There are no excuses not to be at the biggest ever People's Vote march

PUBLISHED: 10:36 18 October 2019

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

PA Archive/PA Images

Alastair Campbell issues a rallying call for people to join in on the People's Vote march on Saturday.

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So it's time to get the marching boots on again. London, this Saturday, midday. And there are no excuses… none… if you are a reader of this paper, the chances are you are anti-Brexit and pro a People's Vote. If you are anti-Brexit and pro a People's Vote, you have to be there… no excuses… none.

"I have my kids to look after," you might protest.

"Bring them. It is their future we're fighting for. Kids love a march. Do a bit of family bonding painting your own placards. Make them funny. Make it fun. Make a day out of it."

"I have an elderly mum."

"Bring her too. Let me know where you're coming from and I'll see if one of the 170-plus coaches booked to come is travelling from somewhere near you."

"You're a football fan. I have a season ticket for my team. I never ever miss a game."

"Listen, Burnley are away at Leicester. If I can miss a game, so can you. This is the Champions League final of protests. Got to be there."

"England are playing in the Rugby World Cup on Saturday."

"It's in the morning. If you're travelling to get to the march, you can watch it on the go. It will be well over by the time the march kicks off."

"But I live in Cumbria."

"So what? I've had messages from people coming from the Hebrides and the Shetlands, Brits living in Spain and Denmark. If they can make it, so can you."

"Why are these things always in London?"

"They're not. We've had marches and rallies all around the country over the summer, and this is the culmination of that summer of activity, the big one. London is the place to get the big numbers, and get noticed, by the politicians and the media. Also, Boris Johnson has given the whole thing a big boost, by (probably) recalling parliament for the day."

"So who is going to be bothered about a march if parliament is sitting?"

"Boris Johnson is. And so are all the other MPs. We have got to make sure they hear that demand for a final say referendum, whatever emerges from the European summit this week."

"Do you think Johnson will even care?"

"Oh yes. He wants to win an election. His whole strategy, ever since he became prime minister thanks to two-thirds of less than 1% of the population voting for him, is to get to an election."

"I thought you were marching for a referendum?"

"We are. MPs need to get the message that an election is not the way to resolve this. Get a final say referendum, and Johnson needs 50% plus one. He wants the whole thing resolved through an election, because he can get a decent majority on 35%. If he sees a million people on the streets, it will give him pause for thought about his chances of getting that, believe you me."

"That still leaves many millions more."

"I have a golden rule on marches - 
for every one person on it, 10 more thought about it, or watched the news and wished they had gone. The bigger the turnout outside parliament, the greater the impact on the debate inside parliament."

"But if he gets a deal, and if parliament votes for it, it's all over anyway. Then it's a wasted journey."

"If, if, if … I am not convinced he will get a deal, and even if he does I am not convinced he will get it through the Commons. And a big part of the message of the march is that whatever the outcome, deal or no deal, it has to be put to a confirmatory vote of the people. That's why we are calling the march 'TOGETHER, FOR A FINAL SAY'."

"But according to the papers, the numbers aren't there in parliament for a referendum."

"They are a damned sight closer than they were when we started this campaign, when you could get the MPs openly willing to back a People's Vote into the back of a cab. The SNP, Plaid, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are with us all the way. Labour policy has shifted, not least thank to the campaign, and they now back a People's Vote. Quite a few Tories who have been totally opposed are starting to say that, reluctantly, they can see that a final say referendum may be the only way to resolve the mess and get the country back on track. We can win this, but only if we keep fighting."

"I bet you Jeremy Corbyn won't be there."

"Maybe not. But John McDonnell and Keir Starmer are hoping to be there. And so is Hilary Benn, whose Act of Parliament was so important in the fight against no-deal. We have momentum on our side. Small m, not large."

"Sounds a bit Labour to me. I'm a Lib Dem."

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"We'll have speakers from all the main parties there, Jo Swinson included."

"My Mum's a Tory."

"Tell her to come and hear Michael Heseltine then. And she can see a little film we've done especially for the march about Northern Ireland, with John Major and Tony Blair."

"But if there are so many people coming, will we even get near enough to the stage in Parliament Square to hear the speeches?"

"Maybe not, but we'll have screens down Whitehall, and in a way the speeches from the politicians are less important than the power of seeing so many people taking to the streets in protest."

"So the speeches are not worth hearing?"

"That's not what I am saying. There are some great speakers planned. And with the Commons sitting too you will want to follow that as well. It's going to be one of those days that will go down in history, whatever happens."

"But how do I know it will actually make a difference?"

"You don't, not for sure anyway. How can anyone calculate what difference a march makes? But the previous ones have, for sure."

"How do you know?"

"I've got no doubt that the marches we did at party conferences helped shift the debate, especially with Labour."

"I wasn't even aware you'd done them."

"The parties were. And it was one of the early marches in London a couple of years ago, with around 100,000 people, that led to a change in tone of media coverage, and emboldened more MPs to get their heads above the parapet. They saw something was happening that couldn't be ignored. Then there was the first really big one, last October, not just tens but hundreds of thousands, then an even bigger one in March. Two of the three biggest post-war marches have been for a People's Vote, and we want this one to be even bigger."

"But you still don't know for sure that they made the difference."

"From the day of that really big one, our centrality to the debate was indisputable, and it has grown. Also, name me one big campaign in history that didn't have marches."

"Er…"

"Anti-apartheid, women's rights, gay rights, racial equality, the NHS, devolution, peace in Northern Ireland, fair pay… anything that has ever really mattered, people have had to pound the streets for it."

"But I am just one person, just
me."

"So is everyone, we are all just one person. It's when we all come together that we make an impact. So would you rather make the effort, and know you might make a difference, or stay at home and be sure that you won't, and know that Boris Johnson will be happy if the protest is counted in thousands rather than hundreds of thousands?"

"How about if I just make a donation, and be there in spirit?"

"Donations are always welcome, but let me tell you we have fully funded the march already, half a million quid, thanks to crowdfunding. No big donations from the rich. This is the will of the people on the march."

"What's the weather forecast?"

"No idea. But there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes."

"Mmmm."

"So are you in?"

"Yeah, OK, I guess so. Where do I head?"

"Bottom of Park Lane. Get there early. It's going to be huge."

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