Sunday, 20 October 2019

Blessed be the fight: a view from the march

I went on the march yesterday.

It was an early start, driving into Bridport accompanied by Tony Blackburn on Radio 2 to catch the seven o'clock bus to London, and then back home again at ten at night to Craig Charles's House Party.

In the interim, my friend won a 'I'm one of the Liberal Elite (apparently)' T-shirt in the raffle on the coach and I acquired a Union Jack-meets-the-EU-stars flag as we waited for the march to set off.

It was the first time I've been on a mass protest since 1983.

In a country torn apart by Brexit, it was the most positive many have felt in a long time. Surrounded by people of all faiths, colours, creed, all united for a common cause. We, the forty-eight percent, others who have changed their minds in the last three-and-half years and those who, in June 2016, had been too young to vote.

There were teenagers, old people, the middle-aged, millennials and children. There were dogs and unicorns, masses of drums and big, bold disco music coming from a giant speaker on a trailer towed  a bike-riding Rastafarian.

There were librarians against Brexit, NHS workers for Europe and Tories for Remain. Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens and grannies, care workers, ramblers and rabbis. There were farmers and factory workers, all of them not wanting, to quote the Dominic Cummings mantra, to get Brexit done at the cost of selling the country down the river to the financial elite and little Englanders whose standard response to the people who want to stay in Europe is 'you lost, get over it'.

At the statue of Achilles, the ancient Greek hero of the Trojan War on Hyde Park Corner, we shared a laugh with a British Asian carrying a Dorset flag. He was holding it aloft on behalf of  his friend from west London who declared it the best county flag in the country. It stood out beautifully in the sunshine against a clear blue sky.

Earlier, as we listened to impromptu speeches from our Dorset contingent, in the manner of a service at a Friends Meeting House, a mother whispered to me that her tall, teenage son was the one who had placed a 'Bollocks to Brexit' sticker across Achilles's fig leaf-clad privates.

'I think his grandfather would have tutted but secretly he'd have been very proud of him,' she told me.

We gloried in the brilliantly witty placards carried high above the crowd as it snaked along in baby steps from Park Lane to Parliament Square. We chatted with people who came from all over the country to be a part of this, passionate people who cannot believe the country is doing this to itself.

We did the actions to YMCA in the pouring rain, heads covered in flags or makeshift, pink poster headgear which looked like the bonnets from The Handmaid's Tale.

Praise be.

Great cheers rippled through the crowd as the news came through from Parliament Square that the amendment put forward by my MP Oliver Letwin - who is viewed in this constituency as a dishonourable disgrace or a principled hero, depending on your point of view - had been passed by 322 votes to 306 at Saturday's 'super sitting'.

Stuck in the middle of this one million-plus throng, we peeled off at Duke of York Column from Waterloo Place down to the Mall where we made our way to Parliament Square to listen to the tail end of the speeches before getting the bus back home, tired but inspired.

Today, listening to the news that the prime minister is determined to get out of Europe whatever the arguments against this act of mass suicide, did the march make any difference? Only time will tell, but sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe in, however rude, offensive and vitriolic those who disagree with you may be.

Blessed be the fight.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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