I and my family, including four grandchildren, plus friends and some fellow Quakers attended yesterday’s amazing March for a Peoples Vote in London. This was the third large anti- Brexit I have attended in the last six months and quite the largest and most focussed. There was a lot counting on this large turn out since it happened at exactly the time that the House of Commons met (first time on a Saturday in 40 years) and the majority of the press were anticipating that there were enough MP’s supporting Johnson’s ’new deal’ to win. This vote could happen whilst we were still ‘marching’ down Whitehall and we could have heard that the UK Parliament had voted to leave the EU!
Instead of being discouraged by the smug headlines of the tabloids it was a great relief and heart lifting to see the thousands upon thousands of anti-Brexit supporters walk together in solidarity – with whistles, drums, good humour and steely determination to not give up this vital struggle. It was a total privilege to be there and talk to many who had travelled overnight (170 coaches confirmed) from every part of the UK. Whilst the purpose of the ‘action’ was to persuade the main parties to put any final decision to an ‘Affirmative Vote’ (or second Referendum) most people I spoke to were sure that what they/we wanted was to stay in membership of the EU (and change the imperfections from within). However the dominant chant was ‘What do we want?’; Response ‘A Peoples Vote’; When do we want it; Response ’Now’!.
I was proud that myself and most of my group were wearing Green Party Tee Shirts, holding Green Party placards and distributing Green Party literature (from the excellent Scott Ainslie MEP). We were also well aware (as were the people around us) that the reputation of the Green Party is for consistency and consistently for Europe and a Peoples Vote. We were greeted very warmly at every step and that is really encouraging given the General Election that we anticipate.
As I am the parliamentary constituency candidate for Poplar and Limehouse the anticipated vote was particularly significant since yesterday morning that the veteran Labour MP for the same constituency, Jim Fitzpatrick had made it clear that, inspite of massive lobbying from the Labour Party members in Tower Hamlets, and inspite of nearly 70% of the voters in this constituency voting Remain in 2016, he would vote with the Tories to Leave. In the end he was one of the six Labour MP’s who also voted against the excellent ‘Letwin/Benn Amendment’ and had that Amendment been lost we would be starting the process of leaving the next morning!
Ironically I, Jean Jameson and Tim Keily (Co-Chair Tower Hamlets Green Party) had tried to meet with Jim Fitzpatrick MP on Friday and had even been to his office in Poplar to try and persuade him to respect the wishes of most of his constituents. The office was locked up and we saw a letter he sent to one of our members who has lived in the constituency for years to say, in spite of the many letters and emails received Fitzpatrick was determined to ignore them and vote to leave the EU!
In the end of course we Marchers were lucky to see the live BBC ‘breaking news’ report at 15.00 on Saturday that said that the ‘Letwin/Benn Amendment’ had been carried and the PM had to request an extension by writing to Brussels for their permission. Massive cheers were heard in Whitehall even though the rain had just started. When the noise died down an elderly guy next to me who said he was 85 years old, shared his great, but temporary relief and his fear that the country has never been nearer to an autocratic authoritarian regime than at the moment. The fight goes on.