After previously speaking to Brexit supporting student Alice Grant and then royal superfan and former Labour Party member Joseph Afrane, this episode I spoke to the organisers of the 'We Voted Leave' group, Robert and Sally Wright. Robert and Sally coordinate the Leave protesters, who represent the 17.4m Leave voters, around College Green and Parliament Square. Their red boards add a dash of colour and reality to the sea of Remainers' EU flags.
Neither of them has ever been members of a political party or, with the exception of coordinating the 2016 Vote Leave street stall in Eastbourne, have done anything political.So what has motivated them so strongly that they have spent so much of their time and money over the past 9 months protesting with their Leave colleagues?
What is the 'We Voted Leave' group all about?
RW: "We're a group of individuals who protest outside Parliament to remind MPs and members of the House of Lords that we will not let them get away with overturning the 2016 EU Referendum result. We use large red boards – using 2016 Vote Leave colours– which really stand out against the blue EU flags used by the Remainers and which give us great media coverage.Richard Davey came up with the idea at the first of the Westminster Leave Means Leave (LML) protests in early December.He had an old Vote Leave board in his attic and simply added three letters to turn it into the past tense.Sally and I had a couple of boards left over from 2016 in our attic – purely for posterity mind, with never a thought that we would need to use them again – and followed suit.When LML morphed into the Brexit Party, it was down to us, along with another small group led by Susi and a few individuals doing their own thing, to carry on the fight.We are small and nimble enough to add boards with appropriate comments according to current developments and we put a lot of thought into their wording.In February we led a fashion for using 'Clean out the Augean stables' as we didn't want to mention 'swamp' and publicised academic research which showed 63% of parliamentary constituencies voted Leave.We even had a board in Latin specifically for Jacob Rees-Mogg, which made for a great photo. Those that make people stop and talk (or get into the newspapers) are the best and that's what we aim for.
We're very clear that we demonstrate in a calm, dignified and non-party political way.We are quite different to the Remainers and try to show that the noisiest aren't always the most representative.It's great fun being outside the mother of all parliaments, discussing Brexit and democracy with people and we get a great lift when MPs and members of the HoL talk to us, as they often do.My favourite is Lord Lamont, who in the early days asked us what we thought of Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement.Can you believe that?A politician and great figure asking US, what WE thought, rather than telling us what we should think!And he really wanted to know, spending quite a time with us. Of course, not everyone agrees with us!I have fond memories of standing with a board held aloft on the corner of Bridge Street when Lord Gummer drove by.He was in the front passenger seat of a car, leaning over the driver angrily shouting, "Why do you publicise your stupidity!".Then there was Sir Nicholas Soames driving past and mouthing "Twat!" and Professor AC Grayling calling me a bastard before flouncing off before I could get a word in.Ah, fond memories indeed!"
My first main question to Robert and Sally was 'what was it that inspired your Eurosceptic mindset and more specifically how much of an influence was the Maastricht Treaty in 1992?'
RW: "I voted to remain in the EEC in the 1975 Referendum.After all, I had been told it was simply a Common Market - a trade club which would help the country – as was clear in the title.I just wanted to get on with my life and trusted politicians to do what was best for the country and for my family.
I'd say the penny started to drop during the 1990s after Maastricht, when the reality of a political union started to dawn on me. This was 20 years after the Referendum and I was both more mature and experienced.I'd seen things like doublespeak and groupthink in action.The scales started dropping from my eyes when I saw the deceit of politicians being laid bare by the likes of Sir Robin Day, although I dislike the adversarial interviewing of today.As a chartered accountant, the need for control in decision making was clear: if you pass over control, then you have less power and clearly being a member of the political EU was diluting the power of parliamentarians and therefore the influence of the voter.When I voted in 1973, I hadn't given our politicians permission to hand over law-making powers".
