If you think about it, it is obvious that The People’s Vote march last Saturday in London could not have been attended by 750,000 people, as its organisers allege. That is the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge (to take three Remain-voting cities). Sky News reported that the organisers claimed more than 500,000 (itself a preposterous figure), and by Monday this had swollen in most reports by 250,000. Only the Sunday Telegraph mentioned that such estimates are dubious.
It was a big march, certainly (and mostly an amiable one), but visibly much smaller than the march against the Iraq war in 2003 (two million claimed by the organisers, probably more like 300,000) and the Countryside Alliance’s Liberty and Livelihood March of 2002 (organisers and police roughly agreed on 400,000). Of course, I do not know how many were there on Saturday (I would guess about 150,000), but nor does anyone. And that is the point. Earlier this year, I checked with the Metropolitan Police. They told me they no longer produce their own estimates of crowd numbers, leaving it to organisers to announce the figures. This cop-out (mot juste) makes it much more likely that the march’s numbers will be successfully exaggerated for propaganda reasons because there is no objective check. The police would be the right people to provide one because, for public order reasons, they need to know about crowd sizes, and they have the helicopters. Numbers are the most important propaganda element in almost any demonstration, yet they have been allowed to become fictional.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator notes, available in this week's magazine.