Pro-European Union (EU) campaigners have claimed to host the “biggest cross-party campaign day in UK history” – with Politico.eu reporting “1,000 rallies” across the UK.
But an analysis of the events and the live-tweeting from around the country reveals only around 325 events, with most consisting of fewer than 10 activists each. The events appeared to mostly consist of activists handing out leaflets outside shopping centres for a period of three hours or less.
It is perhaps no surprise given that Britain’s EU referendum debate has been punctuated by claims of falsehoods and propaganda, hurled by both camps at each other for the June 23rd vote.
But there has been no greater indication of the ‘Potemkin village‘ nature of the ‘In’ campaigners than their claim to have had “1,000 events” across the United Kingdom today.
While the ‘Stronger In’ Twitter account was keen to create a picture of overwhelming grassroots activism today, the group’s own web site suggests its UK-wide presence was far lower than the “1,000 rallies around the country” as reported by the pro-EU website Politico.
While indeed there were rallies – including one featuring the British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday – the Stronger In website lists just 325 campaigning events for its activists to join, most of them low level, local, leaflet drops.
The ‘Out’ campaign – comprised of the UK Independence Party, Vote Leave, Leave.EU, and Grassroots Out – has been undertaking such leaflet drops since before the campaign even truly began.
But that didn’t stop Politico and other news outlets attempting to portray the Remain side of the debate as huge and organised, while stating “The Brexit campaigners are expected to focus on finding ways to unite the two main groups – The Tory backed Vote Leave, and Nigel Farage’s Grassroots Out.”
In fact, Grassroots Out is spearheaded by Tory Members of Parliament Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove, while Mr. Farage is leading UKIP’s own campaign, as well as assisting with Leave.EU initiatives.
The Stronger In website lists 32 pages of events, 10 per page, which are mostly street stalls involving just a handful of campaigners or leafleters.
For instance, the Stronger In Twitter account boasts of “Another great response in Falmouth today as our Cornwall #StrongerIN team are joined by @SarahNewtonMP”. The Falmouth event is listed as one of the so-called “1,000 rallies” by Politico, but pictures show just eight people in attendance.
Similarly, Stronger In boasts of “Really positive @StrongerIn doorknocking session in Shipley. Lots of Remain support and posters up”. But the Shipley “rally” was comprised of just five people “door knocking” for two hours.
The pattern is repeated across the country, when scrolling through the events listed by StrongerIn on its website.
Claire Hazelgrove, who is the Deputy Director of Field Operations for StrongerIn, tweeted about the “biggest cross-party campaign day in UK history”, posting a montage of nine pictures showing a total of just 58 campaigners (67 with cameramen included).
— Claire Hazelgrove (@CHazelgrove) May 14, 2016
If Stronger In’s own tweets are to be used as a measure of their grassroots effectiveness, it would reveal an average of around just 7.4 activists per event. With just 325 events around the country, this means only around 2,500 activists turned out for the organisation’s so-called “biggest cross party campaign day”.
This is around the same number of people that were attracted to one single venue in Kettering, when Mr. Farage, Mr. Bone, and Mr. Pursglove launched the Grassroots Out movement in January.