The most dishonest demo I’ve ever seen

The #StopTheCoup gathering was a protest against democracy, not for it.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

I’ve been on many protests in my time. Some stirring, some damp. But I’ve never been on one as dishonest, even despicable, as the ‘Stop the Coup’ gathering in Westminster this evening. This is the first demo I’ve ever seen that is the polar opposite of what it purports to be. It was dolled up in the noble garb of defending democracy but its chief cry was for the crushing of democracy. Under the banner of preventing Boris Johnson from launching a ‘coup’ against parliament, the protesters were calling for the continuation of the reactionary chattering-class coup against Brexit and the 17.4million people who voted for it. That is, against democracy.

It was clear from the outset that this was no neutral get-together, concerned simply with the future of parliamentary democracy in the UK. It was awash with EU flags. Virtually everyone I saw was wearing a ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ sticker. Dogs – why do middle-class people bring their dogs everywhere? – were adorned in the blue and gold of the Brussels oligarchy. ‘Stop Brexit’, placard after placard read. There were people in EU t-shirts, EU flag-cum-capes, EU berets.

This was not a pro-democracy or pro-parliament protest. It was a pro-Brussels gathering; a creepy outpouring of love for European bureaucracy; yet another public statement by the metropolitan elite of its fealty to foreign technocracy over national democracy. To the extent that these people were saying ‘Bollocks to Boris’, as some placards did (though far fewer, strikingly, than said ‘Bollocks to Brexit), it isn’t because he is proroguing parliament – it’s because he backs Brexit. It’s because he thinks the 2016 vote should be acted upon. Such was the transparent cynicism of this protest: it pretended to rage against Boris because he is anti-democratic, but, in truth, these people are furious with Boris because he is pro-democratic, pro pushing through the largest democratic act in UK history. ‘Don’t destroy democracy!’, they cried at Boris, but their real demand was: ‘Don’t respect the democratic will.’

This cognitive dissonance – to be briefly generous – was summed up in the placards being carried by numerous people. The text said: ‘Defend democracy… Stop Brexit.’ And there you have it: defend democracy by crushing a massive democratic vote; defend democracy by overriding the wishes of the demos; defend democracy by killing it. This is an Orwellian-level misuse of language, where ‘democracy’ is invoked by protesters to the cynical end of stopping democracy in this country. They don’t want to stop the coup, as they refer to Boris’s suspension of parliament; they want to intensify the liberal elite’s coup against the millions of ordinary people who voted to leave the European Union.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

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Rod Liddle and Brendan O'Neill
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