Revoke, Remain, Reform
Saturday March 23rd 2019. The Mother of all Marches. The day when a million joyous, cheering, dancing, whistling, peaceful people led by a brass band gathered in central London to tell Theresa May in no uncertain terms that she was wrong. That her direct appeal to the British people to blame MPs for her failures to deliver Brexit had completely backfired.
As we marched, the numbers of people signing the petition to Revoke Article 50 soared. On the streets there were people from all corners of the UK and beyond, the coaches we had helped crowdfund that had come down overnight from Inverness; the man who had walked all the way from Swansea; the train from Bristol full of supporters. There was the man and his teenage son from South Armagh, three miles from the Northern Ireland border, very worried about possible future arrangements. The 97-year-old WW2 veteran from Devon and holder of the Military Cross came with four generations of his family. The people of Blandford – population 8000 – sent an entire busload, 20 people currently living in Italy joined the march from the ‘British in Italy’ group, full of uncertainty as to their future status should the no-deal Brexit lunacy become fact.
I belong to a cross-party group called the European Movement. Diehard members of our group were in their appointed places by Hyde Park Corner for the start of the march, berets, badges, bugles and banners at the ready. The march was better organised than the one held in October; there was less waiting around, more movement. Yes, there were some tube stations unexpectedly closed and buses re-routed, but it worked.
And the posters and placards! The UK is a hub for the creative industries, and the posters were a brilliant advertisement for this: how about a picture of Ed Miliband with that notorious bacon sandwich? The text read: ‘Can we go back to when this was politics?’ Or how about my cousin and his wife, with her elderly mother in a wheelchair, with a banner that read: ‘Brexit is collapsing under the weight of its own lunacy’. Also:
‘We’re gonna need a People’s Vote’ (ref. Jaws)
‘Brexit is an INFINITY WAR. Thanos voted leave’
‘IKEA has better cabinets.’
We felt justifiably pleased with our efforts to raise awareness of the march – our leafleting in the last few days was featured the day before the march in a local paper and on ITN’s News at Ten, where this dame was filmed outside a key London railway station handing out leaflets to the poor commuters, who probably just wanted to get home after a hard week at work.
Once the speeches were over and the banner bearers were beginning to droop, there was only one thing on everyone’s mind. The community that marched together now needed to celebrate together. The South Bank Centre on the Thames became the refuge and watering hole of choice for the footsore and weary. The chance to reflect, chat, share, laugh, eat, drink, make new friends, rest.
The Prime Minister has announced her imminent departure. But that’s a sideshow. The next act of this extraordinary drama is unfolding. The central characters are the British people. It’s time we were taken seriously.