Rachel Johnson on the Mail and why Boris won’t be getting a Christmas card for Bob Geldof.
Saturday – the Peoples’ Vote march. I mustered in the lobby of the Marriott Park Lane, as I was being filmed en marche by a crew led by Eric Albert, Le Monde’s London correspondent. Interesting data point about Eric Albert before we move off towards Parliament Square: He is the successor to Belgian-born Marc Roche, and what is currently interesting about Marc Roche is that like many others we won’t mention he has spotted a gap in the market when it comes to current events. Roche is the sole French/Belgian Brexiteer, and, just as the BBC can only find Nigel Lawson to deny man-made global warming, Roche is doing equally big box office. Indeed Roche has even gone so far as to publish a book called Le Brexit va reussir of which all I can bear to say is, well, at least that’s Boris’s Brexmas present sorted. Anyway, back to Albert: Not many people know that just as many Brits are searching their family trees to find ways to remain EU citizens, so are EU citizens in the UK looking to take out British citizenship, to guarantee they can continue to live and work here. Albert and family, passionate pro-European citoyens of La Republique, are now also British citizens. Congratulations, Eric, and welcome.
We meant to find bro Leo but given there were 700,000 others in the crowd, this didn’t happen. But although we didn’t locate Leo, we did find many key Remainocrats in our first 100 yards: firstly, Hugo Dixon, a leading light of the People’s Vote, who was at prep school with me when I was 10, who we encountered berating the crowd through a megaphone.
‘Hello Hugo,’ I said, and at the sight of me he launched into a spiel about how even Boris was admitting that the status quo was preferable to the deal, whatever the deal is. I grabbed the megaphone and asked him what he would do if we had a People’s Vote and the people voted Leave again, damn them, or even decided no-deal was better than staying in, (even if they think that no-deal equates to the status quo.) ‘Then we will be silent,’ Hugo averred. (Why is it that people only aver things in print? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say the word aver out loud).
The French TV crew and I were penned on Park Lane for ages while I was broadcasting about the appeal of Brexit to a certain sort of person who had the light of distant horizons in his eyes, yearning for the good ship Britannia to sail the seven seas. And then I noticed a small, dark woman grinning at me.
It was Joy Lo Dico, executive editor and columnist at the Standard, who was marching with Lord (John) Kerr – the author of Article 50. At this point, our march turned into a Mayfair bar crawl, as in the next 20 yards we also bumped into Henry Porter, one of the main drivers of the march, with Sir Bob Geldof and his French wife Jeanne-Marine. Sir Bob had morphed into the ancient mariner in a baker boy cap with his straggling grey locks escaping, and was carrying a placard.
We greeted each other with wry hugs as the last time we had been together we were both on a boat trying to wreck Nigel Farage’s fishing flotilla on the Thames in June 2016. It didn’t quite go to plan, especially when he was pictured flipping the bird apparently towards pro-Leave fishermen (it was directed at Farage on a barge, actually, but why let the facts get in the way of a good picture story?).
My French TV crew grabbed him and he went into full Live Aid mode by the Dorchester. ‘The leading Brexiteers were all LOY-ERS.. They LOYED. BORIS JOHNSON – sorry, Rachel – LOYED TO THE CONTRY! HE LOYED TO HIS WIFE! HE LOYED TO HIS CHILDREN. HE LOYED TO HIS MISTRESS.’
‘Steady on Bob’, I said, as a large crowd had by now gathered. ‘This is a bit personal…’
‘AND HE LOYED TO HIS SISTER,’ Bob roared and the crowd erupted into applause as if he’d asked them to give him their focking money. I tried to disappear, which is quite hard when you have a TV crew in tow.
After this we moved off the Connaught for whisky sours, where Lord Kerr told us that Theresa May should revoke Article 50 and there was still a 30% chance that everything would be alright on the night. ‘Just think,’ he said, lighting yet another Silk Cut, as we sat amid the throng, the helicopters, the placards, the children with ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ stickers. ‘Without me’ – a note of pride – ‘none of this would have ever happened.’