I am writing further to the reports both in the Stroud News and Journal and on stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk in respect of the Brexit means Exit Rally which took place outside the Stroud Subscription Rooms on Saturday 18 th November.

Firstly, as correctly reported in advance by the SNJ, this rally was staged by the umbrella organisation Brexit means Exit, and in addition it comprised many other Leave campaigning groups such as Better Off Out, the Freedom Organisation, the Patriotic Association as well as members of several political parties, including UKIP. It was not a UKIP rally as some have falsely maintained, and for that reason there were no UKIP banners or rosettes whatsoever in view.

Secondly the vexed question of where the rally took place. Brexit means Exit had applied for and had been granted permission by Stroud District Council to set their PA system up in Kendrick Steet, just round the corner from the Sub Rooms. This they duly did, but when the organisers saw that the Remain Counter Demonstration, including Stroud District Councillors such as Coun Paul Denney (Labour, Cam West) were located on the steps directly in front of the Sub Rooms they decided to relocate to the opposite side of the steps in order that the Leave viewpoint would be given a fair and equal hearing. I understand from your report in the SNJ today (Wednesday 22 nd November) that neither the Leave nor the Remain camps had permission from SDC to be there. Perhaps as elected officials of Stroud District individuals such as Coun Paul Denney should have been setting a better example in this regard for all to follow ?

Lastly the issue of freedom of speech, the right to demonstrate peacefully and the right to express a contrary opinion to the majority --- all of which are a fundamental part of our democracy, even here in Stroud.

No-one disagrees with the fact that Stroud voted Remain in last year's Referendum, whereas a majority in Gloucestershire and the UK as a whole voted Leave. This didn't however give the so called progressive alliance of Stroud Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green activists , including Councillors and party office holders, with party placards and rosettes clearly visible, the right to interfere with Brexit means Exit's peaceful demonstration. This was done by means of chanting to drown out Leave speakers, walking up to Leave speakers and shouting at them whilst they were speaking, and otherwise attempting to disrupt and distract them.

One Remain supporter even screamed at the Brexit means Exit march that it had "no right to be in Stroud .... as the town had voted Remain." Wow ! Really ? Other comments such as "We'll hold the Referendum again in three years as you'll all be dead" and "Pass the Werther's Originals" were shouted by Remain supporters. Not only were these comments ageist and worryingly intolerant of older people, they were also inaccurate, since the Leave camp had a significant proportion of members who were aged under 30 and did not have a noticeably different age profile from the Remain camp.

These attitudes are hardly surprising however when the likes of Labour's Coun Paul Denney agitated in advance for a Counter-Demonstration opining that Brexit means Exit's rally is "a deliberate and provocative action" which has no place in Stroud since "Stroud voted to Remain."

Fully 45% of people who voted in the Stroud District voted Leave in the EU Referendum. Are we really saying that these people have no right to be heard ? Ironically the exact opposite of this is precisely what Remain campaigners reproach the Leave side with at a national level.

Perhaps before commencing his anti democratic and illiberal agitation Coun Denney should have reflected that not that many years ago both the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Stroud's Labour MP David Drew were themselves both on record as being in favour of Brexit. Let's not forget as well that Remain would doubtless have won the Referendum had it not been for the very large numbers of traditional Labour voters throughout the length and breadth of UK who voted for Leave because of the negative impact on their lives and those of their families of uncontrolled immigration under the EU's Freedom of Movement rules, leading directly to wage stagnation, increased housing costs, and increased pressure on the NHS and in schools and universities amongst many other things.

It seems crazy that parties such as Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens should be underpinning the top 1% of society in the banks, big business and the property owning establishment by helping to keep wages low and rents high to the detriment of those they claim to represent, namely the ordinary working people of Stroud and Gloucestershire.

Richard Ford

Chairman UKIP Gloucestershire