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The last fortnight has been one of the most tumultuous weeks in UK politics in generations, beginning with the announcement by the government that they would seek to prorogue Parliament, and ending with MPs – having seized control of Parliamentary business – voting to prevent a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, rejecting Boris Johnson’s attempts to force a snap general election, and leaving Johnson hoist by his own prorogation petard.
When we heard about Johnson’s plans to prorogue Parliament we decided to hold an impromptu demonstration in Cambridge that very evening, and were genuinely surprised when about 400 people joined us…far too many for the small portable speaker system we were able to find at short notice! You can read about the rally on Wednesday 28 August in the post “Cambridge Rallies to defend democracy!”.
It soon became clear that millions of people all across the UK were just as angry as the citizens of Cambridge at the attempt by the minority Government to undermine parliamentary democracy and push the UK to a catastrophic no-deal Brexit at the end of October, and over the next two weeks more than 250 “Stop the Coup” rallies were held in cities and towns the length and breadth of the UK.
Cambridge Stays members and supporters participated in several of these events, including the following actions.
Stop the Coup rally in Cambridge – 31 August 2019
On Saturday 31st Another Europe is Possible held a “Stop the Coup” rally in Market Square, which was addressed by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, and which we encouraged our supporters to attend. An estimated 1,200 people attended this rally, making it one of the largest – if not the largest – held in Cambridge in recent decades.
Daniel Zeichner MP gave the opening speech, which you can view on youtube, and Cambridge Stays Chair Paul Browne gave one of the closing speeches over an hour later, which you can also view online. In between them there were some fine speeches from speakers including Stuart Tuckwood of Unison, Cllr Jamie Dalzell from Cambridge Liberal Democrats, local 6th form student Imogen Rogers (though sadly there were also a couple of very divisive speeches from self declared Marxists, highlighting how hard we need to work to unite against the danger the current Government poses). You can view many of the speeches on local journalist Antony Carpen’s YouTube channel.
Westminister – Supporting our local MPs – 4th September
One of the messages that Boris Johnson has attempted to put out is that he is representing the People against Parliament, so a major theme of the Stop the Coup rallies has been to show support for our MPs as they hold an increasingly desperate and dangerous Government to account.
With that in mind a group of Cambridge Stays members and supporters travelled to London on Wednesday 4th September to show our support for Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner and South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen in the hours before the crucial vote on the Benn Bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
After travelling to London of various trains, we gathered in Westminster next to College Green shortly after noon, as MPs were in the Commons for Boris Johnson’s first, and quite possible last, Prime Ministers Questions. After short speeches by Paul Browne, and Cambridge Liberal Democrat PPC Rod Cantrill, we were joined after PMQs by Daniel Zeichner and Heidi Allen. Both MPs thanked our group for travelling to London to show that the People are with Parliament, and spoke briefly to our group of about forty supporters on the need for opposition MPs – and the Conservative MPs who had lost the whip only hours earlier – to unity to prevent a no-deal Brexit and give the People the final say on Brexit. After that there was just time for a quick group photo before the MPs headed back into Parliament to defeat the Government once again!
That wasn’t quite the end of the day for us though, several of us stuck around Westminster with hundreds of other campaigners from across the country, joining Steve Bray and the regulars to show that we will stand up for our MPs. A group of Cambridge Stay campaigners stood next to the vehicle entrance to the Palace of Westminster for several hours, waving our flags, chanting “Stop the Coup”, “Stop Brexit, Save the NHS”, and “Hey, hey Boris J, how many lies did you tell today?”, and chatting with passers by, who included TV news crews from Japan, France, Denmark and other countries, MEP Molly Scott Cato, and numerous often very supportive locals and tourists.
The day ended with a rally organised by the People’s Vote campaign, which was attended by several thousand people. As the rally got under way the news filtered through that the government had been defeated, MPs had passed the Benn Bill, and it was now being debated in the House of Lords. It was a good day for democracy!
Stop the Coup, Let us be heard – Ely, 8 September
The People’s Vote rally in Ely on Saturday 8th September had been organised weeks before Boris Johnson announced he was proroguing Parliament, and the news gave it a new sense of urgency. The rally, organised by Ely for Europe and Southeast Cambs for Europe, was now part of a 2nd weekend of nationwide protests against the anti-democratic actions of our Brexiter Government. After so many rallies in the past week we didn’t know how many would join the event, but we needn’t have worried, the hall was packed, with people even standing at the back.
Speakers at the rally included Lord Richard Balfe of the Conservative Party,
Else Kvist a freelance journalist representing New Europeans, Daniel Laycock a spokesperson for #RemainerNow, Lucy Nethsingha MEP for the East of England, Femi Oluwole of Our Future Our Choice, Catherine Rowett MEP for the East of England, writer, performer, and campaigner Kate Willoughby, Daniel Zeichner MP for Cambridge, and Professor Richard Murphy of the University of Southampton, a member of the Tax Justice Network .
Many of the speeches were very moving.
Else Kvist who was denied her vote on Brexit and denied her vote in the EU elections said “I have been treated as a bargaining chip by the British government, I never thought I would have to apply for the right to live here after 27 years”
Daniele Laycock of Remainer Now commented on the change of views across the UK saying “I voted leave because I believed Farage, I wanted my country back. I have now changed my mind, there are thousands of us across the East of England.” In a brave personal account he also shared his fears that medicines he depends on may not be available in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the audience had great respect and gratitude for standing up and sharing his journey with us.
Kate Willoughby gave a powerful speech on importance of reaching out and healing process, echoing the example of the Suffragettes and saying “Let facts be your arrows”… “listen and speak from your heart”.
Lord Richard Balfe, a longtime advocate of the EU as the world’s most successful peace project, had an announcement, telling the crowd “I have just resigned as President of my local Conservative Party because I cannot accept the way the Prime Minister is behaving, he MUST enact the law“
Professor Richard Murphy underscored the real motivations that drive the Brexiters who dominate this Government “We cannot beat tax cheats without the EU, the EU can impose laws, others can simply ask. I believe some of those at the heart of the leave campaign are also at the heart of tax avoidance.”
It was an excellent meeting, from which attendees emerged enthused for the campaign ahead to get, and then win, a People’s Vote on Brexit. Following the rally, some of the attendees gathered for a photo outside Ely’s famous cathedral.
Thanks to everyone who joined our events over the past fortnight, it’s been a shocking time for most of us, but we have emerged stronger, more unified, and more determined than ever. We will stop Brexit and build a better future!