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Step up pressure for people’s vote

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 August 2018

Not giving up: The Rally for Europe event on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, hosted by Mitch Benn. PHOTO: PA

Not giving up: The Rally for Europe event on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, hosted by Mitch Benn. PHOTO: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Comedian, musician and writer MITCH BENN recalls the speech he gave at a People’s Vote rally

What do you think, is 48 too old to discover your true calling?

I’m still in Edinburgh, still have a few days left of my Fringe run... About 10 days ago, I got wind of the fact that there was to be a People’s Vote rally here last Saturday. I contacted the organisers to see if there might be room for me among the speakers and was extremely flattered in due course when they got back to me and asked me to host the event.

As ever, the rally exceeded expectations. About 600-700 people were anticipated but easily more than 1,000 turned up.

I thought you might like to read the text of the speech I delivered to open proceedings. Here it is:

Hello Edinburgh...

I know it might have been better to get someone properly Scottish to do this, but in my defence I’m half-Scottish. Half-Scottish, half-Scouse. Very tight with money and I haven’t got any. Twenty years and that one’s still not a joke.

I’m going to be your host for about the first three quarters of this event; I’m going to have to duck out a bit early because I have a show on at the Fringe; Doing It On Purpose, every day at 3.25pm at the New Town Theatre in George Street. Yes I’m plugging my show, I’m not stupid.

And neither are you. That’s why you’re here.

What I’m going to do today is introduce the many illustrious speakers who’ve gathered here to support you in your demand for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, but before that I’m going to talk about some things I’m not going to do, and neither are you.

First thing we’re not going to do is apologise. Never before in the history of democracy have people who were on the losing side of a vote been told “You lost; that means you’re WRONG, so you must now ADMIT you’re wrong, change your minds and APOLOGISE for disagreeing with us”.

And they tell us WE don’t respect democracy. Democracy is not a system for forcing people to agree with you. It’s a system for disagreeing peacefully. And no vote which can never be challenged is a democratic vote. No vote which can never be reversed is a democratic vote.

So we will NOT apologise for having been RIGHT. We will NOT apologise for not being fooled by the big red bus. We will not apologise for having seen through the lies of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith. We will not apologise for seeing Nigel Farage for what he truly is.

The second thing we’re not going to do is give up. For two years now we’ve been told to pack it in and go home, that we’re fighting not a losing battle but a LOST battle. But six weeks ago I was at the head of a crowd of 150,000 people in London. Not only is the momentum with us, MOMENTUM are now with us, and if
they can come to grips with reality anyone can.

For encouragement, look across the Atlantic. We may be saddled with the most incompetent government in our history, but so are they. But in the 18 months that the Republicans have had complete control they’ve hardly managed to pass a single bill. The flagpole policy of the campaign was repealing Obamacare. It didn’t happen. And you know why? Because the people over there understand that an election is not the end of the story. A vote is not the end of the story. They occupied the offices of their elected representatives, bombarded them with letters, phone calls and emails and told them “we see what you do, we will remember and you will be held accountable”.

So that’s what we’ve got to do.

Hands up everyone here who hasn’t written to their MP about Brexit?

Yeah, I’ll admit, I haven’t yet. But I’m going to do it this week. And all of you, do it as well.

You may have a Lib Dem MP; they’re supposed to be on board but tell them no slacking off.

You may have an SNP MP; they SHOULD be on our side, so write and tell them. And if it’s Tommy Shepard tell him I said “hi”.

You may have a Labour MP. That party’s so on the fence about Brexit right now if they stood up they’d bring the fence with them. Push them off the damn fence.

You may have a Tory MP. That’s not the lost cause you may think it is. Because trust me, this government knows what a mess it’s got itself into and is dying to find a way out of it. So let’s give them that way out. Show them that the support is there for a vote on the final deal with an option to remain, and we can all wake up from this nightmare.

The other people we need to reach out to are the Leavers.

We all know Leavers; we’ve all got friends and family who voted Leave. And we know they’re not fools or racists, they’re good people who voted in good faith for what they thought was best. So we need to ask them something:

Ask them, did you vote for no food or medicine within a month? Did you vote for economic collapse for the next 50 to 70 years? Did you really vote to watch Jacob Rees Mogg move his business to Ireland, Nigel Lawson move himself to France and Nigel Farage get his German passport so that they can sit back and watch you clean up their mess until the day you die? Is that really what you voted for?

Because if it isn’t, join us. Join us in demanding not endless votes until we get what we want, just for a vote in which the people actually KNOW what they’re voting for.

We demand a People’s Vote.

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