This blog was written on 3 July. It is now largely redundant as the EM has since announced its support for the March for Change.
As anyone rowing at Henley this week knows, it is not enough to simply “be in the same boat”. For victory, you have to “pull together”, eight people rowing at full power in absolute unison, egged on by a vocal cox.
The race to decide on Britain’s future relationship with Europe has dragged on, inconclusively, for three years. Parliament has remained deadlocked. We are now watching an extraordinary palace coup unfold in the just-ruling Conservative party. The party leader was ousted through a rebellion led by her right-wing opponents, two of whom are now fighting it out to replace her, with the winner almost certainly to become the country’s next Prime Minister.
The selection of our next Prime Minister happens towards the end of this month. The process is being run by a Tory party which has little legitimacy to govern, having failed three times to gain parliamentary approval for its flagship EU withdrawal legislation, after which it suffered an ignominious defeat in the recent election of Members of the European Parliament. To stay in power, it has had to use public money to buy the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
It is now clear that the most important decision on who will lead our country forward will result in us being led by a Prime Minister from the extreme right of the party, because both candidates are vying with each other to gain the support of a group of about 160,000 party members who are reputed to be dominantly elderly, white, male and supportive of restoring the death penalty. One wonders how moderate members of the party will vote, with no candidate available to represent their views.
The long-term future of our country and the livelihoods of the young looks like being decided by those with one foot in the grave.
Although both Johnson and Hunt claim to be responding to the “will of the people”, they both espouse a “no deal” outcome for the Brexit process. Neither has yet proposed an alternative plan. While a “no-deal” outcome appeals to many of their ancient electors, it would be a move that was not sanctioned by the Referendum verdict and one which even the candidates admit will be hugely damaging to the British economy and to the nature of our future relationship with our neighbours.
The only way to stop Hunt or Johnson from becoming Prime Minister is a massive boiling-over of public indignation against their possible appointment in the coming weeks. This will only succeed if all those organizations and individuals that are aghast at the idea of a “no deal” Brexit – or, indeed, any Brexit – immediately “pull together” in the most effective possible way. It is not enough to “work alongside” each other, as they claim to be doing: this is too passive.
In a very sensible and pragmatic move, London4Europe is calling on its members to join the March for Change, orchestrated by pro-Remain Groups in London on 20th July. It is an extremely well timed event which has the potential to demonstrate a massive lack of confidence in the government’s handling of the Brexit situation, which could embolden MPs from all parties to come together to win a motion of no confidence in a government led by either Johnson or Hunt.
I have subscribed modestly to both the European Movement and the People’s Vote Campaign and hence receive weekly EM Insider Briefings and usually several self-praising messages every day from People’s Vote campaigners. Till now I have seen no notice whatsoever about the March for Change or any indication of any move on the part of either EM or PV to get their act together with the Remain Groups.
I may be very naïve, but it would seem to make a huge amount of sense – indeed it is absolutely vital – at this critical moment for EM, PV and the Remain Groups to ‘pull together’ in every sense – developing joint campaigning strategies and tactics (for example, systematically ensuring combined action in each of the UKs 650 parliamentary constituencies), sharing communication materials and mailing lists, mutually supporting each other’s events, and so on.
The only chance for arriving at a situation in which Britain decides to stay in the European Union is if all organisations that subscribe to this goal get their act together and redouble their efforts to show that this is now what the majority of British people want. This is a majority that now seems to exist but which must be brought out into the open in a really big way. The immediate task is to prevent the formation of a government led by either Johnson or Hunt, neither of whom can be trusted to steer the country safely out of the mess that they have helped to create and our now exacerbating in their election campaign.
The first move in this direction must be for the European Movement and the People’s Vote campaigns to immediately – and unconditionally – throw their full weight behind the March for Change, calling on all their members, including MPs from many parties, to take part.
We must make it abundantly clear that the British people are totally fed up with a government that seems to be driven more by the personal ambitions of its hard-liners than by any sense of responsibility towards the population at large – a government that has wasted (and hugely upset) – 3 precious years of our lives and still not arrived at a credible plan on our future relationship with Europe.
I suspect that there would be a huge sigh of relief if a new government was to emerge which had the guts to tell us in all honesty that, at least for now, staying in Europe is the best solution. Like “no deal”, it requires no planning and no negotiation but it carries no risks and would allow us to revert quickly to our “normal” lives!