Organisers of the March To Leave say their pro-Brexit protest is ‘completely successful’ despite photographs appearing to show dwindling numbers on their two-week journey from Sunderland to London.
They blamed what they called a small fall in turnout on a ‘slight communication issue’ – but admitted to being disappointed that so much coverage of their protest has focused on the absence of Nigel Farage, who has not returned to the streets since leaving last Saturday’s launch to host his LBC radio show.
A spokesperson told The New European: ‘In terms of our expectations it has been completely successful.
‘Because of safety, because we are walking on public roads and cross-country, were were always limited to 50 core marchers and up to 50 day marchers, plus cheerleaders like Nigel Farage, Kate Hoey and Andrea Jenkyns, who were present at the launch.’
Photograph on social media appear to show less than half the maximum number taking part on Tuesday’s leg between Ripon and Wetherby but the spokesperson, who spoke to us from the head of the march, insisted they were misleading.
They said: ‘One or two of the core marchers have dropped out because of injury but on Saturday we had our 100 and Sunday and Monday we had around 40 day marchers each, although we haven’t gone through and counted individuals.
‘Today 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 to do with giving people notice about the route we are taking.
‘The weather has been much better in the last couple of days than it was at the weekend and the mood among the marchers is really good. We have been offered free energy drinks by shopkeepers and if we had accepted the offer of free pints in every pub we have walked past, we would still be in Sunderland.
The spokesman denied that images of a small number of bedraggled Leavers making their way along roadside verges would compare unfavourably with coverage of Saturday’s Put It To The People march in central London, which is expected to attract more than 250,000.
They said: ‘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.’
Organisers admitted their annoyance that Farage was playing such a huge role in media coverage of their event. ‘The headlines have been pretty much ‘Where’s Nigel’, which is frustrating because it isn’t a Farage march. He was always a supporter who was going to drop in and out rather than a core participant. 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.’
The spokesperson added that those who would be around for the whole 260 miles, paying £50 to become core marchers in return for free accomodation and transport, were not ‘what Remain people would call ‘the standard UKIP fruitcakes and loonies’. We have someone who has come from Thailand to be a core marcher, we have people from the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, the South West, just ordinary people determined to send a message to Westminster.’
And they insisted the mood was still positive despite John Bercow’s dramatic intervention on Monday, which halted plans for a third meaningful vote.
The spokesperson said: ‘There was frustration that the speaker is being partisan but this is just another example of Westminster and MPs speaking to themselves and not realising there is a disconnect between them and the general public.
‘Ordinary people just want us to get on with it and get out.’