From Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square an estimated 700,000 people filled central London on Saturday October 20th protesting against the Tory Brexit writes Andy Stowe. It was the largest demonstration the city had seen since the march against the Iraq war in 2003.
The marchers were demanding a second referendum on Brexit now that the electorate has a clearer idea what it might actually mean in reality. The demonstration was organised by The People’s Vote, a group which mostly comprises sections of the Labour right. Some of its most prominent supporters like Chuka Umunna and Tony Robinson make no secret of their hatred for the Corbyn leadership. They invited the Tory MP Anna Soubry and the Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable to speak but there was no significant figure from the Labour left involved.
To carp on about this is to miss the point. 700, 000 people marched in support of freedom of movement in Europe and in opposition to the racist nationalism that pro-Brexit politicians encourage. As with previous and smaller anti-Brexit demonstrations there was the usual mish-mash of home-made placards, EU flags, union jacks and a lot of those rather distressing blue berets with the EU flag’s stars.
If you think this is problematic, consider what a pro-Brexit march would be like. It could only be an alliance of the hard right of the Conservative Party, Ukip and the emerging neo-fascist organisations. Pol
As on previous demonstrations on this theme the participants were mostly from the more affluent sections of the working class, the people who identify as European as much as British. If they are travelling to London to show that they reject Tory chauvinist nationalism that’s something for socialist to welcome.
If the People’s Vote demonstration had been small the campaign for another referendum would now be dead and the right would be triumphant. The turnout means that there is now a real pressure on MPs to support the demand for a second referendum. Should it happen, the left must call for the electorate to include those EU citizens who are currently able to vote in local government elections and everyone aged sixteen or older. This extension of the franchise to people who will be affected by the outcome of the vote is a basic democratic demand.
This was not a routine demonstration. The organised left was largely absent, there were very few Labour Party banners and only one union banner that I saw. Most of the marchers were not the usual marching sort. That’s an encouraging sign that the fight to stop the racist Tory Brexit isn’t lost yet.