Why The People’s Vote March Is An Exercise In Division

Today, a million people are expected to hit the streets of London to protest against Brexit. They will represent a relatively broad political spectrum, from left to right, unified on one issue; they either want Article 50 to be revoked or for a further Referendum on the deal, in what they refer to as a People’s Vote.

This government, so ardent until recently in their commitment to deliver Brexit, are now in divided disarray. They have let down Leave voters and Remainers, because their incompetence has not only failed to heal the division between us, they’ve prised it open and poured fuel into it.

Despite this dire situation, and despite the fact I voted Remain, I will not be attending today’s march. Why? Because I believe this campaign, as well meaning and genuine as many of its supporters are, is holding a lighted match above the fuel poured on by the Tories. None of the arguments I’ve been presented with up to now, from democracy is fluid, to lies were told, to it was 3 years ago and older Leave voters have died off to be replaced by young pro Europeans, has convinced me that either a 2nd Referendum or a revokation of Article 50, won’t rip this country apart even further. What we need is a way to bridge the divide and only Labour are offering to be that bridge. Had Labour decided to only fight on behalf of Leavers or Remainers, they would have won plaudits from the group they chose to champion, whilst completely alienating the group they ignored. Instead, from day one, Corbyn has steered the party to try to see Brexit from all perspectives, and been criticised on all sides for it. That won’t worry Jeremy though. If it’s right, it’s right, and if his own personal history has taught him anything, it’s that being right usually means getting credit much further down the track. Today he will be the target of much condemnation. Marchers will claim he should have thrown all his weight behind their campaign. But Jeremy was absolutely right not to. Not just because 70% of Labour’s constituencies voted leave, and it could damage us electorally, but because the EU Referendum was one of the largest democratic exercises this country has ever seen, with one of the largest turnouts, sold as a once in a generation vote.

To reverse Brexit before its been implemented, would be to drive a poisoned arrow through the heart of democracy, and the wound it creates will fester and spread in ways that’s impossible to predict. What Labour are offering is a compromise deal that has the ability to mitigate the potential damage caused by a harder Brexit, whilst respecting the Referendum result.

Corbyn has recognised the drivers behind Brexit. The Brexit generational divide is often a point of focus, as Remain campaigners celebrate the way the conveyer belt of life is replacing old Leave voters with young remainers, but leavers and remainers are also divided along class, geographical and educational lines, and Labour recognise that, and want to bring these groups together.

The People’s Vote campaign has failed miserably to do this. Rather than win the hearts and minds of Leave voters, they’ve chosen to patronise them, sneer at them, mock them and dismiss them. They have not only alienated Leave voters, but working class Remain voters like me, who don’t want to be associated with them or their campaign.

Interview after interview, sneering, arrogant, often middle class Remainers, alienate thousands more Leave voters. The way they want to resolve Brexit is born from this arrogance, this inability to get into the shoes of Leave voters; they’d probably insist they were fumigated first. I grew up in a council house. My mum was a cleaner, my dad a meter reader. We didn’t have a phone, a car, or foreign holidays. I know what it’s like to have very little, with little to lose. I get Leave voters, who’d had enough of a failing system, a system that was being propped up by an arrogant establishment. Whilst Remainers bemoan the potential loss of ease with which they can move abroad, many Leave voters are struggling to make ends meet. Brexit involved risk, but it also represented change and change is very enticing when you are already in the shit and things can’t get much worse. 

Had an EU Referendum been called five years into a radical Corbyn led Labour government, I suspect Remain would have won, because the drivers of Brexit would have been less of an issue. That’s why it’s so frustrating and ironic that the most prominent People’s Vote campaigners (think Alistair Campbell and Chuka Umunna) so detest Corbyn and everything he stands for. They can’t bring Leave voters along with them because that would involve offering Leave voters hope in the form of Corbynomics and a future Labour government and that is the stuff of their nightmares. Instead they will slate him in their speeches and alienate another hundred thousand Leave voters.

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If the March today had any interest in uniting Leave voters and Remainers, rather than letting itself be turned into yet another self congratulatory scorn fest, they would be singing Corbyn’s praises for trying to unite the country, for trying to exhaust all possibilities to find a Brexit compromise, for addressing, with our radical manifesto, the issues that led to people voting leave, but they won’t. Instead they will try to put a match to the fuel May has poured on.

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25 comments

  1. MerryMichaelW · March 23

    Nailed it. x 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Im not going march on for some of the reasons discussed here; but i dont agree the referendum based on such a small percentage victory meant full speed ahead for Brexit. That was something May and Corbyn did together in a foolish rush 3 years ago. Its also very disappointing that Corbyn has not done more to support investigation of the rule breaking and illegal actions undertaken by Leave in the referendum. So while i agree with much you are saying about the march i think your argument about Brexit must happen, also erases and rewrites errors made by Corbyn since the ref, which of course does not discredit the idea he is the person we need as the next Prime Minister.

