THERE was a big red bus, big shouts from loyal supporters and a big Boris. All the ingredients of a modern day managed political visit combined to transform Preston’s flag market into a Brexit love-in.
Supporters who had travelled from across the region lined up to get and instantly wear T-shirts in support of the Leave campaign. As the minutes ticked by and the campaign bus made its way from Altham, near Accrington, where Boris had been holding court, one Leave Europe supporter looked admiringly at the handsome steps of the Harris museum and art gallery’s balcony.
“Wouldn’t it be good if he came down there,” he nodded, while his neighbour muttered a warning note: “It could be a bit like Nuremberg”.
But a rally it was, with Boris punching the air and asking “Do we want” questions to encourage the crowd to cry out the already known answers.
There were two other fellow Tory political names who put their pennyworth into the campaign - Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Employment Minister Priti Patel.
They too knew who the real star attraction was and after exhorting the crowd of around 400 to campaign hard for Vote Leave in the forthcoming June 23 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, they stepped aside, as loyal lieutenants do, to make way for the blonde mopped crowd pleaser.
Ex London mayor and MP Boris wasted no time claiming that the richest of Stay supporters at the top FTSE listed companies earned 150 times the average income of their employees.
Next up for comment was immigration. It was “time to take back control of immigration”, he said. demanding: ”What do they know of the pressure on our health service, school services, social services?”
Brussels had too much legal control and he had a final promise: “We will prosper and flourish and thrive as never before if we leave.”
Afterwards he praised the “enthusiastic” Preston crowd and dismissed concerns about aerospace jobs, saying: “There are no reasons why their should be any barriers to trade.”
Meanwhile there was dissent, of an impromptu sort. Nick Williams, who described himself as a painter and performance poet borrowed a cardboard box from a local cafe and wrote: “Vote Stay, Make Art and Stay”.
While Preston vicar the Rev. Graham Nelson allegedhe was jostled by Brexit supporters and “men in suits” after heckling: “I shouted to Boris ‘You’re not welcome in Preston,’ and then I told Gove he should be ashamed of himself for some of the remarks he has made in this campaign ...I didn’t go to the Flag Market intending to heckle them, but it just got the better of me.”