Four activist friends wittily exposed the hypocrisies of Brexit politics. As they publish a book about their campaign, they reflect on their rollercoaster year
The campaigning group Led By Donkeys is always on the lookout for what it calls thermonuclear hypocrisy in politics, and specifically on Brexit. So when, in August, its founders belatedly came across an article that Michael Gove had written for the Daily Mail in March 2019, they felt they had hit the jackpot. In it, Gove, who is now chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster or more prosaically, the man charged with making Brexit happen, deal or no deal had noted: We didnt vote to leave without a deal. That wasnt the message of the campaign I helped lead.
It was like, Hang on a second: that should be the iceberg to the governments no-deal Titanic, exclaims 45-year-old Ben Stewart, one of the four founders of Led By Donkeys. The leader of the campaign, the person charged with no-deal planning has said there is no mandate for this. And now they are claiming a mandate for it. So I felt and we all felt: we need to make that quote famous.
Led By Donkeys, which came into existence only in January, had already had considerable success, and a lot of fun, reminding politicians of words they have said, written or tweeted, and probably wished they hadnt. The project started with blowing up tweets from the likes of David Cameron and Leave tub-thumpers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage and slapping them on billboards in the dead of night. But the group quickly became more ambitious and its work has appeared everywhere from a 40m x 20m banner at the Peoples Vote demonstration in London in March to projections on the cliffs of Dover. Their targets are overwhelmingly on the right of the political spectrum, though Jeremy Corbyn was mocked with a billboard that had his Twitter handle but was otherwise left blank, so that people could write on to it what they would like the Labour leader to say on the issue.
Its work has been, to some camps, the Remain campaign that never was: impassioned, humorous, compelling. Through more than 50 poster designs, photographs of which have had more than 200m views on social media, Led By Donkeys has taken the fight to the flip-flopping Brexiters. They have also taken potshots at Donald Trump and what they consider the dangers of post-truth politics. When the US president visited the UK in June, they projected his approval ratings (and those of Barack Obama) on to the Tower of London, and a video in which Boris Johnson called Trump out for quite stupefying ignorance was superimposed on to Big Ben. In the US, these stunts were picked up by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Just last week, Led By Donkeys launched posters satirising the governments Get Ready for Brexit campaign, designed by members of the public, and, as this article went to press, were finalising plans for Saturdays Peoples Vote march.