    However, Brexit based on a 52% vs 48% advisory ref that was rigged is both dumb and self damaging – let us not get it twisted. We are in this mess because political leaders on both sides pushed through Brexit when we were never ready for, and that at worse when the ref was won illegally.

    imho we should be careful about writing narratives that completely ignore those events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 65helen1953 · March 23

      I think it’s important that views expressed are supported by evidence. It is opinion to say the referendum result was illegal. There have been no court cases telling us this. I’ve looked extensively at the Electoral Commission’s reports on the referendum. 32 million pounds was spent in total. 19m for Remain and 13m for Leave. This does not include the leaflet supporting Remain that the government sent to every household at a cost to the taxpayer of 9 million. Darren Grimes was fined by the Electoral Commission for expenses irregularities to the tune of 500,000 and was referred to the Met police. I don’t condone this, but to keep it in perspective we should be aware that the Labour Party and the LibDems were also fined for expenses irregularities of significant amounts in the 2015 General Election, with the LibDems also being referred to the Met police. All this info can be found by googling the Electoral Commission website under the 2016 referendum.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joanna Hughes · March 23

    I was trying to find the words to express my views this morning about the march and felt myself tempted to antagonise both my brothers who are on it, with ‘Enjoy Anna, Chuka and Vince’! Instead, I read your article and as the previous contributor said you nailed it. I don’t feel the need now to create a family rift.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Jack T · March 23

    I am afraid you are wrong. Brexit was carried on the back of racism and anti-immigration lies. Of course not all Leavers had these motives but Farage’s and UKIPS lies convinced many. Britain should not go ahead and commit self harm as a result of these lies. The ONLY democratic option is to ask the people if they now wish to go ahead and leave, now that they have a better idea of the consequences. To give in to threats of violence and disruption from fascists is unconscionable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 65helen1953 · March 23

      You are right Jack, the Leave campaign was only ever represented in the MSM by the likes of Farage, Reece Mogg, Gove and Johnson, on a platform of racism and xenophobia. The socialist case for leaving, a Left exit – Lexit – didn’t get a look in. It’s probably fair to say all racists voted Leave, but it’s definitely not true to say all those who voted Leave are racist. Racism and fascism is growing because of increasing inequality and poverty. And it’s growing across Europe as the traditional social democratic parties have collapsed leaving a vacuum for them to fill. It’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s. The decision to leave certainly gave an impetus to far right thugs, but they were there long before 2016. I think it’s the system we’re living under that causes and inflames division, racism, sexism, antisemitism and islamophobia. Divided we fall . . .

      Liked by 1 person

    • Zsuzsanna Snarey · March 24

      I totally agree with you.

      Like

  5. sdbast · March 23

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 65helen1953 · March 23

    I love you Chelley Ryan xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John Brown · March 23

    The word the PV campaign has NEVER said is AUSTERITY – I refuse to support a Campaign that is led by those who have either been ardent supporters of Austerity OR by their actions enabled it – a General Election is the only way forward to stop further division which will only strengthenthe right wing and their Nazi shadows
    -now we have stay strong resolute and focused on getting the arguments for a General Election across – it won’t happen overnight BUT all those in London today are going to be very angry when they see the results of a PV if it happens and we must be ready to fight the Tories on its outcome !!

    Liked by 5 people

    • MikeF · March 24

      That’s not true. Austerity has been cited by several in the PV campaign – or are we seeing different things?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. rotzeichen · March 23

    People are just as ignorant about the real issues facing us and Europe as they were when the referendum took place. Brexit has been a distraction for the Tories who are relentlessly asset stripping Britain whilst heads are turned. Heartily agree with the sentiments in this essay, I voted remain not because I supported Europe but because I did not want this futile debate ever to take place, I believe also that Europe will collapse whatever happens in the near future.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Dawud Marsh · March 23

    The problem is that no one is listening to those who voted Leave. When the result came in that is when politicians needed to go back to their constituents and listen. Now, three years later we have two beasts that are split from each other their anger fuelled by those who fail to grasp the bigger picture, put party (actually themselves more often) before doing what is right. Today’s March will achieve nothing more than to give the self serving a platform to feed into their own ego. More clicks and follows for Tom Watson and the like – whose notoriety is based on their ability to thrust a wedge through the organised Left. Corbyn will remain true to his beliefs, and time will prove him right. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Dan · March 23

    I stopped reading at “largest democratic exercise”. It wasn’t democratic it was flawed from the start. Take it from the Swiss, people who do 4 referendum a year, 400 in the last 50 years. The EU referendum was not legitimate. It was a catch all trawler for anyone currently feeling the effects of 9 years of Tory austerity. “If it’s right, it’s right” true but in this instance it isn’t.

