‘An extraordinary day of passion’: Politicians unite to march for new referendum
Labour, Lib Dems and Greens from Camden at million protester demo
23 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Lib Dems from Camden on the march today (Saturday)
CAMDEN councillors from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party took to the streets today (Saturday) joining around one million demanding a new referendum on Brexit.
The ‘put it to the people’ march follows weeks of chaos at Westminster and with Prime Minister Theresa May struggling to get her withdrawal agreement from the European Union through a deadlocked House of Commons. Nearly three years after the narrow national referendum result which saw the UK vote to divorce from Europe, there is still no certainty around the terms of its departure with Friday’s original leave date now set to be extended.
Mrs May has lost two votes on her deal, but has hinted she will try again in a third next week. Marchers today said they wanted a second vote on Brexit. Camden Council officially passed a motion last year, brought by the Lib Dems, calling for a new referendum with a key clause of remaining in Europe being an option on the ballot paper.
Labour council leader Councillor Georgia Gould said: “I marched today alongside Camden Labour members councillors and people from around the country to call for the public to have the final say on Brexit. We’ve been driven into chaos and deadlock by a government refusing to compromise.”
Labour councillors including Georgia Gould, far left, out in central London
She added: “We cannot stand by and watch this government condemn our communities to years of Brexit chaos & neglected public services. Leave promises lie in tatters and the people of this country deserve the chance to have the final say on the future of our country.”
At the last big public demonstration – when 700,000 people marched through the capital in October – Labour councillors chose instead to be at an away day discussing council finance, but today a large section of the group were among the gathering. While members of his constituency were there, Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer, who is fronting the party’s response to Brexit on a national level, did not march. Jeremy Corbyn, the Islington North MP and party leader, was also missing, leaving deputy leader Tom Watson to take to the stage.
Labour delegates resolved at their conference last Autumn to call for a referendum if the first preference of a general election was not possible; with no date set for an election, the pressure is building for the party to finally offer enthusiastic public support for a new national vote on Europe.
“The Prime Minister claims she speaks for Britain,” said Mr Watson. “Have a look out of the window, Prime Minister. Open your curtains. Switch on your TV. Look at this great crowd today. Here are the people. Theresa May: you don’t speak for us.”
Camden Lib Dems, who advanced to three seats on the council last May, were out in force. “Alongside other Camden Lib Dems, I was so proud to be part of the one million strong crowd marching to send a message to Theresa May that she must put her deal back to the people,” said Belsize councillor Luisa Porritt. “Camden voted with a resounding majority to remain in the EU and thousands of local residents have signed the petition to revoke Article 50. Today, Camden Lib Dems made sure the borough’s voice was heard loud and clear.”
Green members from across the country at the march
Green Party councillor Sian Berry, the party’s co-leader nationally, said: “An extraordinary day that shows the passion we have not to lose the fellowship and friendship we share with the EU. I spoke early at the Another Europe is Possible rally in Park Lane, where we all spoke about the value of free movement. The view from the podium there was already a massive sea of people as far as I could see. I’m proud so many people from different parties came together today to demand a final say and to stand up for staying in Europe.”
The march coincides with a rapidly growing petition calling for the revoking of Article 50 – essentially cancelling the divorce altogether – submitted to Parliament. More than 4.5 million had signed this evening (Saturday). Tulip Siddiq’s Hampstead and Kilburn constituency had provided the fourth largest number of signatures, according to a regional breakdown on where support for the petition was coming from. With around 22,000 adding their name, this translates to around 25 percent of all electors registered to vote in the constituency.
Holborn and St Pancras was seventh in the country on that list, again translating as a quarter of all electors in Mr Starmer’s seat having taken the time to actively call for Brexit to be cancelled.