It has taken me several days to work out why last Saturday’s march in support of a People’s Vote was so important. At the time, I had an intuitive feeling that it marked a real turning point in the tortured Brexit saga, but it was not immediately clear to me why this should be.
It has now dawned on me that the true significance of the march was that, after lying low in the face of non-stop bullying for two years since the EU referendum, tens of thousands of people had at last had the courage to say that enough is enough, and to say it boldly in a spirit of joy and optimism. The message was that we are no longer prepared to stand by silently and let a small herd of ego-centric bullies push our beloved country into a deeply self-harming future.
Bullying is nicely summed up by Psychology Today as “a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression; it is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It’s a very durable behavioural style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first.”
The most conspicuous victim of systematic bullying has been Theresa May, but the Brexit bullies in the Cabinet, her party and the popular press have repeatedly sought to belittle, or even obliterate, anyone who dares to challenge their claim that, in calling for a “hard” Brexit, they are responding to “the will of the people”.
Over the past months, there has been a torrent of information that supports the claim that any Brexit – “hard” or “soft” – will reduce Britain’s standing in the world and will deeply damage our economy, thus making it impossible for the country to finance badly needed improvements in health, education, housing, care for the elderly and transport. Brexit has already done economic harm, but the bullies dismiss such claims as “project fear” and immediately try to silence anyone who dares to interpret the meaning of emerging statistics and forecasts that highlight the deep weaknesses of the Brexit dream. However, the march showed that there are many people from all parties and walks of life who have lost patience with endless thuggery and are determined to “take back control”.
With the passing of time, we are also learning more about the valuable services provided by the EU that impact positively on our daily lives, whether through simplifying cross-border travel, providing isotypes for medical use, assuring the safety of food or enabling criminals to be tracked and arrested in other EU member countries.
Yes, the march cocked a snook at the bullies, denting their credibility. Hopefully this and signals of growing public understanding of the good aspects of EU cooperation will nudge a shift in the “will of the people” and will embolden Mrs May to at last stand up to the thugs and to pursue negotiations with Europe in a constructive manner. She must set her mind on reaching an agreement with our neighbours that is good for Britain and good for them too, rather than risk crashing out to placate the self-styled “bad boys of Brexit” and so undermine the chances of any benign future coexistence with Europe.
It is time for all who believe that Britain will be strongest, most prosperous and safest by continuing to have a seat at the European Union to tell the bullies, in Bojo’s own words, to “f**k off” and to “go whistle”, so as to make space for negotiations to go ahead smoothly. Hopefully, once the tortured May has thrown the bullies off her back, she might see that it is in her own interest to accept the concept of a People’s Vote to approve her deal or to maintain the status quo. There are many MPs from different parties who, once freed from bullying, might now support her if she took such a brave stance!