SW: "I voted to remain in the EEC in 1975. At the time I was interested in a federal Europe, I was young and idealistic. However, I gradually changed my mind.After the Maastricht Treaty was signed I started listening to Nigel Farage. People are elected by us to Parliament to make decisions on our behalf but being part of the EU dilutes the power of our Parliament and therefore the voice of the British people. It essentially surrenders sovereignty. Robert and I once had a very senior EU official staying with us and I had the opportunity to ask him to explain to me the process within the Commission and the European Parliament.I commented that it didn't sound a very democratic system and his reply was: "what's so good about democracy?"I think that was a decisive moment for me. Our democracy has been hard won and I see being in the EU as a threat to that. I see Brexit as a chance to stand up for our democracy and our sovereignty.My grandmother was a Suffragette and taught me to vote at every opportunity.I value my vote but since Maastricht was signed that vote has meant less and less."
Secondly, do you think the so called mainstream media such as the BBC and Sky have a pro-EU/pro-Remain and even left wing bias?
RW: "Everyone reading your article will be angry with the TV media's bias.So we are greatly blessed living at a time of relative freedom of expression on the internet.We are now able to control some of what we see, including interviews with, and speeches by, current Eurosceptic politicians, but just as importantly historical speeches by Eurosceptics such as Tony Benn, Peter Shore and Michael Foot and, of course, later ones by Margaret Thatcher. I've spoken with young Remain demonstrators and none have any idea that Labour was a Brexiteer party in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The danger is, though, that the internet is now starting to be censored - not just YouTube, Facebook and the like, but internet searches.Eight years ago I googled 'cultural Marxism' and excellent definitions were to the fore: a similar search today will find at the top a large number of paid-for sites stating that cultural Marxism is a conspiracy theory.
The TV News is very powerful and I have friends who unquestioningly believe what it says and fail to see the more subtle biases: the imbalance in type of guests and in interviewers' interruptions for example.The TV media didn't predict the result of the 2016 Referendum and either still doesn't understand what people voted for or willingly peddles falsehoods.The main reason I voted leave was for the UK to be independent and able to make its own laws and boot out governments which don't do what the people want.The BBC, ITN and Sky News would have it that immigration was our only reason as that satisfies their narrative that we are all a bunch of racist bigots. They would never broadcast anything showing the EU for what it really is: for example Guy Verhofstadt saying, "you must allow more sovereignty to be ceded to the EU" and also (quoting President Macron) "28 different armies is a waste of money and that has to change".
SW: "The mainstream is often far too keen to ignore the Brexiteers, the presenters seem to speak over the Brexiteers on their shows yet give Remainers as much airtime as they like.
Do you think the EU has ventured into becoming a corporatist and anti-business club in some ways?
RW: "Yes, and your readers will know all about the EU's endless rules and regulations preventing small firms breaking into markets.What we've seen in Parliament Square is that blue collar workers know that the free movement of labour has suppressed their wages.That hasn't affected the civil servants and professionals who walk past us, but the people who drive past who, because of the increase in supply of people competing for jobs, have seen no real terms increases in their pay for many years. When we stand in Parliament Square with our We Vote Leave boards with a 'Just hoot' prefix, most drivers of taxis, vans, lorries and other commercial vehicles enthusiastically sound their horns: it's a fantastic noise! They are the ones who have been most affected: the drivers, construction workers and people who work with their hands.
SW: "Nobody can know for sure what the economic outcome will be, economists constantly disagree, the predictions are at times wrong.Just look at the Bank of England's and Treasury's forecasts regarding joining the Euro.
What are your thoughts on Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister and what can you see him doing with the Brexit impasse?
RW: "Well, I didn't particularly like Theresa May, but I believed she would set aside her Remainer views and so I trusted her.How wrong I was!I should have listened to Sally, who knew right from the beginning May was deceiving us. But Boris?His biography of Churchill (The Churchill Factor) was a great read and said quite a lot about him (Boris).Boris showed great courage when he led Vote Leave in 2016, when it was almost certain Remain would win, and also when resigning from being Foreign Secretary last December because of the Chequers Agreement.That's incredibly impressive.We had a red board on display outside his office two days before he became PM with a Churchill quote: 'BORIS: 'Courage begets courage' Sir Winston Churchill'.I can't imagine he saw it or, even if he did, that it encouraged him, but you never know. He's got one hell of a task with this Parliament and we all need to get behind him."
SW: "I trust Boris, after all, he needn't have campaigned for Leave in 2016, it would've been better for him politically to have campaigned for Remain surely. I've never seen him put a foot wrong apart from when he voted for the Withdrawal Agreement at the third time, but I can maybe understand why he did that. I believe if he doesn't deliver "leave" by the 31 October, it would be no fault of his, but the fault of a Remain Parliament."
