On Saturday October 19th a million people marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square demanding a People’s Vote and a final say on their country’s future. People of all ages, from all over the country, and from all backgrounds gathered together to oppose Johnson’s disastrous Brexit deal - which Amber Rudd MP admitted is likely to reduce GDP per capita by 4-6%.
This was my first march and it was everything I expected it to be: passionate and energetic, and tense as protesters awaited the result of the Letwin amendment – which would withhold approval of Johnson’s Brexit deal until the withdrawal bill implementing Brexit had been passed. In other words, whether Johnson had to write to the EU asking for an extension by 11pm that same day.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by mass crowds in a festival atmosphere. There were homemade banners and placards everywhere; but many kept it simple, bearing the words ‘Together for a final say’. Just before we set off Mayor Sadiq Kahn and Sir Patrick Stewart arrived at the front of the march, whilst protesters played a song fit for the occasion - ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash.
As we marched through the streets of London, the enormous crowds made me realise how momentous the occasion was. Whilst we were protesting, Parliament was sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. We were marching for a People’s Vote, and at the very same time Parliament was deciding on a matter of historical importance. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they’ve decided before - as many of us in the crowd were thinking, why can Parliament keep voting on this issue, but the people in this country aren’t allowed to express a say?
By the time the House was voting on Letwin, rain began to fall. I wasn’t alone in seeing this as an omen: the weather matched a sudden sense of pessimism that Letwin might fail. Then the vote was announced, 322 to 306 in favour of the amendment. The crowd went wild, not just because this was a battle won in itself, but because it symbolised that the larger fight was by no means over. There still were, and are, MPs who will vote with their consciences and convictions, who will do what is right rather than what is easy. I consider myself lucky to be represented by such an MP, Karen Buck.
Speaker after speaker – Starmer, Abbot, Thornberry, McDonnell - stressed the need for Brexit to go back to the people. But this is not an issue monopolised by the Labour Party - far from it. There were powerful speeches from Jo Swinson, Caroline Lucas, Joanna Cherry, Ian Blackford and former Conservative MP Dominic Grieve. Grieve told the crowd ‘the passion and enthusiasm that has brought you here today will win us the argument’, and he was right.
The argument isn’t over - and it may not be for some time. But gradually, steadily, we are winning it. There is more support for a People’s Vote than ever before, and though the coming days are dark, there is so much we can do to make them brighter. Sign the letter to the powerful. Call and write to your MP. Talk to your friends, family, colleagues - make it clear that Brexit may define the rest of their lives, but that together, we can stop it.
Words: Harry Davis
Photography: Maria Kalinowska