MY PRESENT FOR BRO BORIS

The sib­ling’s Christ­mas gift is sorted, but he won’t be get­ting a card from Bob Geldof

The New European - - Agenda - BY RACHEL JOHN­SON

Satur­day – the Peo­ples’ Vote march. I mus­tered in the lobby of the Mar­riott Park Lane, as I was be­ing filmed en marche by a crew led by Eric Al­bert, Le Monde’s Lon­don cor­re­spon­dent. In­ter­est­ing data point about Eric Al­bert be­fore we move off to­wards Par­lia­ment Square: He is the suc­ces­sor to Bel­gian-born Marc Roche, and what is cur­rently in­ter­est­ing about Marc Roche is that like many oth­ers we won’t men­tion he has spot­ted a gap in the mar­ket when it comes to cur­rent events. Roche is the sole French/bel­gian Brex­i­teer, and, just as the BBC can only find Nigel Law­son to deny man-made global warm­ing, Roche is do­ing equally big box of­fice. In­deed Roche has even gone so far as to pub­lish a book called Le Brexit va reussir of which all I can bear to say is, well, at least that’s Boris’s Brex­mas present sorted. Any­way, back to Al­bert: Not many peo­ple know that just as many Brits are search­ing their fam­ily trees to find ways to re­main EU cit­i­zens, so are EU cit­i­zens in the UK look­ing to take out Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship, to guar­an­tee they can con­tinue to live and work here. Al­bert and fam­ily, pas­sion­ate pro-euro­pean citoyens of La Republique, are now also Bri­tish cit­i­zens. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Eric, and wel­come.

We meant to find bro Leo but given there were 700,000 oth­ers in the crowd, this didn’t hap­pen. But al­though we didn’t lo­cate Leo, we did find many key Re­main­ocrats in our first 100 yards: firstly, Hugo Dixon, a lead­ing light of the

Peo­ple’s Vote, who was at prep school with me when I was 10, who we en­coun­tered be­rat­ing the crowd through a mega­phone.

“Hello Hugo,” I said, and at the sight of me he launched into a spiel about how even Boris was ad­mit­ting that the sta­tus quo was prefer­able to the deal, what­ever the deal is. I grabbed the mega­phone and asked him what he would do if we had a Peo­ple’s Vote and the peo­ple voted Leave again, damn them, or even de­cided no-deal was bet­ter than stay­ing in, (even if they think that no-deal equates to the sta­tus quo.) “Then we will be silent,” Hugo averred. (Why is it that peo­ple only aver things in print? I don’t think I’ve ever heard any­one say the word aver out loud).

The French TV crew and I were penned on Park Lane for ages while I was broad­cast­ing about the ap­peal of Brexit to a cer­tain sort of per­son who had the light of dis­tant hori­zons in his eyes, yearn­ing for the good ship Bri­tan­nia to sail the seven seas. And then I no­ticed a small, dark woman grin­ning at me.

It was Joy Lo Dico, ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor and colum­nist at the Stan­dard, who was march­ing with Lord (John) Kerr – the au­thor of Ar­ti­cle 50. At this point, our march turned into a May­fair bar crawl, as in the next 20 yards we also bumped into Henry Porter, one of the main driv­ers of the march, with Sir Bob Geldof and his French wife Jean­neMarine. Sir Bob had mor­phed into the an­cient mariner in a baker boy cap with his strag­gling grey locks es­cap­ing, and was car­ry­ing a plac­ard.

We greeted each other with wry hugs as the last time we had been to­gether we were both on a boat try­ing to wreck Nigel Farage’s fish­ing flotilla on the Thames in June 2016. It didn’t quite go to plan, es­pe­cially when he was pic­tured flip­ping the bird ap­par­ently to­wards pro-leave fish­er­men (it was di­rected at Farage on a barge, ac­tu­ally, but why let the facts get in the way of a good pic­ture story?).

My French TV crew grabbed him and he went into full Live Aid mode by the Dorch­ester. “The lead­ing Brex­i­teers were all LOY-ERS.. They LOYED. BORIS JOHN­SON – sorry, Rachel – LOYED TO THE CONTRY! HE LOYED TO HIS WIFE! HE LOYED TO HIS CHIL­DREN. HE LOYED TO HIS MIS­TRESS.”

“Steady on Bob”, I said, as a large crowd had by now gath­ered. “This is a bit per­sonal…”

“AND HE LOYED TO HIS SIS­TER,” Bob roared and the crowd erupted into ap­plause as if he’d asked them to give him their fock­ing money. I tried to dis­ap­pear, which is quite hard when you have a TV crew in tow.

Af­ter this we moved off the Con­naught for whisky sours, where Lord Kerr told us that Theresa May should re­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 and there was still a 30% chance that ev­ery­thing would be al­right on the night. “Just think,” he said, light­ing yet an­other Silk Cut, as we sat amid the throng, the he­li­copters, the plac­ards, the chil­dren with “Bol­locks to Brexit” stick­ers. “With­out me” – a note of pride – “none of this would have ever hap­pened.”

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