I see you, Sheryll Murray – a day with Steve Bray outside Westminster

All photos in this article are by Sylvia Yukio Zamperini

Steve Bray will be familiar to anyone who watches the news or current affairs programmes. His anti-Brexit, pro-democracy protests have upset the government so much (touching endless raw nerves) that Priti Patel even tried to write a specific clause in the Policing Bill to outlaw his presence. You might wonder what he does each day, so here’s an account from Nicola Tipton. Steve is very welcoming of anyone who makes the effort to join him to express their disgust at the current regime, so if you are tempted, go for it! Editor

On Wednesday 9 February, I ventured in to Parliament Square to protest again with  SODEM (Stand of  Defiance European Movement). However, I was also there on a more personal mission: I went specifically to represent the constituents of South East Cornwall who do not share our MP Sheryll Murray’s views, and who currently feel not only misrepresented, but ignored.

On 26 January she asked a particularly inane question at PMQs which seemed typify to her ineptitude and woeful disregard for thousands of her constituents, whom she appears to hold in utter contempt. I am so aggrieved I set up a Facebook  group and fired up by so many messages of support I took the opportunity while visiting friends in Hertfordshire to head to Westminster. It felt good to be back in the colourful hustle and bustle around the Houses of Parliament on a PMQ day as I took in the familiar banners, music and chants.

Steve Bray, Gareth Akatre and Sylvia Yukio Zamperini

It was great to reconnect with Steven Bray, Gareth Akatre and Sylvia Yukio Zamperini after so many weeks. They are the stalwarts of the movement and turn up week in and week out, whatever the weather, to hold the government to account and trumpet the lies of our PM and his crew to passers- by. Steve needs no introduction in his familiar top hat. Gareth is the town crier: a proud Welshman with resplendent flowing locks. Sylvia, warrior par excellence, has provided a brilliant photographic documentary over the years.

Gradually, more people joined – familiar and new faces from London and beyond. Having greeted them, I crossed over to stand outside the entrance to parliament to meet and greet anyone coming to or going from the hallowed centre of our democracy. I smiled at all, holding my ‘Sheryll Murray Assistance Please!’ banner aloft, along with a placard reading ‘LIARS DO NOT BELONG IN WESTMINSTER’. I asked anyone who would listen to tell my illustrious MP that I’d come from Cornwall to ask for her help. I received a few smiles from staff and was very pleased to have seen Dame Angela Eagle, who clearly agreed with my statements if her nod and wry smile were anything to go by.

What was rather odd though, was a remark from a young gentleman who was leaving parliament. I don’t think he was an MP. He looked me in the eye and said, “Be kind.” I asked him if he thought liars did belong in Westminster then. He didn’t engage, but walked off reiterating that I should just be kind.

This begs the question be kind to whom? I actually think I was showing kindness to all those
who are fed up to the back teeth with this government, its lack of accountability,  its  amorality, and inadequate representation of the ‘people’ whose name they are always taking in vain. Though hardly scientific, of the passing pedestrians who chatted with me, more were of my opinion and there were many more smiles and thumbs up than not. One couple were from Anthony Mangnall’s Totnes constituency. They urged me to keep going and were delighted that he had now publicly stated that he had no confidence in the PM and had sent in a letter.

I was moved on at about 11.50am by polite, smiling, female police officers. Such are the times that 64-year-old ladies peacefully holding placards can’t be near the hallowed portals whilst Johnson’s cavalcade drives in. Last year this was not the case, but increasingly, protestors have to keep their distance. Poor old Johnson must be protected from his detractors. He really has no balls. Over the last year too, he frequently slips in through the back entrance. It’s become a bit of a cat and mouse game with Steve and co.

SODEM isn’t the only protest at Westminster. I walked past a clump of angry anti-vaxxers, who were arguing with police about having to take down their banner from a piece of street furniture; the stop using plastics man; and the guy who turns up calling us all to repent. I re-joined my growing band of friends. We proceeded to sing and dance our way through the next couple of hours, receiving many more hoots and gestures of support from all, whether on foot, bicycle, or in vehicles. The tide is turning. The people have had enough. Top of the play list? Bye Bye Boris.

Just after 2pm, my arthritic legs had had enough so I adjourned to iconic Westminster pub the St Stephen’s Tavern for a pint and a sandwich. There I passed a convivial couple of hours talking politics and bewailing Brexit with three Ulster Unionists, visiting London for the football. As dusk approached, I returned to my spot outside parliament with my placards for the last stand of the day. I smiled and wished anyone leaving or entering a lovely evening.

Soon after, as darkness had fallen, I met up with another friend and reflected on the day over dinner. It was all tiring but fun and uplifting. I shall not give up. I demand proper representation and I sincerely hold the view that liars do not belong in Westminster. Democracy has no truck with liars or those who support them. We must fight for change.