Like a million or so other people, I went to the Put it to the People march in central London today. Ostensibly a march for another referendum, the mood was much more about cancelling the whole Brexit thing right now. There are, of course, many different opinions about this, which is reflected in parliament, which, thus far has found it impossible to agree on anything resembling a way forward for Britain. It hasn’t been helped by a government and prime minister which has been incapable of reaching out to find a consensus to deal with the dire situation which our country faces.
Personally, I regard Brexit as an egregious act of national self-harm which has come about for many reasons, very few of which need an exit from the EU to be addressed. And many of which have arisen from disinformation and outright lies. I would happily see Article 50 revoked next week, as the whole thing has been a disaster in the making, but that seems very unlikely – though you never quite know what’s going to happen next in Brexitland. Notwithstanding my feelings about the whole thing, I’ve recently been coming close to thinking that maybe if we can just get a “soft” Brexit – a “Norway” or “Common Market 2.0” – that would do. It honours the referendum result and mitigates the worst economic damage, though the UK becomes a “rule-taker” and has far less influence in the world. It’s far worse than staying in the EU, but given that England (and I mean England) appears to be psychologically incapable as seeing itself as an integral part of Europe, it might be the best compromise. The trouble is, we seem to have stopped doing compromise. What has happened to this traditionally pragmatic and practical nation that we used to tell ourselves we were?
With all this buzzing through my mind, I wasn’t sure whether I should bother going on the march. But I decided to be positive, and my friend Jon was like-minded. So we met in Hammersmith and walked to Park Lane, where the march was starting from. We got there around 1pm and hung around for nearly an hour. There was almost no movement, as there were so many people. The atmosphere was good – thousands of decent people, who just don’t want to see their country f****d up. There was no visible sign of police. I guess they took the view that all these nice middle class people (the caricature) would behave themselves. Well they did!
Given that it looked like we’d never move far, Jon and I decided to walk through Hyde Park, over Hyde Park Corner and into Green Park. We then walked along in parallel to Piccadilly. That worked well, so we went further and took a route through an alleyway which took us onto St James’s Street, where the main march came off Piccadilly. We joined it there and spent a while slowly moving through St James’s and then Pall Mall, to Trafalgar Square. The vibe was really good – a sense of unity, amongst people of all ages. No division between the young and old, as the referendum vote had exposed – one of many divisions. There was a great band of drummers adding to the atmosphere as well. At Trafalgar Square we looked down Whitehall and reckoned the crowd had become static. The rally at Parliament Square was probably beyond our reach, although, knowing London pretty well, we probably could have found some backstreet route that got us there. But, truth be told, the lure of the pub was too strong by then, and we made our way initially to the Coal Hole on the Strand. We weren’t the only ones.
The actual rallies, in any case, are generally simplistic sloganizing, so I doubt we missed very much. We moved onto a pub called the Old Bank near the Royal Courts of Justice. A couple of pints of London Pride and some good conversation. I think we both felt inspired, encouraged by the experience of the march. Just seeing so many people together, concerned for the well-being of their country. No doubt the government will completely ignore the march and plough on in its dysfunctional way. But when the inquiry happens in the future, they will have a lot to answer for.
Here are a few photos I took along the way.
Hyde Park Corner
St James’s Street
Well done. My wife made it but I couldn’t. I agree with your thoughts. What is so disappointing is that had this been a Leaver march, I think the atmosphere would have been very different. There are so many death threats circulating and so much vitriol from the right. On the other hand, yesterday was a peaceful success. Goodness knows chat impact it will have or where we end up.
Thanks. You are right – Brexit has debased the political discourse, taking it to new lows. Or maybe it has just been the catalyst for people expressing all their hatreds, whereas before they might have kept sullenly quiet. Whatever, it doesn’t say much for the state of the nation’s mind. That’s why the march was quite uplifting, with togetherness, respect and humour the order of the day. It is possible!
Good choice of pubs.
Surprised that marches are so popular at the moment. Maybe it’s the thought of a good long walk at the weekend with a beer at the end?
Fairly obvious that this one will have little impact on Parliament where most MPs have planted their flags.
Who knows where the flags will be planted by the end of the week. Of course a good walk followed by some beers is an attractive proposition.
I agree with frgtommo that it’s impossible to see where this will all end up – though sadly, DC might be right in saying that it will make no difference at all. (John Redwood certainly thinks so – despite the million marchers and the 5 million petitioners, we will apparently ‘always be in the minority’. Not quite sure how he gets there.)
But joining John on the march yesterday – and I’ve been to the last few – gave lots of us a good opportunity to let off steam, and to show the country that we cared. Compared with the previous marches, this felt more cranky, boisterous and pumped-up; though as John says, we were all still on our best behaviour.
But I saw it as a colourful, cantankerous howl of protest at the sheer incompetence of our leaders, and at the sense that we have been truly sold down the river – first by the promises, and then by the appallingly dysfunctional processes of our (apparent) departure.
I took a long and reflective walk along the river this morning in the gorgeous sunshine. It was very good to look back on the day, and I’m really glad I did it – whatever it might, or might not, bring. (And as DC says, we made an excellent choice of pubs.)
Yes, ’twas a good day. Revived the spirits. If nothing else, our political leaders will have to explain why they are willing to ignore a million marchers and almost 5 million petitioners,
HATE it when that happens. I typed up a whole screed – then accidentally deleted it! Trying again…
I agree with frgtommo that it’s impossible to see where this will all lead – though sadly, Dc may be right (it happens occasionally) in suggesting that it might make no difference at all. John Redwood seems to think so: despite the million marchers and the five million petitioners, we will apparently “always be in the minority”. Not quite sure how he gets to that.
I was very glad to have joined John yesterday – to let off steam, to spend the day with like-minded people, and to show the country we cared a bit. I’ve been to the last few big gatherings, and this felt a little different – more cranky, more boisterous, and more pumped-up: although as John says, we were all still on our very best behaviour.
It felt to me like a colourful, cantankerous howl of protest against the sheer incompetence of our political leaders – for the promises that they fed us, and which have failed; and for the appallingly-managed processes of our attempted departure.
I took a long and reflective river walk this morning in the glorious sunshine, and looked back on the day as time very well-spent. It’s always good to air your views – and we did indeed pick a couple of excellent pubs.
It was great the first time… for some reason I had to approve it, which might be why you thought it had disappeared into the WordPress ether.
Ha! Two rants for the price of one. Goddam WordPress.
Not sure that one’s worth reading, let alone two.
Or should I try again?
Maybe not. The Speaker wouldn’t allow it.
He’s fine with anti Brexit rants so fill your boots.
Prediction time: will we have left by end of May?
Or will end of May mean we have not left?