The Brexit vote came as a shock to most of us, not least to David Cameron who had planned the whole referendum as a way of keeping his even more right wing chums in Parliament quiet, certainly the biggest political mistake so far of this century. Though it was one which his colleague who succeeded him seems determined to worsen by refusing to make the kind of compromises over our divorce from Europe that might have made the split bearable.
The referendum result, although it confounded the media and the opinion pollsters, didn’t come as a huge surprise to those of us who had been following the campaign, and in particular the way it had been reported in the media, and in particular the BBC. While we had seen for years a hate campaign against Europe and migrants in the whole of the popular press, it was rather a shock to us that the BBC made such a determined effort to promote Nigel Farage and his delusional opinions (along with his mates from the Conservative Party) in the run up to the vote.
There were of course some at the BBC who tried to present the facts rather than the UKIP spin, but they seemed to have little effect on the news coverage, which gloried in reporting the ridiculous lies of the Leave campaign as if they made any sense, while failing to report at all much of the more sensible aspects of what was overall a rather lacklustre Remain campaign.
One contribution to this BBC failure was of course their continuing campaign to belittle Jeremy Corbyn, whose many appearances around the country arguing Labour’s nuanced campaign to remain in the EU hardly got a mention. But as on some other issues, BBC ideas about ‘balance’ also prevented a truly unbiased coverage – as when they give equal prominence to the views of those few climate sceptics as to the huge majority of scientific evidence for the man-made contribution to climate change.
So while the fairly narrow vote to leave the EU came as a shock, it was hardly a surprise, and its consequences almost certainly disastrous. That such a small majority should lead to such a momentous decision still seems an unbelievable idiocy on Cameron’s part to many of us. It should have been made clear when the vote was set up that a simple small majority would not be binding on the government.
Defend All Migrants was a reaction to this shock, and it was one that brought home to me the reality of ‘Fake News’, seeing an ultra-right US ‘news’ site operating at first hand. Their team at the protest had clearly not come along to report on the event, but to try and provoke a reaction by the way they behaved and the questions they asked.
While it might have been more sensible for the protesters to have ignored them it was actually inevitable that they would provoke some reaction – which was why they had come there. And as usual when trouble-makers try to protest and stir up the situation, eventually the police strongly advised them to leave. I’m not sure if they actually escorted them out of the park, but I’m fairly sure they would have done if they didn’t go without an escort.
Behaviour like this by people who pose as journalists but are really political activists threatens all of us who work as journalists. I was disturbed that some colleagues took the side of these fake reporters whose activities are a real threat to the freedom of the press. Those of us who were there as genuine journalists faced no problems in reporting this event, but when people come along posing as journalists and acting provocatively it makes our job more difficult.
The rally proceeded and it was good to hear speakers from a wide range of organisations, all speaking up to defend migrants at a time when many were coming under attack after the vote to leave the EU – which had been widely seen as a way of cutting down migration to the UK. It isn’t likely to have a great effect on levels of migration, as we will still need people to come here to staff our hospitals, to work in old peoples homes, on our building sites, as agricultural workers etc – to do all the jobs that there are not enough people here qualified or willing to do.
And we will still have refugees seeking asylum, particularly while this country and companies based here encourage, fund and take part in perpetuating war and famine in countries around the world.
After the rally, many of those present took part in a march, which was to go to News International, home of The Sun and The Times, both of which have spread lies and scapegoated immigrants. As I wrote in a caption, ‘Murdoch hates Europe because unlike UK governments they don’t do what he tells them.’
Although it’s destination was clear, the route the marchers took certainly wasn’t, and those leading it turned down a side street on seeing more police ahead, and then got rather lost. There was much looking at maps on phones by those at the front and I began to wonder if they would ever find their way or keep wandering through the back streets of the city for ever.
I knew exactly where I was and decided I had walked far enough and was beginning to get hungry. When the march turned to the north, walking in exactly the opposite direction to its destination I decided I’d had enough and caught a bus for the station and my train home.