Lloyd Evans

Alastair Campbell’s remain rally fails to draw the crowds

Alastair Campbell's remain rally fails to draw the crowds
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How come the crowd was so small? A free show at the Edinburgh festival featuring two local MPs, three stand-up comedians – and Alastair Campbell – should have been a massive draw. Barely a few hundred attended the open-air People’s Vote rally at the Meadows yesterday.

‘You’ll forgive us. We’re comedians. Our language may get a bit flowery,’ announced the compere, Fred Macaulay, as an elderly woman wove through the crowd attaching ‘Bollocks To Brexit’ stickers to babies in pushchairs.

‘I’ve got one thing in common with Boris Johnson,’ announced Macaulay, ‘I haven’t a clue what’s going on.’ He called the Prime Minister ‘an imbecile’ and handed over to Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, who said Boris was ‘a buffoon’ and a ‘British Trump’ who wants to ‘make Great Britain American again.’ Murray told us he’d spent the morning visiting ‘angels’, (he meant nurses), at a hospice for terminally-ill children. ‘What does Boris tell these angels? Don’t worry if the streets aren’t paved with gold [after Brexit] because you might just have enough medication.’

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The crowd at the People's Vote rally[/caption]

Joanna Cherry, SNP member for Edinburgh South West, took up the class-war theme. ‘Boris and his rich cronies won’t experience the food and medical shortages. The poor will suffer most.’ Her long-term strategy was to back a People’s Vote and trigger a second Scottish referendum.

‘Scotland will choose to be an independent nation-state inside the EU.’

Meanwhile the EU is busy abolishing such expressions of national sovereignty. Did no one tell her?

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, thanked the crowd for welcoming her to Edinburgh. Wherever she appeared in the city, she said, she’d been greeted by spontaneous peals of ‘stop Brexit!’. An echo rang out from the rabble.

‘Stop Brexit,’ they keened, shaking their ‘People’s Vote’ placards.

Phillips described Boris as ‘a man-child who wants to look a bit hard on the world stage.’ And she’s ‘sick of public school-boys travelling in gold lifts telling me I’m a traitor…It’s not treachery to care if people have enough to eat.’

This is her standard Remainer rant. She claims that Brexit – ‘a fundamental lie’ – will cripple the NHS and cause job losses at her local Jaguar Land Rover plant. She sexed it up a bit with gulpings-back of pent-up emotion. It looked like a five-star performance at the festival. If she loses her Leave-leaning seat at the election, she could always try RADA.

As for Donald Trump’s bid to buy Greenland, she called it a desperate attempt to prepare for ‘bloodshed’ between the US, Russia and China. And with war looming, she pledged herself afresh to ‘the people with whom we’ve been in a peaceful alliance for 70 years.’

Perhaps she meant Nato (created in 1949) and not the EU (created in 1993). Easy mistake to make.

Irish comedian, Andrew Maxwell, expressed his delight at being ‘in Scotland, the Remain end of the UK.’ His home is in Kent where people ‘vote Tory and buy the Daily Mail.’ Odd for a Remainer to live in a Leave community. Perhaps he’s short of material.

Grace Campbell, an eye-catching young comic, told a few witty tales about being the daughter of Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. And she aimed a toxic barb at Nigel Farage. On the night of June 23 2016, Farage had commented the referendum was won ‘without a single bullet being fired.’ That, said Campbell, ‘sounded like a direct dig at Jo Cox.’  

Her dad closed the rally by asking the crowd to take heart. ‘We’re still in the EU. Theresa May told us countless times we’d be out by March 29. We’re not out. She’s out.’

Happy cheers erupted from the wind-buffeted crowd. Campbell urged everyone to show up at the next People’s Vote march on 19 October.

‘Sorry it’s London. But that’s where we get the numbers.’

As a finale he took up his trusty bag-pipes and honked out ‘Ode To Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth. The mood in the crowd seemed defiant, optimistic, and ready for anything. In this grisly but insanely addictive debate, both sides still think they can win. Game on.