Winchester Liberal Democrats met on Saturday to welcome Sir Vince Cable, Lord Adonis and other speakers, inviting them to dust off their two-year-old speeches on why we should not leave the EU. The plan was to amass in the city to show their willingness to overturn the democratic 2016 referendum result.
Contrary to the national mood, Winchester voted to remain within the EU. So it was very safe territory for the Liberal Democrats rally which attracted an estimated 1,400 supporters from all over the country. This crowd was bolstered by around 500 bemused Winchester shoppers and our 70 Leave supporters.
The LibDem march started at Barclays bank at the top of the High Street and continued through the street market, interfering with the legitimate trade of the independent stall holders and national retailers alike. The procession finished at the steps of the Guildhall some eight minutes later, where the crowd were entertained by a vulgar singer and those old speeches.
The Leave camp, arranged by Alan Stone and Scott Neville of Hampshire Out – with the assistance of Leave Means Leave, had positioned itself to the left of the steps. They were subjected to chants calling them liars and criminals. Some of the Remain posters compared the 17.4 million Leave voters to the 17 million who voted for Hitler. Other than that and some strong vocal barracking from both sides, the speakers’ addresses and the event itself were concluded in time for tea at 4pm.
In the great tradition of British politics, it was a very civilised protest. After all, it was Winchester.