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MITCH BENN: It’s time to put our money where our collective mouth is

Anti-Brexit demonstrators fill Parliament Square in central London in June 2018. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

MITCH BENN has a simple message for all of those considering marching on Saturday – get on the bus and turn up!

It can be tricky sometimes, when trying to spur one’s contemporaries into action (which appears to be pretty much my full-time job these days) to strike the proper balance between urgency and despair. Between emphasising the importance of giving it your best shot, and accidentally implying that if it doesn’t work, then that’s it, give up.

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Readers will be well aware of this weekend’s People’s Vote march and by the time they reach this article will have already encountered exhortations to take part. I’m not going to add too many of my column inches to this effort, except to say that if you’re able to turn up on Saturday but still in two minds about whether or not to turn up, TURN UP.

It matters. One might even say that it works.

For all that (as I noted at the time) the Brexiters and the pro-Brexit press tried to dismiss the march that took place in June as some sort of middle class jolly (a bizarre argument even if it were true, which it wasn’t; a point is either valid or it isn’t, irrespective of the perceived socio-economic bracket in which those making the point belong) its impact has been undeniable.

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As I pointed out last week, before the June march, the idea of a vote on the final Brexit deal was all but unmentioned; in less than four months it’s gone from being an impossibility to a distinct possibility, with all the major parties save UKIP and the ‘big two’ now on board, as well as many of the biggest trade unions and pretty much the entire business lobby. The sheer scale of the summer protest took the political establishment by surprise; on Saturday it’s time for some serious shock and awe.

Oh and while we’re here, yes, ‘the political establishment’. Can we please start knocking back against this idea that organised Remainerism is some sort of attempt by the political establishment to subvert and thwart the plucky grassroots uprising that is Brexit?

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Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg aren’t just pillars of the establishment, they’re lead-bearing pillars of the establishment. They couldn’t be more emblematic of the social status quo if they had ravens living in their heads, which may actually be true in Boris’s case. And as for the privately educated banker Nigel Farage, he couldn’t be more entrenched in the social and economic élite if you dug a trench straight through the social and economic élite and buried him in it, which if nothing else is a hugely pleasing image.

You don’t get to dismiss your opponents as ‘the establishment’ and portray your own lot as the rebel underdogs when the government and the opposition are on your side. And if you’re still so sure that ‘the will of the people’ is with you, you shouldn’t be afraid to check and find out…

So yes, if you can get there on Saturday, do. It’s literally a numbers game at this point. The fact that somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 people turned out in June when no more than 50,000 had been expected did not go unnoticed, and the Brexit ‘Overton Window’ has been shifting ever since. Let’s give it another shove in the direction of sanity.

But… If you just can’t make it, for reasons of commitments or geography or other such considerations, don’t beat yourself up about it.

There will be other battles.

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This is what I was alluding to in the first paragraph; on the one hand, while Saturday’s march is our big chance to persuade the public and perhaps even the government of the necessity of a Final deal vote, it isn’t and won’t be our last chance to defeat Brexit. Because there isn’t going to be a last chance.

As it stands we have just over five months to save the country. Article 50 comes into effect on March 29, 2019, and all our treaties and arrangements with the EU will expire at once, whether or not anything has been set up to replace them (it won’t have been). Article 50 can of course be unilaterally revoked at any time up until that moment, as the EU has been at pains to point out for the last 18 months.

There is, of course, at least an evens chance that it won’t be revoked; that we will, in the immediate term, fail. But that won’t mean it’s over.

This whole ludicrous episode was only foisted upon us because the europhobic rump of the Conservative Party spent over 40 years refusing to accept the outcome of the last referendum on Europe. And of course had the 2016 referendum gone the other way, the Brexiteers had already pledged to go on fighting for their cause. So there’s absolutely no reason for us to give up either.

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If Brexit goes ahead, the last day of the campaign to avert it will be the first day of the campaign to undo it. In the meantime, get on the damn bus (seriously; there are free buses being laid on to get people to London on Saturday; have a Google and see if there’s one you can catch). I’ve even looked at the forecast for Saturday in London; 17 degrees with sunny intervals, so perfect marching weather.

Time to put our money where our collective mouth is. Resist.

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