Nigel attracts a lot of attention; most of it positive but also unfortunately negative attention.’
But what of the dwindling attendances for a march supposedly ‘overwhelmed by people wanting to take part’? The spokesperson insisted that ‘In terms of our expectations it has been completely successful. One or two of the core marchers have dropped out because of injury but on Saturday we had over 100 and Sunday and Monday we had around 40 day marchers each, although we haven’t gone through and counted individuals.
‘Today (Tuesday) we will be getting up to 20 or 30 day marchers to join the core marchers but that is due to a slight communication issue.’
Even if injuries and communication issues can be overcome, it seems certain that the march which will get most headlines this weekend will not be the March To Leave.
Some of its supporters are getting their excuses in already.
Teased about its low turnout, one replied on Twitter: ‘We don’t need to march, we won democratically in June 2016. The vote was to Leave. What part of that don’t you understand?’ As someone once said, nothing has changed.
Brexiteers of the Week
The cockney actor is predicting an uprising if Brexit falls. He told BBC News: ‘The country voted to Leave. That’s democracy, then you leave. Now they’re talking about having another vote. I think there will be a rebellion.’
Though it’s exciting to imagine the Brexit riots starting when Ray’s disembodied head floats over the Leave Means Leave marchers and screams ‘it’s in-play now’, a look at previous Winstone-endorsed tips suggests we may not be overrun by pensioners wielding snooker balls in socks any time soon.
In May 2013, a survey of the last 25 suggested wagers featured in Bet365 adverts starring Winstone found that just one had come in.
A Financial Times profile of the Father Jack lookalike Wetherspoons boss contained a fascinating exchange between Tim and ldiko Kovacs, a 34-year-old Hungarian kitchen manager at Spoons’ Royal Victoria pub in Ramsgate. Kovacs speaks proudly about her ambition of beating the company record for food sales, adding, ‘I can confidently say I love my job’ and she was not planning to go back to Hungary ‘unless I get kicked out, I guess.’ To which Martin, ‘laughing uneasily’, replies: ‘Who can see into the future?’
Later Tim discusses being rushed into an NHS hospital last October with a burst appendix. Despite living to tell the tale, his take is: ‘My criticism of the NHS is that it’s too much the sacred cow. It doesn’t get the scrutiny it should.’
The Brexit-loving Who singer, 74, swore at Sky News entertainment reporter Bethany Minelle when she asked him if leaving the EU would affect British bands’ ability to tour in Europe.
‘Oh dear,’ Daltrey said. ‘As if we didn’t tour Europe before the f***ing EU. Oh, give it up!’ He then walked off camera for a moment before returning to snap: ‘If you want to be signed up to be ruled by a f***ing mafia, you do it. Like being governed by FIFA.’
Daltrey was speaking as his band announced a July gig in Wembley Stadium, which is owned by the FA, who are, of course, governed by FIFA. Meanwhile the Musicians’ Union, whose 30,000 members are not all as rich as Roger, says Brexit will cause considerable disruption to bands touring Europe.
The Daily Express’ Brexit Dalek – so called because his columns can be read out in the robot voice of Doctor Who’s arch enemies and still sound completely plausible – has come over all cuddly. ‘The country has been exasperated rather than bitterly divided,’ he wrote. ‘In fact, it could be argued that our democracy has been invigorated by the intensity of national debates… Rumbustious discussion is an indicator of a vibrant political system. Only a totalitarian regime can introduce contentious policies without discord.’
A far cry from earlier this year, when he called anti-Brexit moves ‘an act of treachery’ and ‘a betrayal of millions’ and branded Remainers ‘shrill… dreary… arrogant… laughable… and gripped by contempt for the public will’. But Leo’s conversion came before speaker Bercow’s intervention, so we can be sure that normal service will soon be resumed.