    Whatever happens now there will be discord. There is no escaping it. You choose to go with some fudge deal from the crayon drawn ticket the Tories have fraudulenty crafted, I and many others choose to call bollocks and scrap the stupid thing. Followed by fixing the effects of austerity that created the anger that created this mess. What would be “right” for Labour would be to join in calling this nonsense out, not begrudgingly going along with it. Read how referendums are meant to be done! https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/take-it-from-the-swiss-the-brexit-referendum-wasnt-legitimate

    Liked by 2 people

    • 65helen1953 · March 23

      I find it puzzling that people wilfully refuse to listen in a debate. Dan, Chelley makes many valid points, it is a pity not to read them all before replying. What is your evidence that the referendum was flawed? Not opinion from the media, but factual evidence? Reports from the Electoral Commission indicate that many more millions was spent by Remain. Cameron would never have called the referendum if he thought the result would be Leave. He was so sure of a remain outcome that he refused to have a brexit plan in the eventuality of a leave result. I think the Tories have proved their utter incompetence over the whole thing and it’s imperative that they go. We need a General Election. Nothing else will do.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rtg · March 24

        As a Swiss/Brit and politics teacher I have so many questions. “Take it from the Swiss, the EU referendum was illegitimate”. What does that actually mean? The Swiss know best, as a Swiss person do I have superior wisdom? Or you would like regular intervals of referendums, replacing our current system of representative democracy as the current system is broken? Are you aware of the downsides to this system? Why does a referendum result become illegitimate, when a vocal minority don’t get their way? Should the vocal minority in Scotland be allowed to pursue independence from the U.K.? Or is social media policing of acceptable and unacceptable commentary around the EU debate more important rather than a whole hearted listening excercise as suggested?

        Liked by 2 people

  11. RobB · March 23

    You’re right, Chelley, in saying that remainers haven’t done themselves any favours with an often sneering, condescending attitude. And clearly many people did vote Leave as a way of protesting against the Establishment.
    But those things in themselves don’t make any sort of argument for still supporting Brexit.
    Your statistics don’t show, as you imply, that the Leave vote was mostly working class. It does show it was mostly older (over 50). Because of the way education has changed, that explains why there is a big difference in educational level between remain and leave voters. But let’s remember that Labour voters were pro-remain by almost 2 to 1 (65-35). The Leave vote was driven by Tory and UKIP voters. They weren’t voting against austerity, or because, as you imagine, they had “had enough of a failing system” – they were motivated by the ugly dog whistle politics of Farage, Gove and Johnson.
    I can see why, as a Socialist, you don’t want to associate yourself with a campaign led by people like Alistair Campbell and Chuka Umunna. But your enemy’s enemy’s isn’t necessarily your friend, and by rejecting the People’s Vote campaign you are lining up with the likes of Jacob Rees- Mogg instead.

    Like

    • Chelley Ryan · March 23

      Is that true of Dennis Skinner too?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Susanna Chapman · March 24

        Unfortunately, yes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chelley Ryan · March 24

        Bob Crow, Tony Benn, socialists oppposed to the EU. You smearing socialists as Tories proves the point I make in my blog.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. suefewuk · March 23

    Excellent article.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dave Greenhalf · March 23

    I, as almost always, agree.

    Like

  14. Zsuzsanna Snarey · March 24

    I totally agree with you.

    Like

  15. chaosdawgdesigns · March 24

    I am glad to see that Mark Blyth film referenced earlier. The EU has many, many problems. It is undemocratic and promotes inequality. Unless the EU reforms it will cave in on itself, and it doesn’t have a lot of time to save itself. A socialist should have all kinds of problems with the EU as it stands. For pretty much its entire history it has been dominated by France and Germany. In the media they keep referring to how we need the 27 to vote to support an extension, but given what Germany stands to lose if we left with No Deal – do you really think Germany will let the other 26 countries to vote against their interests? Germany needs us to export its cars to as the most basic example. France also has benefitted from agricultural regulations that mean we pay more into a system than we get back, forces us to limit our production of food, but then buy from the EU.

