It was a great experience marching through London yesterday along with around 699,999 other people in support of another vote on whether or nor Britain should leave the EU. The organisers had originally expected some 100,000 marchers to be there, and yet final estimates are that around 700,000 people participated. This was equivalent to more than 1% of the total British population, and it was the second largest march ever held in the UK (second only to the Stop the War march in 2003). People from very different political persuasions, of all ages, from many parts of the UK, and from varying ethnic backgrounds were all there. While I wish there had been greater ethnic diversity among the marchers (the majority seemed to be rather white and middle-aged) it was great to listen to the very diverse Chuka Umunna, Sadiq Khan, Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas and Anna Soubry all united in their support for the people to have a final say on whether or not Britain is to leave the European Union (EU).
The march wended its way from Park Lane, along Piccadilly, down St. James’s Street, and then along Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, before turning into Whitehall, and concluding at Parliament Square. By the closing speeches the last marchers had only just left the start on Park Lane! Throughout, the march was good humoured, but full of determination and passion. It was peaceful, and although monitored from on high by several police helicopters, the visible police presence on the ground seemed light and friendly. As the pictures below show, there were some great posters and costumes!
I left with one overwhelming conclusion: we must all do very much more to understand why those still advocating Brexit do so. Unless we understand them, we cannot change their minds and their opinions. No-one on the march had any doubts about why we were all marching in support of a new referendum, and most also seemed to believe that we should remain in the EU. However, very few seemed to understand why what we take as being so obvious was not understood by all those still wanting to leave the EU. In short, those of us wanting to remain have to do very much more to convince those wanting to leave that they are wrong. Part of the challenge is that those wanting to leave usually do so primarily on the basis of emotion, whereas those wanting to remain do so mainly in terms of logic. This was very much brought home to me on the way back on the train when I had to put up with the abuse of some of the passengers, shouting out “Brexit is Brexit”. No amount of logic would work; they couldn’t even say what Brexit actually meant.
Prime Minister May is so profoundly wrong when she says that there will be no second referendum on the grounds that it would be a gross betrayal of our democracy. This march was democracy at work. Tbis is the voice of the people. Whatever the outcome, politics in Britain is not going to be the same again after March next year. It is time we create new structures through which elected officials truly serve the people rather than their own self-interests.