On Saturday, I was one in a million. We marched on the streets to demand our politicians put it to the people and end the Brexit crisis. The last week in Westminster was almost unbearable. The bunker mentality of politicians worsened and the gridlock persisted. Our prime minister’s dangerous attempt to pit MPs against the people in her national address failed dramatically. All the while our country, crippled by uncertainty, watched a government refuse to face up to reality with horror.
The timing of the Put It To The People march on Saturday could hardly have been better. May claimed in her address that she is “on our side”; she believes we want her deal passed and Brexit over. But she is not on my side, and she is not on the side of the 1 million who marched on Saturday. There’s never been a more critical time for her to understand what the real will of the people is. Had she opened her curtains yesterday, she’d have seen it.
The faces of hundreds of thousands – old and young, from every corner of the country and from all political parties and from none – stood in sharp contrast to the crumbling halls of Westminster behind us where we’ve watched this humiliating drama unfold. Week after week, month after month, our country has been reduced to watching the Commons with a feeling of frustration and futility.
Not on Saturday. The British people were given the chance to voice their frustration on the streets and they took it. We asked our politicians to listen to the concerns of the nation and, with the week ahead showing every sign of being one for the history books, they would do well to listen.
But Saturday wasn’t about anger, sadness or regret. Saturday was about showing there’s another way. And it was about finally and fully refuting the ridiculous notion that May’s Brexit is what the people voted for. The British people know we don’t have to accept a choice between a terrible deal and crashing out altogether, because we know there’s still time to hand this decision back to us.
Nobody voted to be poorer. Nobody voted for less control and absolutely nobody voted for this mess that my generation is set to inherit. So where now? The historic march should focus minds about the only sensible route forward, but it should also speak to a unmistakable appetite to change the way we do politics.
I had the incredible privilege of introducing former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine to the stage on Saturday. With a backdrop of young campaigners from Our Future Our Choice and For Our Future’s Sake, he implored politicians to recognise the choice they still face about what world they leave to us.
I am too young to remember him in government; to me, he is a political grandee from a time when leadership was about being at the table rather than walking away from it. But each one of us who stood behind him was moved by his passionate demand for politicians to understand, include and invest the younger generation in politics.
Most weeks, our organisation heads to schools up and down the country to discuss Brexit. Without fail, the young people we meet want to engage with politics and learn how these issues will affect their futures. But with political education too often unavailable, and with politicians too frequently ignoring the voices and priorities of my generation, building up young people to be a powerful voting bloc has always been an uphill struggle.
This is changing. Brexit has galvanised my generation into action. Young people were front and centre of the march yesterday, they are leading on the global fight against climate change and they will use their voice and their vote to shape the future of politics. Politicians should take note. After all, we are their future too.
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