by James Anthony

Content warning: article mentions suicide, and features a carnival float depicting suicide

To mark the arrival of BBC’s Question Time in Norwich on Thursday, a rather controversial float turned up in our city. Created for a festival in Dusseldorf, an impressively sized and eerily lifelike representation of the Prime Minister with a ‘Brexit’ gun in her mouth, was rolled around nearby streets to attract attention and to supposedly draw support for the pro-EU cause.

While I can appreciate the enthusiasm behind the protest, I can’t help but think it’s the wrong way to go about building a campaign focused on ensuring a future close to Europe.

I’ll start off with the rather obvious issue of using suicide to promote a political campaign. Regardless of its purpose, a large float showing an undoubtedly sensitive subject for so many people is not the best idea. So many across the city will have been affected by suicide at some stage in their lives, and there is the very real possibility that it will upset people, undermining the hard work so many do to stamp out the stigma of talking about openly about mental health without negative connotations. Of course, I don’t think that potentially offensive banners or floats should be banned – rather that it is very unhelpful to bring this into what should be a positive campaign.

Unnecessarily distasteful trivialising of mental health issues for political purposes does not draw people to the Remain cause.

Unnecessarily distasteful trivialising of mental health issues for political purposes does not draw people to the Remain cause. I tend to agree that all publicity is good publicity, but I’m also a believer that campaigns should be displaying positive messages and making sure people at least know what we stand for. What does a float showing suicide tell people about our campaign message? A place in Europe is the only alternative to suicide? If we want to be serious about persuading people that Britain’s future is at the heart of Europe, messages have to be far more focused and certainly not at a risk of putting the public off.

(A carnival float depicting British Prime Minister Theresa May; Patrik Stollarz/AFP via ibtimes)

I’m by no means one of the ‘Brexit means Brexit’ type people. While I accept the referendum result, I want to make sure that the future of Britain and Norwich are as secure as possible, and that means continuing to make our case, although I think that we need to respect the view of others. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with leaving the European Union, I want to make that clear – but comparing their democratic decision to a suicide attempt sounds bitter and is a poor way of arguing.

I’m a fan of talking face to face with people and think it’s a far better method of conveying messages.

Readers of any of my articles have probably had enough of me banging on about campaign tactics, but I’m a fan of talking face to face with people and think it’s a far better method of conveying messages. One of the primary reasons as to why I believe Brexit happened was a lack of communication between Remain campaigners and Leave-leaning voters. There is no doubt in my mind that if more of us had tried to door-knock, leaflet or make phone calls in areas disregarded by many campaigners, we may not be crashing out of the European Union as we are now. We ought to take this as a lesson and take any political messages to the doorstep rather than affluent, metropolitan city centre areas.

I am more than open to criticism on this topic, however. Perhaps the pro-Brexit rhetoric has got to me, or maybe I’m far too politically fatigued to fully appreciate this ‘Exit from Brexit’ float. I will end by saying that despite my issue with this float in particular, I wholeheartedly admire the enthusiasm, dedication and participation from all those involved in this. Protests and floats have their place in any healthy democracy and I will never fail to stand up for the right to protest and speak out – but that also means I can voice my opinion on finding this protest in particular distasteful, unhelpful and unproductive. I believe Norwich deserves better politics than this.

Featured image via Ervins Strauhmanis (CC)

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