Notes From the Margins…

Nigel’s March for Freedom

  • March 02, 2019
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As an instrument of protest and civil disobedience, the protest march has a long and illustrious historical pedigree.  Think of Gandhi’s 24-day ‘Salt March’ in 1930.  Or the 1936 Jarrow march.   Or the 1963 Long March for Jobs and Freedom in the US, where Martin Luther King delivered his ‘ I have a dream speech’ in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  Or the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in 1965.

There is something powerful and moving about large crowds marching from one place to another to protest against injustice or demonstrate their support for a political cause.   It’s not just the numbers – only 200 ‘crusaders’ marched from Jarrow to the House of Commons in 1936.   The impact of such marches can also be intensified by distance, creating a snowball effect as the marchers engage with the towns and communities that they pass through.

The longer the march the better.  Such marches demonstrate that endurance, passion, and commitment.  They show that their participants – whether famous or not – are willing to step outside their everyday lives and do something difficult for a higher cause.  Regardless of their secular motivations, such marches invariably carry echoes of religious pilgrimage.  Last but not least, they act as galvanising events, generating publicity for their cause and for the people who lead them.

Next month the unlikely figure of Nigel Farage intends to join that tradition – sort of.   Beginning in Sunderland on March 16 the ‘March to Leave’ campaign proposes to march 277 miles to London to protest the ‘betrayal of Brexit.’  Farage, you may not be surprised to hear, will not be participating in the whole march, but merely dropping in from time to time – presumably with the tv cameras nearby.

Instead ‘core marchers’ will supposedly be marching for 15 miles a day, paying pay £50 pounds for food and accommodation and a ‘March to Leave kit’ that includes a beanie, a coat, water bottle, and blue high visibility jacket.  You can also become ‘cheerleader’ or ‘sponsor a core marcher’ instead of marching yourself.  The salt march this ain’t

That beanie almost makes me want to sign up, but not quite.  It might seem only a small point to observe that blue high viz jackets are not actually much use from a safety point of view.   As the Hivis company, one of the leading suppliers of high visibility clothing, notes‘Generally, blue is not a very effective colour for fluorescent products and accessories, as its wavelength is not so good at emitting light.’

The same could be said of Farage’s march.  The March to Leave launch has been accompanied by some stunningly amateurish and vapid presentational material, such as this ear-jarring video on how to become a ‘core marcher’, from a female presenter who positively oozes insincerity and fake passion.



I’m not sure what she’s on, but whatever it is it looks like dangerous stuff, because if there is any evidence of cerebral activity in these pronouncements I cannot find it.   So why is this weird parody of protest being inflicted upon us?  In a tv interview the insufferable fraud Isabel Oakeshott explains that ‘ there is a real feeling, I think, amongst Brexit voters, of a looming betrayal.  They sense that even if this deal goes through it’s a bad deal.’



So what deal is Oakeshott proposing instead?  Naturally she doesn’t say.  But a clue comes from the organisers of the march, the pro-Brexit pressure group Leave Means Leave, which describes itself as the ‘leading cross-party campaign for a clean, swift exit from the European Union.’

According to its chairman John Longworth: “The Westminster elite has had over two years to implement Brexit and instead has done everything in its power to prevent it…An extension of Article 50, thereby kicking the can further down the road, is completely unacceptable.’

So Farage and his cohorts are worried, and their march is intended to rally the troops.  Never mind that this ‘betrayal’ is a whopping lie wrapped in a coating of mindnumbing delusion.  For starters there is no ‘Westminster elite’ opposing Brexit en masse.  On the contrary, parliament has demonstrated time and time again to the frustration of almost everybody, that it is hopelessly divided and out of its depth about Brexit and about the different deals that have been proposed.

The difficulties that the government and parliament have had are more to do with the essential contradiction of Brexit that its proponents have rarely acknowledged: namely that the UK cannot leave the European Union without inflicting serious economic and political damage on itself and/or without reneging on crucial international agreements that it voluntarily signed up to.

Farage and his cohorts have no answer to this, beyond advocating for a no deal withdrawal that most serious analysts, British farmers, trade unions, economists, and the bulk of British business agree would be catastrophic both economically and politically, and would plunge millions of EU nationals and British citizens abroad into a legal vacuum.

Neither Farage, nor Oakeshott, nor any of the Brexit zombies involved with March to Leave ever shown the slightest concern about the consequences of the ‘clean. swift exit’ they are advocating for.

Devoid of any serious or coherent plan, they can only rail against the ‘Westminster elite’ and beat their chests about ‘betrayal’ like the fake men and women of the people they are.  They claim to  represent ‘the British people’ when they don’t even represent all the people who voted Leave.

This is the reality of next month’s ‘crusade’ as one tv channel had the very poor taste to describe it.  Where the Jarrow marchers marched for jobs and industrial investment, these fanatical clowns are effectively proposing to march in support of a no deal withdrawal that is likely to bring about more unemployment and deindustrialisation.  Metaphorically speaking, they are closer to the processions of medieval flagellants who wandered around Europe during the Black Death – if you can imagine flagellants wearing beanies and blue high viz jackets.

No one should be surprised that Oakeshott should have the gall to use the language of the civil rights marchers in describing this hollow freakshow as a ‘march for freedom’ –  this is a ‘commentator’ who lies as she breathes.   But make no mistake about it, this march has nothing to do with ‘freedom’ or Martin Luther King and there is nothing noble or admirable about it.

The March to Leave website shows a photograph of a couple walking through green remembered hills towards the gleaming sea with their three sheepdogs.

Maybe that ocean symbolises ‘freedom’ or ‘independence’, or maybe not.  But one can only hope that they keep walking right into it, and that Nigel’s marchers do the same, because that is where the Pied Piper of Brexitland would like to take us.

And his zombie march has no other purpose except to make that outcome more likely, even as it adds one more note of travesty and farce to our collective humiliation.

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  1. Mike speirs

    2nd Mar 2019 - 12:21 pm

    where is the zombie picture taken, Matt?

    • Matt

      2nd Mar 2019 - 6:15 pm

      In Toronto Mike. From wikimedia commons.

  2. Nigel Baldwin

    2nd Mar 2019 - 3:51 pm

    For my part, I’ll be on the march in London on the 23rd – with probably more than a handful who don’t want any kind of Brexit. I’m inclined to think that somehow, Mr Farage’s fatuous little gathering will find itself somewhat outnumbered.

    • Matt

      2nd Mar 2019 - 6:14 pm

      Good for you Nigel. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to make it.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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