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ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: The People’s Vote can win

Anti-Brexit campaigners in Parliament Square for a People's Vote march - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL highlights the reasons why the British people deserve to have the final decision on Brexit.

I have just finished binge-viewing the recent BBC series on Margaret Thatcher. No, despite my so called ‘auto-exclusion’ from Labour I am not, never have been, never will be a Tory.

But it was fascinating.

Fascinating to wonder how on earth the Tory Party has gone from Thatcher then, to a choice today of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.

Fascinating to be reminded that there was division and anger back then too, and a fair amount of violence alongside it. The poll tax riots… the miners’ strike…

Fascinating to reflect on the question “what should we do if Thatcher was still here, and dealing with the current mess?” and conclude “not this. Not what this bunch are doing”.

Fascinating for me as a then young Mirror reporter, lambasting her day after day, to recall the feelings of hopelessness. Would we ever be rid of “that bloody woman?”

Then, when finally she went and John Major faced Neil Kinnock in 1992 and Labour lost I remember, on election night, being on the BBC next to commentator Peter Jenkins who said “if Labour can’t win in these circumstances it is hard to imagine they will ever win again”. Five years later, we had a Labour landslide.

I tell you this not to remind Labour of the happy days when we won big majorities by fighting elections with policies genuinely aimed at the many not the few, but to tell you that you never, ever give up.

I don’t know about you but quite often at the moment I wake up a bit depressed, anxious, irritable. Sometimes – The Thick of It fans please don’t be shocked – I even get a little bit angry.

Trump. Johnson. Farage. An endless media diet of Iain Duncan-Smith, David Davis, John Redwood and other relics of the past. Jeremy Corbyn, the man who became leader by vowing to listen to members, now resisting them as hard as he can on the single biggest issue facing our country. It’s not easy. But here’s the other thing. It never is easy.

It wasn’t easy when the People’s Vote campaign was started and we were told we were wasting our time. The people had spoken. Their will be done. Their Brexit kingdom come. A sin to think otherwise.

It wasn’t easy when we were organising the early marches and struggling to get the numbers. It wasn’t easy when the media kept saying there was not much point covering them because there was no way we were not leaving.

It wasn’t easy voting for Labour in 2017 to stop Theresa May getting a landslide, then to be told by both sides 80% had voted for Brexit. And if I protest-voted Lib Dem in the European elections it was because I was not falling for that one again.

It wasn’t easy being told by Tom Watson, John McDonnell, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and plenty more that we needed to get with the programme and believe in a “jobs-first” Brexit. Well. Our views haven’t changed. They have all moved to us, as the politics and the people have moved with us. We have gone from a standing start to central on the pitch and no matter how hard May or Corbyn or McCluskey or Johnson or Hunt have tried to get us off the pitch we are still there and we are still in the game.

So there are just three words I want you to take away.

We. Can. Win.

We can get a People’s Vote. And we can win a People’s Vote.

“Believe in Britain,” says Leave’s charlatan in chief. It is precisely because we believe in Britain that we know we can win and we know we have to.

Because this mess and madness in our politics is not Britain. The whole world laughing at us is not Britain. People saying – as many Tory and Brexit supporters do – that they don’t care if Brexit breaks the Union with Scotland, they don’t care if it means a hard border or a united Ireland, they don’t care if it means a weaker economy and less money for public services, fewer jobs for their children… That is not Britain. That is not the sensible, pragmatic, creative, compassionate, imaginative Britain we know and love.

And it is not democracy either. We had a vote three years ago, when we were told no-deal was not an option. Now we are told that a prime minister elected by 0.25% of the country will have a mandate to do the opposite of what he promised with the last set of lies he told back then. How dare they say this farce is democracy, but a People’s Vote of the whole country is not?

Whether it’s Johnson or Hunt, they have no mandate for no-deal. Whether it’s Tory or Labour in power, so much time has passed, so much has happened, there is no deal to be done that gets democratic legitimacy without the people saying so.

That is why we are still here, still standing, still fighting. That is why I hope every one of you will be on the next big People’s Vote march in October, as the next big deadline looms. Bring a friend who voted Leave. And everyone under 30, bring someone twice your age. And everyone over 40, bring half a dozen people less than half your age.

Because this is the real anger I feel watching this Tory leadership show. Two privileged wealthy middle-aged men fighting for the votes of the old to win the right to take away the future of the young.

At the People’s Vote rallies we are showing a short film… the actor Brian Cox narrating great campaigns of the past. I am going to spoil the ending by telling you the last line.

“Everything is impossible. Until we make it happen.”

You know who said that? Nelson Mandela – the only man I ever met who made the hair on my neck stand on end. As yours will when you hear Brian Cox say those words. Let’s make sure it doesn’t take 27 years to sort this madness and get our country back on track. There is no monopoly on patriotism. No monopoly of what it means to be British. No monopoly on anger.

So stay angry. Stay active. Never stop. Because if we really believe in Britain as a forward-looking decent democracy concerned about the future of our young people, we will make sure our country gets a People’s Vote and we will fight to the end for the future we all believe in, and win it.

This is an extract of Alastair Campbell’s speech to a recent People’s Vote rally, in Cheltenham

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