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CMU Beef Of The Week #310: Pop v Brexit (Round 5)

By | Published on Friday 17 June 2016


Yes, I told you this would happen, and it has. In fact, it’s been quite a busy week for pop-related EU referendum news. Something I’m sure you’re as pleased about as I am.

First up, it’s our old friend Bpoplive, which is due to take place this Sunday. Or it was. It’s not now, because it’s been cancelled. But before you start assuming that this was because the line-up wasn’t strong enough to fill a 15,000 arena, stop. There’s nothing wrong at all with a line-up featuring The Drifters, Alexander O’Neal and an Elvis impersonator, headlined by three former members of Bucks Fizz and a man conveniently named Bobby. Especially when two previous line-ups have dropped out in their entirety.

Sure, the fact that the ticket price was slashed from £23 to £5 earlier this week might look like sales weren’t going very well – with 1000 tickets reportedly being given away for free – but that is no indication of why the event was cancelled.

No, it was cancelled because of the bloody Electoral Commission, which Leave.EU’s Andy Wigmore accused of “pursuing a spiteful vendetta” against the event. This mainly involved attempting to confirm that the show was being put on within the rules governing campaign spending. The bastards.

“After insisting we tick all sorts of superfluous boxes and fill in various time-wasting forms in triplicate, we received a final demand for more information ‘by 5pm on Wednesday [or] we will issue a disclosure notice under Schedule 19B, Paragraph 1 of PPERA'”, Wigmore told the Telegraph, noting that this came with a warning that failing to provide this information could be a “criminal offence”.

He continued: “Despite our best efforts, the constant pressure and repeated threats have finally killed off what should have been a great event for our dedicated and hard-working supporters”.

You’ll notice that Wigmore is talking as if he’s somehow involved with the event there, even though he and Leave.EU have repeatedly said that Bpoplive was a non-political venture merely endorsed by the anti-EU campaign, with no direct involvement from the organisation itself. It was, we were told, definitely “NOT a political rally” but more a neutral Rock The Vote-style event to enthuse young people to vote, whatever their views. Although at the same time it was billed as “the biggest campaign rally in modern British political history” featuring “speeches from leading personalities and politicians who support leaving the EU”.

Now that it’s all off though, Wigmore – who at this point seems to be identifying as Bpoplive’s Event Co-ordinator – said: “This promised to be a truly unique event, with a live orchestra, a little tongue-in-cheek entertainment and speeches from Nigel Farage and other leading lights of the Leave campaign. It was intended as a huge and well-deserved ‘thank you’ to all of our supporters; a celebration of their extraordinary efforts in this referendum”.

That live orchestra seems to be a fairly recent addition to the line-up, apparently due to play the big finale of the event. Although when announcing the ticket price cut earlier in the week, Wigmore did say he didn’t know how big the orchestra would be, as he has “absolutely no idea what an orchestra is meant to look like”.

So, some good event co-ordination there. But anyway, that doesn’t matter, because it’s all the Electoral Commission’s fault that it’s been called off.

In its own statement, the election overseer said: “The Commission has not requested or suggested that the event cannot or should not take place. As part of the Commission’s monitoring we identified an event that had it proceeded would need to comply with the rules on referendum campaign spending”.

“As we would in any such matter, we contacted the event organisers regarding the costs and administration of the event and have been awaiting a response to outstanding queries on this. It is important that the campaign spending rules are followed properly”, it added.

Nevertheless, Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks, who was bankrolling the event’s apparent £500,000 budget, had some tough words for the Electoral Commission, saying that the body had a “long record of general incompetence”.

“After 23 Jun we will be taking aggressive action to ensure the wider public comes to share that opinion”, he added. “They are not fit for purpose, utterly incompetent and have overseen the transformation of the Britain’s electoral process into a circus worthy of a corrupt banana republic”.

It’s not all bad news though, ticketholders can either have a refund or hold onto their tickets to gain access to a new event in September. And just imagine what that show’s line-up could be!

One of the speakers due to appear at Bpoplive was Nigel Farage, who was involved in the other pop-related referendum ding dong this week. It was among the most ridiculous of all the things to happen during a very silly period of campaigning: the UKIP leader found himself in some sort of mini water-bound battle against Bob Geldof.

In his latest publicity stunt, Farage led a flotilla of fishing vessels up the Thames to coincide with Prime Minister’s Questions, protesting EU fishing regulations.

It was already fairly impressive that Farage had managed to make the event at all, given that he only once made it to any of the 42 meetings of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee that took place during the three years he was a member of it, and he failed to vote on improvements to the Common Fisheries Policy on three occasions. But, hey, if he actually did his job in the European Parliament, what would he have to complain about?

The thing he had to complain about this week though, apart from his own failings as a politician, was a rival flotilla captained by Bob Geldof, who blasted Farage’s boats with a massive soundsystem and shouted “you’re no fisherman’s friend” at him. Farage responded by called Geldof a “crap popstar” who had “come to laugh at the poor people”. The pro-EU boat was squirted with a hose.

Greenpeace previously noted that one of the vessels in the Brexit flotilla was co-owned by a man convicted of large scale fishing fraud (in which said ship was involved) and a multi-million pound fishing firm, accusing Farage of “cynically exploiting the legitimate anger of many British fishermen for political gain”, saying that “the distribution of fishing rights within the UK’s fleet is entirely the responsibility of the UK’s fisheries minister”.

As a side note, Farage also reportedly told a journalist that he’d started smoking again because he felt that “the doctors have got it wrong on smoking”.

Which I think brings us nicely back to just how daft this whole episode was. I mean, the idea that a flotilla – A FLOTILLA – is a good way to get people on board with anything. And then an aging rocker staging a mock attack on that flotilla (how many times can I say ‘flotilla’ before it loses all meaning? Possibly once was enough) is hardly the peak of political debate. I’m sure Geldof was thinking something along the lines of The Sex Pistols playing ‘God Save The Queen’. It was a bit more like, well, Bob Geldof standing on a boat shouting.

So there you have it. For a full account of all that went down, the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon saw it all from Farage’s side.

And that’s it for this week’s pop-style Brexit beefing. Good luck next Thursday, I think we’re going to need it.