The Corner

National Security & Defense

Trafalgar on the Thames

It’s not just American politics that’s gone a bit loopy this year.

Earlier today, one of the more bizarre scenes a political reporter will ever encounter happened on the River Thames, in central London. A flotilla of 30 fishing boats — led by a ship dubbed by one reporter as the HMS Farage, after its helmsman, United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage — floated up the Thames to lodge a pro-Brexit protest. The nautical demonstration’s particular angle was to rail against the European Union’s restrictive rules on fishing rights.

That’s when things got weird. Another small flotilla, this one in support of the Remain campaign and led by aging rock star Bob Geldof, also made its way up the Thames. Geldof’s pleasure cruiser pulled up alongside Farage’s flagship and played, over an apparently deafening sound system, various songs having to do with remaining — “Please Don’t Go” by Haddaway, for instance. After pulling alongside the HMS Farage, Geldof himself took control of the microphone and launched a verbal barrage at Farage and the Leave campaign, who responded in kind. It was a very small nautical battle, a mini-Trafalgar if you’d like, as Remain dinghies ringed around pro-Leave fishing boats, some of whom sprayed water on and, in fact, boarded Geldof’s boat. UKIP’s David Coburn cheered them on.

All the while, the Thames Embankment was enthralled. MPs ventured out of Prime Minister’s Questions and onto the terrace of the Palace of Westminster to marvel at the activities on the Thames. Supporters of the campaigns cheered on their sides from bridges. At one point Farage, when inquired on why he had resumed smoking cigarettes, said “I think the doctors have got it wrong on smoking.” The UKIP bus even made an appearance. Check out the Twitter feeds of the journalists who were there for live commentary and worried fretting about whether they’d ever make it back to dry land.

Politics may indeed have gone loopy, but it’s not like it can’t be good fun. 

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