‘People’s Vote’ March: A Response

  • img SM Syano Musyimi
  • POSTED ON 22 Oct 2018


On Saturday about 700,000 people turned out to march for a People’s Vote over the final Brexit deal. Demonstrators have, without pretention, considered this as an expression of their disapproval of Brexit and therefore a pro-Remain demonstration. The logic is simple – if a deal is struck between the British government and the EU, and it is accepted by parliament, there is nothing else to prevent Brexit from happening. A people’s vote can be construed as a final, and hopefully for the Remain camp, unsurpassable barrier for Brexit.

At ThinkCitizen, we are apolitical in the sense that we think that misunderstanding is inherent in each dispute or contention. Without understanding, both parties are more likely to make mistakes. Add mass media and its incentive to drive our sentiments away from sound reasoning and we have a society that is at great risk of making enormous mistakes. Our aim is to make members of both sides of a dispute better independent thinkers with the aim of avoiding mistake and promoting harmony. Though this article is a response to the march on Saturday, it is not an aid of advancing Brexit but rather an aid of enhancing better understanding. If the audience must know, I voted Remain.

Back to the march: the aim of the march was to show solidarity for Remain via the cause of the People’s Vote. My question is ‘for what purpose?’ To what end? Ultimately preventing Brexit? If so then Remainers have not learnt their lesson. No one has. Let’s go back to the Brexit campaign in 2016. Remainers were fairly secure in the fact that Brexiteers were in the firm minority to begin with. However, the main reason there was a vote in the first place was that the cause for Brexit was growing in both zeal and numbers. David Cameron’s solution was to hold a referendum. In one way, it was the right thing to do. If people have a grievance about immigration or whatever else, they must be given the means to express their will. It doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them; just hearing them out. Instead, from a position of strength, the pro-Remain narrative turned against the Brexiteer, labelling them ‘bigots’, ‘little Englanders’, ‘uneducated’, even ‘stupid’. It was a profoundly wrong turn from the Remain camp and made others feel oppressed and bad about themselves. The reaction from Leavers was always going to be defensive and equally irrational, and the more that narrative spread, the stronger the zeal and impact of the Brexit campaign became. I saw this in February 2016 and wrote about the story in a recent article (https://www.thinkcitizen.org/post-view/im-a-remainer-but-the-result-is-not-what-bothers-me).

Two years later and the chasm in society is now unequivocally a gaping void and nowhere near closing. Even after a referendum, both camps are zealously opposed to each other. When I ask ‘for what purpose is this march?’, it is with this brief history in mind. Whenever the Remainers went out in force to make a point, all it did was push the rest of the country away, and Brexit happened.

(We) Remainers are not the answer to Brexit that we think. That is because we think Brexit is the problem. It is not the ultimate problem. The real problem surrounding Brexit is tribalism, division, the absence of the middle ground. The Remainer could not see this then, but so little is seen in the moment as events evolve faster than we can reflect and think. Brexit now has the people’s mandate. What Remainers now fail to do is learn their lesson.

Here is my message to (fellow) Remainers. You can make a point, or you can make a difference. Making a point is easy. You turn up to London and march with people who have similarly aligned sentiments. You can show the other side that you have a loud voice and have a large following. In doing this we are then in a social shouting match and look at where its brought us. What else can this achieve but sustain and even widen the already existing chasm which was brought about with this sort of campaigning in the first place? How else do you expect the Brexiteer to respond? They will feel even more threatened and defensive. What was at stake two years was whether Britain would leave the EU or not. What is at stake now is whether we leave with a deal or not. What happens to the Brexiteer who, like two years ago, is under pressure and feels defensive. A march like this, contrary to the Remainers intentions, is naively making leaving at all costs more likely.

My dream is to see a Remain march that addresses the real problem that started with Brexit. Instead of ‘People’s Vote’ why don’t Remain advocate ‘Reconcile’, or ‘Come together’. I have always said this: the best way of preventing Brexit was to show the Brexiteer that they were understood. They (as are we) are governed by a strong feeling. We needed to reach out to them and show them that unity was more important than the result (and they obviously needed to show us the same). As the side that considered itself more open and liberal Remain should be the bigger side and take the first step. We didn’t do it then, and they’re still not doing it now. I do not expect the Brexiteer to reach out to the Remainer because it was they who had the grievance in the first place. If the sentiments governing Brexit are conservative then they will not be reconciliatory; it is just not in the conservative spirit. That is why Remainers have the power to change the narrative and to be the first to occupy the middle ground. Someone has to take responsibility for the divisions caused by our leaders in politics and the media, and it starts with understanding one another. This is where being a Thinkcitizen becomes a genuine social solution.