How many people need to take part in an anti-Brexit march before they are listened to?

Christopher Goff replies: Who cares how many people took part in the recent People's Vote March when a national referendum was held on our continued membership of the EU?

There were that many people on the recent anti-Brexit march, held in central London on 20 October 2018, that the BBC even went to the trouble of getting a helicopter out to film them all. But then in the aftermath of the raid by the police on the home of Sir Cliff Richard, I think the public stopped thinking that helicopters equal 'big' news stories. I still wonder what on earth in the way of incriminating evidence the police were expecting to find in the home of Sir Cliff several decades after his alleged wrongdoing. Or perhaps the raid on his home was nothing more than a cynical attempt on the part of South Yorkshire Police to try and show that they do take claims of child sex abuse seriously when of course in the light of the Rotherham 'grooming gang' scandal we know that they don't.

Billed as the 'People's Vote' March, its organizers were calling on participants to show their support for the holding of a second referendum on Britain's leaving of the EU. Among those in attendance was the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Conservative MP Anna Soubry, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Vince Cable, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, comedian Steve Coogan, TV chef Delia Smith and Alastair Campbell, the former publicity chief for Tony Blair's Labour government.

Some estimates put the number of people attending the march at around 700,000, making it the biggest march held in the UK since the one on 15 February 2003 and when an estimated one million people turned out to show their opposition to Britain's involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq. Interestingly, it was a march that Prime Minister Tony Blair described at the time as 'fatuous' in a memo of his sent to George W. Bush, and in which he wrote of the "… fatuous irony of millions of liberal-minded people taking to the streets effectively to defend the most illiberal regime on earth". I mention this story because ahead of the People's Vote March, Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, was reminded during an appearance of his on the BBC's This Week show that he once worked for a government that "ignored" a million marchers. And this when Campbell is now a leading supporter of both the People's Vote March and the wider campaign calling for a second referendum to be held. Maybe no-one had the good sense to tell the hypocrite that his involvement in the campaign for a People's Vote is what a lot of people might choose to describe in terms of a 'kiss of death'?

Of course, the great irony here is that the people have already had their say on Brexit – in a national referendum, no less – and the idea of there now being a 'People's Vote' on Britain leaving the EU is as absurd as the Remainers behind the calling for it are pathetic. And just to remind any remain voters who might be reading this, the result of the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom's continued membership of the EU was pretty decisive: 51.89% voted leave, to 48.11% remain, and that at a 72.21% turnout. Really, the chutzpah of Remainers like Alastair Campbell and Lord Adonis, another key participant in the campaign calling for a second referendum, is enough to make the 17,410,742 people who voted to leave the EU collectively sick.

One banner held aloft at the People's Vote March asked Jeremy Corbyn 'where he was', since it was the case that he chose not to attend the march, and this being something in line with his position of not wanting to call for a second referendum – unless one day it suits him to. Quite unlike Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Keir Starmer, and who it seems isn't clever enough to have noticed that a not insignificant number of Labour-held constituencies voted by a country mile to leave the EU. To think that Keir Starmer is a former lawyer who has previously acted as both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service beggars belief. With his laboured delivery, does he not remind you of 'Trigger' out of the TV comedy show Only Fools and Horses? One wonders if Southwark-born Starmer, named by his parents after one of the founders of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie, has ever visited a Labour-held constituency north of Potters Bar, like one you might find in Humberside or Lincolnshire and where EU nationals from places like Poland and Lithuania have been snapping up jobs and social housing like there's no tomorrow.

This brings me to consider exactly what type of person decided to take part in the People's Vote March, since one assumes quite a few of them might have had a lot in common with Keir Starmer. And while I wasn't anywhere near the march in central London, the mainstream media – guess what – gave it loads of coverage. Like coverage the mainstream media strangely did not give to the even bigger Stop the War march held in central London in 2003 and which I made reference to earlier in this article. It was as if every single resident of Twickenham – by amazing coincidence, Sir Vince Cable's constituency – had turned out to join the People's Vote March. You know, like the ones that grew up watching Blue Peter and who in their lives have never been in a Jobcentre or on a Council-housing waiting list. Or the ones who in their lives have been fortunate enough to have been able to enjoy lots of foreign holidays to poncey places on the Continent, but who fear like crazy for the health of their ISAs and pension plans once Britain leaves the EU. These were people consumed by self-interest – their decision to attend the march nothing but a last ditch, desperate attempt to try and secure for themselves a better financial future than the one they might have to face if and when Britain finally leaves the EU.

As someone who voted leave in the 2016 referendum, I made my decision not based on self-interest or in the hope that Britain might have a brighter economic future outside of the EU. Instead, I voted leave because in my home city the seismic influx of migrants from the EU has led, amongst other things, to a crippling shortage of social housing, primary school places and appointment slots at the local GP's surgery. However, of these issues I can just imagine those individuals who took part in the People's Vote March blaming anything but immigration for the lack of social housing or primary school places, or for the deterioration in primary care health services now affecting lots of areas.

Your average supporter of Britain's membership of the EU chooses instead to blame the Government for not doing enough to accommodate migrants. They say the Government should be building more homes and schools, just as they say the Government should be training more doctors and teachers. But what these Twickenham-types fail to realize is that the process of building new homes is both a very slow one and something that will mean even more countryside having to be concreted over. Just like these same people seem incapable of realizing that it can take the best part of a decade to train a new doctor.

I might like to take this opportunity to remind these people that during the course of just a single day it is now possible for a migrant from Poland or Lithuania or wherever to catch a plane and fly from his or her home to make a new life in the UK. In fact, if that individual starts to feel unwell after their arrival in Britain they might even be able to get themselves an appointment with a GP that same day, assuming that is they are not averse to jostling with the inevitable scrum of people they might find waiting to see one. And then the following day their kids might turn up at the gates of the local primary school expecting to be enrolled!

In a country of 'haves' and 'have-nots' – researchers say that Britain is the most unequal country in the EU – it was the 'haves' who were out in force on the recent People's Vote March. And it will be the 'haves' who might lose out the most if and when Britain finally leaves the EU. In contrast, the 'have-nots' might find employers willing to offer them more money to do the lowest paid jobs, they might find over time that demand for social housing decreases, they might find that class sizes begin to reduce at the schools in their neighbourhoods, and they might also find that it becomes just a little bit easier to get an appointment with their GP.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Brexit
Uploaded: 22 October, 2018.