By our branch blogger, 'Splendid Isolation'. Blogs are the views of the authors only and are not necessarily representative of the views of branch members. Note that the identities of the marchers above have been obscured to protect them from persecution from their employers for their beliefs.
I haven’t exactly been very revolutionary in my life. But desperate times mean desperate measures. I only joined UKIP in 2015 and the only previous political march I had been on was the Free Speech march in Whitehall earlier in May this year.
Yet here I was with three colleagues from Cambridgeshire branches in the crowd outside the Dorchester on Park Lane waiting for the Brexit Betrayal Rally to start. It was difficult to estimate numbers but many seemed to join us on the route through Victoria to Whitehall. By the end I guessed about 5,000 attended.
I’d paid for four banners to be created for my march from existing UKIP artwork and distributed them amongst my colleagues. Along the way the march attracted hundreds of amateur and freelance photographers, many of whom honed in on the many highly-creative banners, snapping away. We encountered no hostility from people lining the route and were carefully shepherded by a heavy police presence along semi-closed roads.
The pace was slow and it took us way over an hour to get to the western end of Whitehall, well short of the Cenotaph and Downing Street. Skirting the northern edge of Parliament Square we were a curious sight for the foreign tourists as we snaked along, occasionally breaking into obvious chants such as ‘What do we want?’ – ‘Brexit’. ‘When do we want it?’ – ‘Now’.
We arrived to find Gerard Batten MEP, the UKIP leader, just beginning his speech. He doesn’t play to the crowds like Nigel Farage but he’s solid and I thought his speech was the best of the day. The overall message was that Brexit is being betrayed – by design. Next up was Tommy Robinson. A poor speech I felt, when normally he makes good ones. But he’s not known for his views on Brexit so perhaps this might be the cause. See below for more on Robinson.
I felt that the next speaker, Paul Oakley, the UKIP Immigration spokesman, spoke well too. He came out with the best quote: “This woman is not stupid. Let us be clear. You simply do not become Prime Minister of this country unless you possess deep cunning. She always intended to betray Brexit”. I don’t think that this has been said publicly enough and it was good to hear.
You can always bank on Stuart Agnew MEP saying something interesting, and well, and he didn’t disappoint when he regaled the ridiculous and hypocritical attitudes to farming prevalent in the EU and also global warming. And it was good to hear Mike Shaw, a lifelong fisherman from Lowestoft who I’d met before on a Brussels trip. Mike had to cut his speech a bit short but not before he warned the crowd of the threat to our fishing industry if there is another sell-out to Brussels. A list of speakers with links to videos of their respective speeches is below.
My ‘intifada’ moment
It was at this stage that I made my move, my intifada moment… I’d brought up two EU flags on poles to burn in public somewhere on the march. I’d torn them down from bridges in Cambridgeshire around the time of the referendum with this in mind. I climbed up onto a bus stop roof immediately to the right of the speaker stage and having poured lighter fluid over the flag, stood up and lit it with my Zippo lighter. The crowd briefly turned away from Paul and shouted ‘burn, burn’. But it only half-burned and went out. I went to re-light it but it wouldn’t ignite – I think it must have been of fire-retardant material (ironically probably an EU law!) and much of the lighter fluid must have evaporated. I looked up to see the security guys and stewards looking very cross at me and shaking their heads. I guess I had threatened their carefully-managed show. I jumped down, my mission half-completed. I walked back through the crowd sheepishly to re-join my colleagues, slightly deflated that the flag hadn’t gone up in smoke completely.
Was this childish? I don’t think so. At marches we need moments of drama. Not violence, but drama. The only thing I regret is not using petrol instead of volatile lighter fluid. The EU is a threat to our very nationhood and our democracy. If you can’t express yourself strongly about it we might as well all go home.
Tommy Robinson spoke again at the end immediately before Gerard Batten wound up, thanking us and the organisers, and the police who had managed us very well and kept us safe. He tried a stunt on stage, trying to sign up to join UKIP live – thus encouraging those of his 1m supporters watching live on Facebook to sign up there and then. But it fell a bit flat.
I personally am ok with him being an advisor to UKIP as he has a lot of knowledge about Asian Muslim sex gangs, and sadly, prison. His appointment by Batten to this role has brought about the resignations from the party of several UKIP MEPs and senior figures, including Nigel Farage. But for him to become a member would be a step too far. Currently, as an ex-BNP member he is banned from joining and deciding on the special case for him to be admitted has rightfully been kicked into the long grass by our NEC until, apparently, March. Approving him as a member would involve a special ballot of all party members – an expensive process.
Robinson can draw a crowd, he’s been very brave exposing the many malign aspects of Islam – and has suffered for it – and he seems a reformed character. But there’s no doubt that he is toxic because of his past. Personally I feel that he’s uncontrollable and erratic. You just don’t know what he’s going to do next.
By the end, we’d been standing for an hour and a half and we were getting cold. But it had been a very successful rally, totally peaceful with no arrests or incidents (aside from the man burning the flag on the bus shelter) and we went home happy. It was good to be amongst friends. The sea of banners and Union Jacks was such a reassuring sight. There are people who care about their country and its future and they are concentrated in UKIP. As Gerard Batten says, we are not hard right, alt-right but just right. We are currently experiencing the biggest political crisis in our country for over 70 years. If you care, you must get involved. Join us
, march with us, follow us on social media
, engage with us.
We learnt later that a rival Momentum-inspired march aimed to counter our march that had massed in Portland Place and marched via Trafalgar Square to the eastern end of Whitehall had had many incidents. Videos show attacks on the police. Of course the mainstream media (MSM) didn’t highlight this and gleefully reported that their numbers were higher than ours. Naturally, it must be said that the MSM concentrated on Tommy Robinson’s presence and used it to smear us as extremists. There was also a People’s Vote conference in the Docklands, which also got coverage.Press reports of the marchesDaily Mail
(lots of pictures)Huffington PostThe GuardianSpeakers and videos of their speechesGerard Batten part 1Tommy Robinson part 1Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin) UKIP Immigration Spokesman Paul Oakley Lord Pearson of RannochVeteran Simon Bean MBEPA to UKIP Party Leader Liz PhillipsStuart Agnew MEP, UKIP Agriculture and Rural Affairs SpokesmanUKIP Northern Ireland Spokesman Robert HillNeil Hamilton, Leader of UKIP National Assembly for Wales Mike Shaw, lifelong fisherman from LowestoftMgr. Lubomír Volný, a deputy of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, member of the SPDTommy Robinson, part 2Gerard Batten, part 2Heidi Anne Burford closes the rally by singing Rule, Britannia and God Save the Queen