We can’t dismiss the People’s Vote march as lily-white suburban jolly
PUBLISHED: 21:21 26 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:21 26 October 2019
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Every day we’re still in the EU is a solid win for Remain, says Mitch Benn
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First of all, a little essential housekeeping: You might recall that I ended last week's column by issuing a plea for help. I bewailed my enforced absence from last Saturday's march and asked if you could help me make up for that absence by finding (or indeed being) someone who'd already decided not to go and changing their minds... I promised a shout-out in this week's column to anyone who in fact made such a decision and so I'm delighted to be able to extend that shout-out to Anthony Day, David and Clare Dansky and Ian Angus Wilkie. Thank you so much.
And, of course, thank you to all of you who made it to the march and would have done with or without my pleading. Well done, everyone. You made a difference; how much of a difference or indeed precisely what difference remains (sorry) to be seen, but you did make a difference.
I'm not going to say anything as platitudinous as "they can't ignore a demonstration of that size"; they absolutely can ignore it and probably will, but not without some cost to their credibility or indeed humanity.
At time of writing I've not heard any 'official' estimate of numbers attending but I don't think I ever heard 'official' numbers for any of the previous marches... Suffice it to say it looked like a monster from the television coverage.
On the day itself I was watching events unfold on TV at my mum's house in Liverpool; my mum herself had taken the train down to London to take part in the march, as she'd done on the previous two occasions. I'd expected to pass the day in an agonised funk of frustration and guilt at not being there but in the event I found it oddly entertaining; I spent the afternoon relaying news updates and sending aerial shots of the march to my girlfriend Leslie, who was in the thick of it looking after her mum, who'd come all the way from Glasgow. It was a bit like being the guy back at base in a spy movie, sending vital info to the agents in the field.
Leslie's mum Anne (hi Anne) briefly became a bit of a Twitter sensation a few days earlier when Leslie announced her intention to come down from Scotland on one of the coaches being laid on at a discount by the People's Vote organisers (I'm told that some people on that coach recognised her from Leslie's tweets).
In fact Anne's story illustrates one of the differences between this march and its predecessors: After (and, in fact, during) the previous marches, pro-Brexit commentators (and while I'm here, there's just fewer of those around in general these days) were quick to dismiss the march as a middle-class indulgence and the marchers as spoiled bourgeois whingers.
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I don't want to get into the absurdity of the idea that a movement headed by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, funded by bankers, fuelled by press tycoons and whose sole beneficiaries will be billionaires is in fact a humble grassroots uprising, opposition to which marks one out as a pampered reactionary.
The ridiculousness of that notion is self-evident, for all that it's still trotted out by those who don't want the public to be swayed by such rogue factors as truth and reality.
It's just that it's so much harder to dismiss a march as a lily-white suburban jolly when there's such a proportion of the whole population taking part.
Anne and her bus-mates had been up all night on a coach down from Glasgow, and after the march would be up all night again on the coach back to Glasgow. That's a round trip of 800 miles and two consecutive sleepless nights purely in order to make her voice heard on that one day. They can try to call you all middle-class dilettantes but they'll look pretty stupid doing it.
I don't know what happens next, or even, given the rapidity of events, what's happening now, by the time you read this. But I do know this; we've spent the last three years being told that this movement is over, that we already lost, that we should give up and go home.
The fact that this country is still - at time of writing - in the EU, nearly seven months after we were due to leave, is due in no small part to the fact that we did not give up and go home.
Saturday was a solid win for Remain, not just because of the events inside and outside the Houses of Parliament that day, but because every day we're still in the EU is a solid win.
Well done. And keep resisting.
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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.Become a supporter