Around Brexit

Understandably the vote – by a considerable but narrow majority – to leave the European Union was dominating our minds and events on the street at the start of last July. I suspect I’ve already made my own views on it pretty clear – it was a shocking gamble by a Tory Prime Minister concerned only with his problems inside the party and not with the interests of the country, and was won by cynical politicians – again mainly Tory – making promises they knew there was no possibility of being achievable.

Although we can’t know what the end result will be, things are not looking good, and seem likely to get worse. While exit from the EU seems inevitable now that the process has started, it also seems inevitable that it will lead to a tremendous disillusion among those who voted for it, as they find it won’t lead to more jobs or fewer immigrants, more money for the NHS or any of the other ‘goodies’ dangled before their eyes in the referendum campaign. Given the incredible levels of mistrust of politicians by ordinary people across the whole political spectrum this can’t be healthy, and seems likely to lead to some kind of populist backlash.

My first assignment (or rather self-assignment) of the month was a rally in Islington against the reported rise in hate crime which followed the referendum result, with people from across the community coming to stand together against hate crime against racial, faith and other minorities. I wasn’t surprised to find among the speakers a local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, not just because it was in his constituency, but because of his anti-racist views he has always expressed.

Corbyn’s rise to become leader of the Labour Party was an expression of the growing disillusion among Labour Party members and supporters against the kind of politics that have dominated the party over the past twenty or more years – and which still runs the party mechanisms, which has led to the continuing conspiracies in the party against him. And what really worries the handful of ultra-wealthy who own our media (and the BBC which is also controlled by our ‘elites’) is that he and those moderate socialists (largely Keynsian rather than Marxist) who back him could well win, though were I a betting man I might consider it wiser to put my money on Farage. And even were Corbyn to win, I think the most likely outcome would be for us to find a little more about where power actually resides under our strange and unwritten constitution.

So I took my pictures of the event and the speakers, wrote my captions, all stressing the issues and filed my pictures. And I actually made a little money from them, but the story wasn’t about race hate, but about the jacket Corbyn was wearing, a ‘designer jacket’. Though I expect the reporters who wrote the story, like me, probably knew or strongly suspected that he been given it or had bought it in a charity shop. And of course when I took the picture I too was wearing a rather similar designer jacket; most clothing these days appears to be labeled in this way.
Love Islington – NO to Hate Crime

From Islington I rushed to Hyde Park Corner, where a March For Europe against Brexit was starting more or less as I arrived.  It was a large march, and it took well over an hour and a half for the fairly tightly-packed crowd to pass me as I walked up and down taking pictures of marchers and their placards before I walked briskly to the Underground for a train to Westminster, where the rally was taking place in Parliament Square.

Numbers are always difficult to estimate, but I think at least 5-600 people were going past me a minute, taking up the whole width of the road, and for over 90 minutes, giving an estimate of over 50,000 on the march.  Given the topicality of the issue and the numbers involved you might have expected some significant coverage in the media, but there was relatively little; it would have got more on the BBC had it been a protest against the government in Spain.

The Rally For Europe against Brexit had almost finished by the time I arrived – even though I’d come by tube, but I did catch a couple of the final speakers, including Bob Geldorf. There was a giant TV screen above the speakers relaying them to the large crowd in the square, many of whom would otherwise not have been able to see, and whoever was putting the image on to it was playing with some effects as Geldorf spoke, which made a more interesting background to my image of him. I found the slight delay – presumably due to the effect processing – between the two images interesting and you can see it in the different positions of his finger in the picture.

His was a speech that the content didn’t greatly detract from my concentration on the image, and I looked for ways to use the reflection  of the crowd in the mirror of his dark glasses – and found it when a suitable background came up on the screen behind.

The following day I was in Westminster again, photographing 16-17 Year olds demand the vote, a protest triggered by the referendum where they had no vote, despite being among those whose future would be most affected by it. Had they been able to vote it might have swung was was a fairly narrow margin (though I think it would have needed some of the other excluded groups too.)  Finally, after covering their rally in Parliament Square – rather smaller than that the day before,  I wandered over to the tribute to murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, the Jo Cox banner of love, to take a few pictures before going elsewhere to cover other protests.



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