SU President Blog

People's Vote March - 20th October

On Saturday the 20th of October, a coach load of Bath students got up at 6am to travel to London to join a march demanding a People’s Vote on the final Brexit Deal. They, alongside approximately 700,000 other people travelled to the UK’s capital city to make their voices heard in what turned out to be the biggest demonstration since the 2003 demonstration against the invasion of Iraq.

Bath students, equipped with homemade banners and donning People’s Vote and For our Futures’ Sake T-shirts found themselves right at the front of the first block of the march, right behind the People’s Vote banner. The organisers, recognizing that young people overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU in 2016 and acknowledging they potentially have the most to lose from leaving, were keen to have young people and students leading the march.

After the first People’s Vote march in June that attracted 100,000 people, organisers had hoped to better their numbers in the October march. To have 7x the amount of people than June’s march clearly demonstrated the strength of feeling over this issue. The key arguments being:

  • People did not have the same information 2 years ago during the referendum that they do now – nobody knew quite what Brexit would look like in 2016
  • Therefore, the question posed 2 years ago: leave or remain? is not as simple as it is in practice
  • Brexit negotiations are going far worse than people expected, and the possibility of crashing out of the EU with no deal is getting more likely by the day
  • As a result, it’s only right and democratic to take the issue back to the people, for them to have a say on what the terms of the final Brexit deal are. To be able to look at the detail and decide whether or not leaving on those terms truly is in the best interest of our country

One of the great things about the march, was that it was comprised of remain voters and leave voters, young people and the elderly, those from working class backgrounds and those more well off. It had cross-party support, representation from all the UK’s nations and a diverse array of backgrounds.

At the rally in Parliament Square, famous faces took the stage to give their take on why a People’s Vote is absolutely imperative. Delia Smith, Sadiq Kahn, Deborah Meaden, Sarah Wollaston MP, Anna Soubry MP, Chuka Umuna MP, Vince Cable MP, Caroline Lucas MP and more. There were video messages from Gary Linekar, Nicola Sturgeon, actor Brian Cox and an extremely poignant and moving plea from Irish comedian Patrick Kielty on the issue of the Irish Border.

But the best part by far, was hearing from 4 young campaigners, from Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland about the impact that Brexit would have on their communities, and why they felt a People’s Vote was so important. From being a child of the peace process in Ireland, to the recognition that Brexit will hit the most vulnerable the hardest, their eloquent and passion-filled speeches demonstrated just how powerful a youth-led campaign can be. At about 4pm when the rally finished, the back of the march had only just reached Hyde Park Corner – the original start point of the march who’d started walking at 1pm.

The rally was also where the People’s Vote launched the next phase of their campaign: #WriteThisWrong. The aim is to mobilise the strength of feeling amongst the British public to lobby MPs to back a People’s Vote, as only parliament can make this happen. Through emails, written letters and attending MP surgeries, the hope is that enough MPs will realise the extent of the issue for their own constituents, and begin to change their tune. To put the national interest back above party loyalty.

If you wish to get involved, you can check out For Our Future’s Sake website (https://ffsakes.uk/) or the People’s Vote Website (https://www.peoples-vote.uk/) and you can write to your MP using this: https://www.peoples-vote.uk/write_this_wrong

**For those wondering, the SU still has live policy from the 2016 referendum that mandates it to take a Remain stance on the issue of Brexit. Even without this, the SU has campaigns and lobbying budget to spend on things such as sending students to a march in London, especially as the Lib Dem group had been campaigning on it, and we have our own FFS group within the SU. As it stands, the coach for the March was funded by the People’s Vote campaign themselves with a view to encourage and enable students to attend. So the SU didn’t end up spending its own money on the coach to the march.**

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