On a sunny Sunday morning, having missed the march to remain, my Dad and I popped along to the march to leave. Mainly because it was nearby and we wanted to check it out for ourselves – which was why we were in a car park full of union jacks before breakfast.
Generally, when one sees a lot of union jacks in my hometown, it means the March for England are visiting. But, with two exceptions (see below), the leave march were a pleasant enough group, a great contrast to the facist supporters intimidating people in parliament on Friday evening.
The Leave Bus drew into the car park and started setting up for the march. Once they were ready to leave, Richard Tice, founder of Leave.EU gave a speech from the bus’s upper deck:
“What a wonderful sunny day! Doesn’t the sun shine on the righteous. And we’ve all grown up to believe that the sun shines on democracy. But the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, democracy is under threat in this nation. Dark days lie ahead… tomorrow, MPs are going to try to wrest control of the government agenda… almost like a mini-coup in Westminster… thousands of people marched through a few hundred yards of London yesterday, they didn’t march miles and miles the length of the country… they also don’t believe in democracy… we’re marching for the future of our great nation. We believe in Britain.”
Tice is not the first person to claim that the weather will be better under Brexit (see, for example, Angela Leadsom referring to the “sunlit uplands” ahead of us). Better weather seems as likely as an economic boom, something that used to be raised as a Brexit dividend, but is mentioned less these days. Now, the argument relies on points about democracy, that the referendum decision needs to be enacted at any cost. But a new dimension to the debate is that of hiking and marching, the idea that your belief in democracy can be performed by marching across the country in a sort of magical performance.
Fired up by the speech, the march set off. My Dad and I lingered back so as not to be counted among the supporters. This meant that we got to listen to a man ranting on a loudhailer about “traitor” Anna Soubry. He said that she had lied about being told by the police it was not safe to go home, since she had been in London for the remain march. Soubry is the MP for Broxtowe, in the Nottinghamshire area of London: the man in question was as ill-informed as he was unpleasant. Democracy cannot survive an atmosphere of death threats and hostility, and this rant was not a good look for the march.
It was at the edge of the car-park that we found a small group of remain campaigners. One of them was singing loudly, “They tried to make us leave the EU, I said no, no, no!” This group were zany and wacky maybe, but they looked a lot more fun than the dour plodding of the marchers.
My Dad and I stood by this remain group as we watched the tail-end of the march set off. On the other side of the gates, a posh-voiced man had a loud-hailer, and was ranting poison. He mocked remain as “socialist workers who’d never worked a day in their life”, before telling us to leave the UK if we didn’t like the referendum’s outcome: “You know where the door is”. I could unpack the ironies of this for hours, particularly given that the leave vote is engaged in stripping away many of my rights to free movement. He also made the claim that remain were supported by elite financiers such as George Soros – a nasty anti-semitic conspiracy theory.
A few marchers stayed to argue with the remain side, the debates centering on democracy and fishing rights. The claim that remain was managed by the elites emerged again, which is baffling. I know you are not your job, but it is worth pointing out that Tice is CEO of Quidnet capital, which has about half a billion pounds worth of property under its control.
I chatted a little with the remainers, all of whom had made it to London the day before. “If they’re in your village you can’t just do nothing,” said one. We were interrupted by someone yelling at us about how leave was walking two hundred something miles, and remain had managed just one. Someone shouted back that the person making this claim was in a landrover
A landrover that was heading away from the march.
I think it’s positive that people are debating fisheries policy at 9am on a Sunday morning. And it was good to see that, in contrast to the shocking scenes in London on Friday, there was no need for police in Sutton Bonnington. Just before we left, a man arrived for the leave march and was disappointed to miss it. One of the remain protestors told him not to worry and gave him directions. “They only set off about ten minutes ago. If you hurry you’ll catch them”. This co-operation was the most positive thing I’d seen about Brexit in some time.
(Continue to part 4, where I finally decide which march was better)