Tom Peck’s Sketch: Grassroots Out’s bid to lead the campaign to leave the EU not official until Simon the cabbie arrives

That the two sides couldn’t work even this much out between them tells you a very large amount of what you need to know

Tom Peck
Thursday 31 March 2016 20:28
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It was the look on the face of the man from the Electoral Commission that sealed it, specifically at the moment when a cabbie in a luminous like green hoodie swung open his vehicle to reveal a further 13 crates of documents, that the Electoral Commission would have a matter of days to read.

“This must be the most ludicrous thing I've ever seen in politics,” said one onlooker. That onlooker, for the sake of context, was Nigel Farage, a chap who, before the last election, gave a speech on Chieftain Mk 100 tank, and at the one before that, almost died crashing a light aircraft in a field in Northamptonshire.

There is, you may know, a grave decision shortly to face the nation on 23 June. But before then, the Electoral Commission must make an even more momentous decision of its own. Somebody has to have conferred upon it the honour of ‘official designation’ of the ‘Out’ campaign. Should it be the People’s Front of Judea otherwise known as Leave.EU? Or the Judean People’s Front, ‘Grassroots Out’?

Leave.EU, Michael Gove’s lot, sent in their paperwork by email.

Not wishing to exert any undue pressure, Grassroots Out hired an articulated lorry, with SAY GOODBYE TO BRUSSELS painted across it in two foot high letters and parked it outside the Commission’s central London headquarters, for a ‘handover ceremony’ entirely of their own creation.

It is hardly worth pointing out that the lorry was a Renault. They all are. The one Boris Johnson drove around a Dartford car park two weeks ago, shouting anti-EU soundbites out the cab window was also a Renault. That kind of entry-level absurdism we are long past.

They could have put the 50,000 pages of documents in the lorry, you might think, but no. Grassroots Out official delivery boy “Simon the cabbie” was on hand.

“The handover has taken place but it is not official until Simon the cabbie arrives with the other thirteen boxes,” said Peter Bone, the never knowingly under-receded MP for Wellingborough. If you don’t know who he is, don’t worry. Nor did a passing student on his way into Cass Business School next door, who took one look and asked his friend: “What is Sven Goran Eriksson doing here?”

Remarkably, that comparison casts perma-sneering Tom Pursglove as the David Beckham of the day, the 27-year-old former researcher to Mr Bone, who has not yet let his new job as Member of Parliament for Corby interfere with his primary requirement of never straying more than a eighteen inches from his master’s side in either actuality or opinion.

The pages upon pages were, Mr Farage explained, evidence of the broadest imaginable coalition of views that make up their movement. That’s one of the criteria for being granted the official designation, you see, a prize that doesn’t really get you any money, but does give you the official electoral right to spend even more of your own. Among their number, controversially, is George Galloway.

“Oh we’ve got much further left than Galloway in there,” Farage said. “We’ve got the Communist Party of Great Britain. Actually I think they're called the New Communist Party now. There might have been a schism.”

It rarely comes to this. Well, it never comes to this. In these confusing times, that the two sides couldn’t work even this much out between them tells you a very large amount of what you need to know.

“I've wanted to work with them from the start,” Farage claimed. “They don't want to work with us. They’re establishment, they’re SW1.”

He might have gone further, but it’s difficult, in these tense times, when you’re in the heart of the City of London and luminous green balloons are bursting around you with loud bangs once every thirty seconds.

“Are you lot going to be here all day?” another student wanted to know. They were gone by noon. They’d done more than enough.

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