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Sir Bob Geldof's Class Sunk Without Trace in Battle of the Thames

15/06/2016 16:40 | Updated 15 June 2016
Jeff Spicer via Getty Images

We are, of course, a sea-faring nation, so perhaps it was apt that the EU referendum campaign took to the water today.

Apt, but still bizarre. Very bizarre, as the two rival campaigns decided to duke it out on the River Thames.

Leading the Leave fleet was Nigel Farage who, having nearly died in a plane crash and almost lost his leg in a car accident, might have thought twice about giving Fate another mode of transport with which to cripple him.

The Leave flotilla did not have the biggest vessels, but it could call on the greater number, with more than 45 fishing boats forming Farage's navy.

The Ukip leader has been warning us of his People's Army for years, but the People's Navy seems to be a new development.

The motivation was to bring the concerns over the impact of EU fishing quotas on the UK fishermen and women right into the heart of Westminster, traveling up the artery of the Thames.

Standing in their way was the Remain side, lead by Sir Bob Geldof. Pop star, activist, man who likes to swear and now sea-faring campaigner.

He was aided by a huge sound system and small 'In' dinghies zipping around like wasps at a picnic, just staying far enough away from Farage's flotilla to avoid being struck.

As soon as Farage's boat left the dock and sailed under Tower Bridge, Geldof cranked up the stereo and attacked his enemies with noise, blasting out the '60s hit In With The In Crowd over and over again,

Before long Geldof himself took to the mic to blast the Ukip leader as a "fraud" and "no fisherman's friend."

nigel farage

From my position on Farage's boat, I could see Geldof, Boris Johnson's sister Rachel and other shiny happy people all cheering and jeering the Ukip contingent.

Even Arron Banks, the Ukip donor who has bankrolled the anti-Brussels group Leave.EU, admitted it looked more fun on their boat.

After Geldof had finished his diatribe, he joined with others on his boat in making a wanker gesture at Farage. Hardly surprising - this is after all someone who is known for liking the odd swear word.

Farage is no saint, but he refused to throw any bad language - or rude gestures - back in Geldof's direction.

"A load of rich kids," he muttered to himself as he surveyed the Remain campaigners.

His assistant, Michael Heaver, was much more forthcoming. "What a bunch of cunts," he said.

As we sailed down the Thames towards Parliament, our boat was flanked by more and more small fishing vessels manned by fishermen and fisherwomen.

These weren't pop stars, newspaper columnists or power hungry politicians.

These were, to use that horrible turn of phrase, real people.

One man on a fishing boat was almost shaking with anger as he shouted across to us how the quota system was destroying his industry. He didn't want to be lectured by Geldof, who seemed more intent on calling Nigel Farage a wanker than expressing a genuine interest in the fishing industry.

Geldof fired up the stereo again and then loudly repeated his attack on Farage.

But now it seemed slightly less entertaining. Around us were people who feel negatively affected by the UK's EU membership, and Geldof was shouting over them.

Is that why he was there? Just to shout at Farage?

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps over the years Geldof has often spoken of the impact of the EU fishing policies on Britain's coastal towns. Perhaps today was the culmination of a long period of work and campaigning.

Because of course if today was just Geldof taking the opportunity to get on a boat with a load of his friends and hurl abuse at people who want to vote leave, that wouldn't be a very good look for the Remain campaign would it?

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