It is time for the Eurosceptics to abandon their sinking ship and respect the simple fact that a movement now exists to protect the people from the irrevocable damage that our leaving the EU will do to this country.
I’ll be honest, by 5.30pm I was tired of walking around London with a cumbersome placard. It felt similar to the trope of Hollywood doomsday films, with ‘The End Is Nigh’ sign perched uncomfortably on my shoulder like a rifle. Even walking from Trafalgar Square to Eaton Square seemed like I was completing my fatal walk to the crucifix, though without a crown of thorns alas.
That was the power of Saturday, but metaphors and analogies cannot do the People’s Vote March any true justice – it was a colossal display of liberty. The aerial footage and pictures do not fully describe the energy on the ground, with people from all over Europe marching slowly to Parliament Square. There was this residual hum of vigour that moved through the crowd.
The media was fixed on how many protesters were marching on the streets of London, but explicitly ignored the reasons behind the event.
The BBC, in its now questionable apathy to impartiality, reported Saturday’s events with more tact than the previous march. However, it is now evident that an established line of ignorance has been adopted to sweep People’s Vote from its platform. As someone who marched proudly, words fail to express my despair at this targeted crusade against democracy.
On Monday, the House of Commons sat to Urgent Questions concerning the wafer-thin efficiency of Brexit negotiations. In that long session of enquiry to the Prime Minister, the weekend’s events were proudly backed by members from across all benches, including the SNP and Liberal Democrats. Labour’s backbench insurgency for a People’s Vote was represented by questions from several MPs including Catherine McKinnell, Luciana Berger, and Ian Murray.
The surprising spectre of a referendum haunted Theresa May’s entire session, to the point that her responses soon showed her visible frustration over the topic. Conservative members supportive of Brexit were also shuffling uncomfortably in their seats whenever the People’s Vote was mentioned.
There was a stronger presence for the People’s Vote on Monday than ever before. But what fills me and so many others with despair is the sheer lack of respect or acknowledgement from both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on the now obvious support for a new referendum.
Corbyn did not congratulate or mark the numbers of the march in any of his statements. This is despite a vocal number of his own backbenches calling for a new vote. This stubbornness over Brexit and complete dogged apathy is not only disrespectful but losing Corbyn’s only strength – his supporters.
The determined Luciana Berger, who has brilliantly defended her constituents and her principles previously, paid tribute to the many young people who marched on Saturday. Berger was right to call the response of the Prime Minister ‘dismissive’, but I’m certain the language would be more colourful if not in session.
As I marched on Saturday, I felt a powerful movement act on the disastrous events of the last two years. But as with the major leadership responses, many opposed to a People’s Vote were cynical, dismissive, and discourteous to the many people who marched. The criticisms are now tropes of their fanatical pursuit of Brexit. Many pulled out the insulting term ‘metropolitan elite’ from under their string vests, regardless of the fact that a large proportion of marchers were from outside major UK cities.
I walked and spoke to vibrant people who had travelled from all over Europe and the UK. One conversation with a group from Country Derry displayed the real lack of effort taken by Brexiteers over the Irish border concerns. One woman said she was never inspired to sympathise with republicans until Brexit threatened to break up her life.
The most stirring sight of the whole march was the sheer number of flags proudly flown by protesters. Of course, the EU stars were a prominent feature, as was the Union flag. But the appearance of European flags from Portugal, Poland, Malta, Belgium, and even provincial flags from Brittany and Holland, truly showed the widespread importance of this movement.
I must admit, the major campaigner voices did not show courtesy or attention to the many European voices who marched on Saturday. Vocal supporter Alastair Campbell, was dismissive of the fact that many had travelled from Europe to attend the march, including as far as the Canary Islands. As a champion for the rights and privileges of EU and non-EU citizens who will be adversely affected by Brexit, this did irk me to more despair over the culture of Brexit.
The slogan of the day was ‘Bollocks to Brexit’, an apt line borrowed from the campaign of Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers. Definitely a fair tagline to represent this hellish period of politics. Everyone on that march was determined and passionate for dismantling the Brexit culture through democracy.
But to return to regular life on Monday and hear such dismissive apathy and avoidance by major politicians, is deflating and disrespectful. After Theresa May was anonymously threatened by an MP of her own party, the politicians of Parliament are calling for respect and dignity.
Perhaps it’s time for the Eurosceptics to abandon their sinking ship and respect the simple fact that a movement exists to protect the people from irrevocable damage. To ignore this movement is anti-democratic and bolsters the culture of a policy that has its venom resolutely suffused into European politics. Sorry people, but we’re tired of “We won, you lost. Get over it.”🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)