Meeting was taken in a cafe in Saint James Park, behind Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, this heart of the British parliamentary monarchy of which they like to point out the faults so much. Oliver Knowles, 47, and James Sadri, 43 years old, two of the four members of the collective Led by Donkeys (“led by donkeys”, an expression dating back to the First World War to evoke an infantry led by incompetent leaders), made the trip from east London and Bristol, on this icy December morning. The other two have real excuses: Ben Stewart couldn’t come because of the train strikes and Will Rose moved to Sweden.
How better to end this chaotic year 2022 in the United Kingdom than in the company of this band of activists among the most caustic and creative in the country?
The last few months have reached heights of instability: the British have seen three Conservative prime ministers (Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak), four Chancellors of the Exchequer and an uninterrupted series of scandals. Golden topics for our four friends, former employees of the NGO Greenpeace, past masters in the art of “ask for accountability” to the powerful.
Their last action dates from December 20: it is a projection of the portraits of the victims of the repression of the mullahs’ regime on the facade of the Iranian embassy in London, filmed and then posted on social networks.
Five days earlier, they posted another video, which immediately went viral, chronicling the “Michelle Mone affair”, named after a member of the House of Lords suspected of pocketing 29 million pounds of public money (about 33 million euros) for deliveries of defective masks.
Produced at a rate of, sometimes, one or two per week, easily reaching a million views, all their productions bear the ” paw “ Led by Donkeys: a neat staging and a scrupulous work of fact checking.
Four years after the formation of the collective, its members, with the typical profile of remainers (supporters of remaining in the European Union, EU), urban, educated, rather on the left, still believe as much in the political power of art. “Anger is my main motivation”, assures Oliver Knowles, dressed that day with a hipster look. He and his friends were outraged by the lies of Brexit supporters; they now speak out against injustice and a country where people line up at food banks and struggle to pay their energy bills.
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