    The EUs and, primarily Germany’s treatment of Greece was disgraceful. That scenario proves all along what people like Corbyn, John Bercow, Tony Benn even Thatcher said – a truly cross party group of people – that a single currency across multiple states would create winners and losers. The interior of the EU – Germany and France and to a certain extent us in the UK suck the money out of the Exterior countries in the EU such as Italy, Ireland and Greece. Greece could never compete in a single currency and when it came to it rather than pay for the EU experiment as Germany should have done – they invited the IMF in to project manage Greece’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). IE Austerity for a broken country. I know that Greece isn’t totally without blame, but a lot of corruption followed becoming an EU member, there is more to be said about this, but do some research and you will see how the EU has a lot to answer for.

    The whole Brexit campaign was built on a racist agenda, as the OP said a socialist agenda was blocked out. I think this was a deliberate ruse by the Elite, Establishment – call them what you want to make Brexit untenable for the Left. As soon as you create an argument based on racism, you are essentially telling the people this is wrong and so don’t vote for it. Why would the Establishment want this – well because the EU serves them well. When you have Campbell, Blair, May, Cameron, Mark Carney and ffs George ‘Austerity’ Osborne telling you leaving the EU is a bad idea – you have to question THEIR motives for wanting to stay. Could it be that they have vested interests with the banking community perhaps? And why would it matter to the banking community that we are in the EU I wonder?

    Also, back to food production. The EU is known as a trading bloc. Now think about that. Who isn’t in that trading bloc? China, India, Russia, Africa… Being outside the trading bloc means that you suffer. Ok one argument for staying – but a rather selfish one – we should stay because – gah its the easy way. If you look at the issue with money and money creation you will see that in our system – just as with Germany and Greece – for one country to become wealthy – another has to become poor. In Africa particularly you can see this. What happens is a country suffers from perhaps a natural disaster, or maybe a civil war in which the population stand up to a dictator. After a while the US organisation the IMF moves in and offers a conditional loan. That conditional loan involves inflicting austerity onto its people. Hardship takes over and pretty soon the EU and the United States begin offering food aid. That food aid props up over surplus in the Western countries where we produce an abundant amount of food at low cost, then a fundraiser is organised to raise money to buy that food to give away. We give it to an African country that is struggling, which then undermines their own food production because they cannot compete with cheap western food. They become dependent on aid. This has happened time and time again. We get to call ourselves the good guys whilst oppressing workers in other developing countries.

    A few more points – sorry this is turning into a long ramble – but let’s look at what is happening in France. Under the ‘progressive’ Macron we have seen weekend after weekend of protests and riots against his leadership. Macron is trying to inflict austerity on his people – and why – well in all the years of France’s membership within the EU they have failed to meet their EU budget requirements. For a long time France would never even try to do to its people what was done to us in the late 70s and all through the 80s. Germany and France own tons of other countries infrastructure, including their own. Under EU competition laws we were forced to privatize our public services and industry – and guess what we had to apply for a loan from the IMF in 1976, luckily we found tons of Gas in the Atlantic Sea near Scotland which propped up our economy and got us out of the schtuck sooner (wonder why Scotland is so important to the UK?). Now compare France to Italy, Italy is also suffering, but the EU enforces a stricter budget – ie what France gets away with – Italy has no chance. Also compare the fact that Italy has suffered massively from the issue of immigration caused by America’s bombing of Libya and removal of Gadaffi. The EU hasn’t helped Italy in this matter – oh sure Germany made a token gesture, by accepting refugees – and look what that got them – but no investment was made to help Italy deal with an International problem. In fact in the end the EU’s response to dealing with refugees was to stop saving them from the sea and at best take them back to where they came from – the very places they were fleeing. I admit France also has some reason to feel pressure from this issue, but again why hasn’t the EU dealt with it? So can you blame Italy for wanting to go outside of EU regulations and begin working with China who is through self interest I admit investing in its country – suggesting that just being in the EU doesn’t provide the guaranteed heaven so many people think it does.

    As for the issue of young v old. Well I am not that old, but I am not that young, but if you try and tell me some 18yr old knows more about the world than I do – well I’ll just laugh in your face. I’m sorry but I have years more experience and I know my history – I have seen the same game plan played over and over. The very people who can move back and forth to this and that European country – or hope to – have no idea what it is like for the rest of us. Growing up thinking you have the option of moving to another country is often that, just a nice thought. The only people that do it are fleeing the inequalities they face in their own country thanks to being in the EU, where they get exploited by business (or the rich jet set few – Yeah Nigel Lawson – you who thinks Climate Change is a lie and flys back and forth from France). Cheap labour to make sure that the income just about stays above the red line, is just about profitable. Tell me are you going to move to France, Italy, Germany or Hungary anytime soon on a less than living minimum income? Either here, there or anywhere. The world is bankrupt, there is no social mobility.

    Liked by 1 person

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