I'm British and I'm on a march - something must've gone badly wrong

March 24, 2019

Went on the anti-Brexit march yesterday - this is now my third since 2017, but prior to that, I'd never been on a demonstration before and didn't see myself as the kind of person who generally did that sort of thing (which is where the headline of this piece comes from - it's from a placard at one of the earlier marches).

For anyone inclined to dispute the figure of over a million demonstrators, all I can say is that there were a lot more people than previously.  On the first march I attended, I reckon it took about 2-2.5 hours to go from Hyde Park to Parliament Square (the end point), walking at a fairly sedate pace.  On this one, there were so many people, we were hardly moving at all for a lot of the time - it was more of a shuffle or a queue than a march (but we British are very good at queuing - which is lucky because we're probably going to be doing a lot more of it after Brexit).  It took us nearly three hours to get less than half way along the route (which was identical to that of previous marches) - so we ended up baling out before we even got to Parliament Square (I think the majority of people who started from Hyde Park will have missed most of the rally at the end point - you stood a better chance if you joined it part way along the route).

In terms of who was on the march, a couple of things struck me:  
  • There were people from all corners of UK, even those which voted strongly to leave the EU - for example, we were near a group from Cornwall carrying placards emblazoned with "Bramm orth Bretmes"  (apparently that's an extremely powerful Cornish curse meaning "a fart to Brexit" - sorry Brexiteers, your project is clearly doomed now that the Cornish have cursed it in such bloodcurdling terms).
  • There were people of all ages, young and old, but I thought the proportion of older people was particularly noteworthy for two reasons.   Firstly, analysis of the referendum result suggests that the 55+ age group voted by a reasonable margin in favour of Leave - so you might've expected the turnout from this age group to be lower.  Secondly, I may be wrong, but I suspect that older people are even less likely to go on marches than your average UK resident - so something pretty bad needs to be going on to get them out in such large numbers.  
  • For a while, we were marching (or more accurately shuffling) close to a D Day veteran who had made the effort to turn out even though he was in a wheelchair - and I note that recent research suggests that people who lived through the Second World War are particularly pro-European. This is an interesting finding given that Leave campaigners rather like to give the impression that they "own" the particular sense of national identity that comes from the UK's role in that conflict - whereas in fact, it would appear that those who were actually there at the time would beg to differ on the lessons that the Second World War teaches us about the value of EU membership.
Will it change anything? Well, it ought to - it should either prompt Parliament to support a much "softer" Brexit than currently envisaged or to opt for a second referendum.  But our politics is so messed up at the moment that I have no idea whether either of those options will get through.  There's a lot speculation right now about how much longer our Prime Minister can carry on - and rightly so, because she has repeatedly put the interests of her own party before the interests of the country in all this.  For me, this article explains what has been so wrong about her approach to Brexit - and also why so many people turned out at yesterday's march (they are fed up with being treated as if  their views don't matter). But as the article also points out, the current of Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition is just as bad as she is - hence my lack of optimism about how we are going to get out of this mess.

The last march in the UK which produced a similar number of protesters was against the Iraq War in 2003 - something which we were told was all for the best and would be sorted in no time, but didn't turn out at all well and dragged on for ages (remind you of anything?).  Meanwhile in the space of about 5 days, 5.3 million people - equivalent to 10% of those registered to vote in the UK - have signed a petition calling for the UK to revoke its notice to leave the EU.  So all we can do is hope that politicians have learnt that when the numbers of people expressing concern about something are that high, there might just be some wisdom in what the crowd is saying.

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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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