Yesterday, around a million people descended on central London in support of the so-called Peoples Vote campaign. It was the largest demonstration in the capital since that against the Iraq War in 2003. Many who were there then were there yesterday. The Iraq War was a ghastly mistake. It was what tarnished Tony Blair’s reputation - permanently - and its effects are still being felt today. Now has come the spectre of Brexit.
The botched negotiations to secure a withdrawal agreement with the other EU member states, hampered by Theresa May’s intransigence, have left the UK a laughing stock on the world stage, a nation willing itself to become poorer and weaker. Yesterday’s march shows that there is a genuine and growing popular feeling out there in the country in favour of rethinking the whole Brexit business - including the Revocation of Article 50.
From my Twitter feed, it was a strange bipolar world that was reflected as the marchers assembled, the march progressed and speeches were made. On the one hand, there was great enthusiasm at the coalition that had been assembled - as it was in 2003 - but on the other, a show of derision and sourness from some on the left, sniping at those from the Lib Dems, and indeed some in Labour, who were addressing the crowds.
The only feeling at seeing this unfortunate dichotomy was one of sadness. Sadness that so many on the left were unable to even go as far as the likes of Owen Jones, who did not attend the march but gave those participating his best wishes. Sadness that instead of reaching out to those in the centre, and the centre-right, there was simply recycling of how many times they had voted to cut benefits and services.
What is being forgotten by so many on the left is that for Labour to get into power, the party cannot merely sit there and refuse to make common cause with others because their politics may differ. Let us not forget that at the Iraq war protest, Jeremy Corbyn spoke alongside then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy. There are occasions when those with different political stances can come together. Yesterday should have been one of them.
Labour was represented, by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and by deputy leader Tom Watson, the latter being subjected to yet more disdain by many on the left, some of whom seem not to understand that yes, Corbyn’s proposals for a Brexit deal are way better than anything Ms May has managed, but that the best deal for the UK is not to leave at all. There is no better deal available than the one we have now, with EU membership.
And all those other parties represented - this, Jezza supporters, is the broad church you need to tap in to in order to ensure the fool’s errand of Brexit does not end up screwing over the country. Do not dismiss lightly the wisdom of Michael Heseltine, who grew up during World War 2, and spoke so movingly about the role of the EU in keeping Europe at peace. Remember his role in beginning the regeneration of the City of Liverpool.
Do not dismiss those from the Lib Dems, merely because they entered into a disastrous coalition with the Tories. They have been more than sufficiently punished for that wrong turn. Do not dismiss those who may not be ideologically committed as you on the left are. You need many of them on your side to get Corbyn into Downing Street.
At times of crisis, narrow ideology must be set aside for the greater good. That is all.
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