The Verse’s Ellen Stickland informs us about the People’s Vote march that occurred in London on Saturday 23rd March 2019.
Do you remember where you were when you heard Britain was going to leave the EU? Was that a day a celebration or did you find yourself worried about the future?
The European referendum was the first election I was eligible to vote in. There was a certain excitement in the air amongst my friends, most of whom were recently 18. Finally, we were able to have our say in politics after years of being kept in the dark, dismissed and patronised. Marking that X in one of two boxes felt like a sort of rebellion.
Whichever way you voted in the referendum, the morning after was a rollercoaster. Nigel Farage infamously revealed the NHS would not receive £350 million a week, David Cameron resigned, pubs and streets across the country were hosts to celebrations and there were even some (false) reports that London wanted independence from the UK.
Two and a half years later, the mood of the country is no more stable. Except, where once the country could be divided into jubilant victors and disappointed losers, it seems that no one is happy. Nothing has gone the way anybody wanted it to.
So, on Saturday 23rd March 2019, over a million people took to the streets of London. Not to order that we stay in the EU or to insist on leaving, but to show the government that the UK no longer feels satisfied with Brexit, and to demand a second referendum. A People’s Vote.
Five months ago, approximately 750,000 people took the same route from Hyde Park to Parliament Square. A lot has changed in that time, Theresa May has suffered two defeats against her deal, the deadline was moved from 29th March to 22nd May and over 5 million people signed an online petition to revoke Article 50.
Some passionate leave supporters believe the march was for ‘sore losers’, bitter about not getting their way. Yet, amongst the one million people who marched were a sizeable number who voted leave. Some have changed their minds. Others still want to leave, but feel that their wishes are no longer being respected. Many of those people were simply angry with how the referendum was conducted, citing inaccuracies in the media and from politicians themselves as being the cause of an uninformed electorate. Some people’s banners included past quotes from politicians who are now in favour of leaving but not in favour of a second referendum. The one that appeared most commonly was the now infamous claim from David Davis, that ‘a democracy that cannot change its mind is no longer a democracy.’
Amongst the line up of speakers was a group of young people from across the UK. Including one speaker from Northern Ireland. He was amongst the first generation in his family to have grown up in peace. To his parents, The Troubles were still a painful memory. He also reminded the audience that when it came to a peace agreement, the people of Northern Ireland were given a vote, because the governments recognised the impact such an impact would have on the future of the country.
Deputy leader for the Labour party, Tom Watson, attempted to appease both sides of a divided country ‘are our friends, our neighbours and our co-workers’. The message being: we are not each other’s enemies, this is our collective future at stake, and we deserve a say.
Perhaps one of the most rousing speeches of the day came from former Conservative deputy leader, Michael Heseltine. He urged the record-breaking crowd:
“Walk tall. Keep the faith. Go back to your villages, your towns and your cities. Tell them you were here. Here, In parliament square. Outside the buildings that inspire parliamentary democracy. Fighting for our tomorrow. In peace. Secure. The bitterness and bloodshed of Europe’s past buried with its history.”
The overwhelming moods at the march were anger that politicians had lied (or hidden the full truths) in order to win an election, but also hope. Not necessarily hope for a different result from a people’s vote, but hope that the UK government would put the fate of the country before individual political careers.
One thing that everyone at the march could agree on, was that if a second referendum is allowed, it has to be well informed and fair. After all, do we really want to wake up to hear that ‘What is the EU?’ was the most googled question, for a second time around?