The Vote Leave Bus With The £350 Million NHS Slogan Is Back Driving Around London
What is happening, why is it happening, and did the referendum never actually end? BuzzFeed News investigates. UPDATE: The mystery is solved.
So, remember the infamous Vote Leave EU referendum bus?
You know the one – it carried Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign team around the country for six weeks emblazoned with the (basically untrue) claim the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU and the (soon clarified after the result) pledge to spend the money on the NHS instead.
You may also remember it from such infamous campaign moments as "Boris Johnson stands on the steps of the bus and eats a Cornish pasty while waving some asparagus".
Anyway, the bus became an iconic part of the campaign. But the day after the referendum, it was stripped of its branding and became Will Young's Glastonbury tourbus.
Will Young thought he'd better leave right now. Yes, we know everyone has already made that joke.
Anyway, something very strange has happened. Three weeks after the referendum the Vote Leave bus is back from the dead, decked out in anti-EU slogans, and driving around London.
What the hell is happening? Is it parked in some sort of hidden campaign lair? Are Brexiters setting up an underground lair to prepare for a second EU referendum campaign at a moment's notice?
The bus was spotted on Thursday night in London's Olympic Park by BuzzFeed News reader Matthew Martin.
At first we struggled to believe him: Why was the bus hiding in full Vote Leave colours? Martin insisted it was true and that there was a "shirt and tie tossed on front seat", suggesting the driver was having a nap.
"I assume they're trying to get it out of London on the quiet," he said.
We decided to investigate whether Vote Leave were secretly plotting another campaign. And it turns out the truth is even weirder.
According to the coach company, a film production company has hired the original Vote Leave bus and decided to re-create its exact campaign look just three weeks after the referendum.
"They're doing a film or a documentary," explained a proud Paul Acklam of Acklam Coaches of Beverley, who owns the vehicle. "Some film company. They've hired it for a fortnight."
So hang on, is someone making some sort of Brexit film? It's unclear.
Acklam doesn't know exactly but said the client has commissioned a design company to re-create all of the Vote Leave logos, since the original designs were thrown away at the end of the campaign.
"We'd taken them off in London the day after the referendum," he said.
He dismissed concerns from BuzzFeed News that accurately re-creating the logos must have been a big task.
"They put it on a computer and print it," he patiently explained.
In addition to serving as Johnson's campaign bus during the campaign and taking Will Young to Glastonbury, the bus was also used to transport the Pakistani cricket team during their recent tour of the UK.
Acklam said he was very proud of the role his bus played in the EU referendum.
"It was always on television. It's changed British politics, that bus."
Update: The mystery is solved. It turns out the "film company" was actually Greenpeace.
The environmental charity hired the bus and parked it outside parliament early on Monday morning. It then set about replacing the anti-EU slogans on the side of the bus with thousands of questions from members of the public about the UK's environmental future post-Brexit.
"The referendum campaign was marred by exaggerations and lies, but now we need the truth," said Greenpeace's John Sauven.
Not everyone was impressed. One anti-EU member of the public who walked past the stunt argued that the figure suggesting £350 million of extra funding for NHS is "not a lie – it's not necessarily a fact but it's a possibility".
Greenpeace said it was committed to campaigning to ensure environmental protections currently safeguarded by the EU remain protected when Britain is no longer bound by European law.