What is your take on the Brexit Party and its role in current politics?
RW: "Well, we were talking about the courage of Boris, but Nigel Farage's courage is on a completely different level.We owe a great debt of gratitude to him.But the Brexit Party appears not just to be about Brexit. I heard Tobias Ellwood describe himself the other day as a 'progressive liberal'.Perhaps I have got it wrong about the Conservative Party:I thought they were for the family, marriage, parental responsibility, free speech, religious faith and all the things that have kept the state at bay for thousands of years.From what I can make out, these progressive liberals are Marxists who want to destroy the social fabric of our society.Nigel Farage is the only person I have heard speaking about balancing the social changes that we have seen in recent years with maintaining the family.Perhaps the Brexit party can help the Conservative party find its bearings again.
SW: "The Conservatives need pressure on them to deliver Brexit and that's where Farage and the Brexit Party come in, they'll destroy the Tories if they don't deliver and I think Boris Johnson knows that. This of course gives the Brexit Party a huge amount of power but also strengthens the Eurosceptic argument, more so since the European elections."
Tell me more about yourself and your thoughts on Margaret Thatcher and how she influenced politics then and now
RW: "Well, only by living through the 1970s can anyone really understand how important Margaret Thatcher was in the 1980s. I met Sally in 1972 and we had many romantic candlelit evenings. That wasn't because I knew how to treat a girl well in taking her to high class establishments, but because of the miners' strike, three-day week and power cuts.It was great fun as a 17 year-old 'A' level dropout.In those days only around 9% of people went to university and, with no free movement of labour, there were plenty of office jobs with good career prospects for youngsters with at least 5 O-Levels. Companies valued young recruits as they were in short supply and consequently had good on-the-job and day release training schemes. And as a clerk in the civil service, for quite a time I only had to work three days for five day's pay! Gormley, Scargill and Red Robbo were constantly on the TV News.In those days you had to queue for a couple of months at a building society to get a mortgage and at the age of 19 we married and moved 200 miles from an expensive and staunchly Conservative south coast town to buy a house in a pit village outside Mansfield, a Labour stronghold at the time.Day release to complete my 'A' levels and a promotion took us back to the south coast well in time for the Winter of Discontent.
I didn't appreciate Margaret Thatcher at the time as I was in great fear of my job being privatised. Nevertheless, it was clear the country could not continue as the economic sick man of Europe.It's funny that we are now, perhaps, the democratic sick man of Europe. Mrs Thatcher's twelve years as PM was turbulent and worrying, but it was essential to have strong leadership to take the country into the future. She was needed to make Britain great again and respected again."
SW:" I didn't agree with many of her decisions at the time, but, in hindsight, I think some of the reforms she made were necessary.Legislating for the right to buy their own homes for example was a good way to improve the lives of so many people.She took issues of ordinary people seriously and that's what's lacking in some of today's politicians.
With the prospects of a general election looking likelier than ever, what do you make and dare I ask how would you vote?!
RW: "It's not easy to answer that but I'll have a go! Assuming the election is after the 31st October by the way, if on 1st November we have a clean or acceptable Brexit, which is no single market, no customs union, no ECJ jurisdiction and no Backstop, but perhaps with a transition agreement, then I will quite happily vote for the Conservatives and Boris Johnson, despite my MP being Greg Clark. If on 1st November we haven't left or if we have with a botched Brexit, then I will have no other choice but to vote Brexit Party. I certainly don't fear a WTO Brexit, we will eventually have control back."
SW: "I would also have to think very carefully.As Robert said, Greg Clark is our MP and I certainly won't vote for someone who is going to vote against the government and put Boris' position in jeopardy. Boris must have some assurance from remain supporting MPs that they will support him no matter what. If we do get Brexit o 31st October in a form that is a true Brexit then there will be no need for the Brexit Party."
If you would like more information about the group or to join Robert, Sally and the team then please look at their website: www.thebrexitbetrayal.com
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave feedback, my social medias are @ethan_thoburn and The Bruges Group is on Twitter @TheBrugesGroup