Catherine Bearder MEP writes: Churchill and Mandela would have been with us on the March for Europe

As thousands of Brits marched across the uk to show their support for our continued EU membership relationship I was with Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton, past MEP Sarah Ludford and many other activists, PPCs, councillors, new and old members and others who wanted to be with the Liberal Democrats in our fight to get the best for our country post the referendum result.

The organisers were initially determined not to allow any elected political speakers on to the platform.  It seems the phrase ‘cross party’ had again been confused with ‘no party’, despite the speakers from the world of entertainment and media clearly having political affiliations.  However, sense and justice prevailed and I was allowed to speak to the assembled crowds.  It seemed only fair as the Liberal Democrats formed a major part of the March, and for that I must say thank you to Kelly-Marie Blundell and her team for organising us all and making sure our voice is heard across the country.

This then is the gist of what I said….

For every one who is marching to day, not just here in London, but right across the country, there are hundreds who are not on a march, but are with us in spirit.  They know as you do that this campaign was fought on lies and untruths and the question was simplistic.  The result cannot therefore be allowed to stand.  Reasons for voters supporting leave were varied, and we now know that what they were asked to vote on – Brexit – is a total unknown.  No one knows what it is.  Even the Brexiteers still don’t know what they want.

So many people and European flags flying is good to see, but there are two other people in this square with us who would be joining us if they could, one is Winston Churchill, the other is Nelson Mandela.  They both recognised that working together across borders is the best way to deliver peace and prosperity for all. They would be horrified to think there is a possibility of the UK leaving the best and biggest club on the planet.   We have to do all we can to stop that, and if we can’t we must make sure that we get the best deal possible – and then put that deal to the voters in the UK.

There are civil servants now trying to work out how we disentangle 40 years of laws that have brought us social, environmental, cultural, and scientific benefits.  We need to make sure that the politicians they are answerable to, the government, hear our voice.  You have MEPs who are also working hard for the best interest of the U.K. from all groups – although some of course are not and we know who they are.  But I bring a message from my other European colleagues, who want the UK to stay with them.  They recognise the benefits that the UK brings to legislation, to the debates, to the whole continent and they want us to stay with them, so we are not alone in this fight and I will continue to work with them and my other UK colleagues to that end.

So keep up the fight. We want to know what Brexit looks like, what it means for us all.  We need to hold the government to account for the negotiations they do in our name. We need to know that what they do really is our best interests.  So don’t fold up your flags today when you go home, keep waving them, keep battling – and keep angry.

I am angry that we’re having to keep fighting, I am angry we lost the vote, but most of all I am angry that we are wasting time on these unnecessary negotiations when we should be spending our time sorting out the big issues that are facing us all. People are drowning in the Mediterranean. People traffickers are getting away with their vile trade. Children are wandering alone across Europe. The climate is changing.  Biodiversity is being lost.  These are the issues we should be spending our time on, not how we isolate ourselves in the world and how we shut our borders to those who come here to work and help our economy.

Our voice must continue to be heard.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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  • Catherine Bearder “Our voice must continue to be heard”.

    Two gentle words to Catherine.

    1. I’m afraid our voice was only very mutely heard in the Commons yesterday. Two short sentences on a non headline issue during the Brexit statement. Perhaps Catherine could have a word with her Westminster colleagues and put a bit of pep in them. Gareth Bale scored twice yesterday, the Lib Dem MP’s didn’t play- with one exception, and the one that did barely crossed the half way line.

    2. Sorry, Catherine, but I do wish people would take a real look at Winston Churchill’s actual historical record before praising him to the skies. Eugenics, force feeding suffragettes, the Dardanelles fiasco, threatening to shell Belfast just for starters……. Given his views on Gandhi, to bracket him with Mandela is somewhat odd to say the least. If Mandela had been on the march Churchill would no doubt have had him arrested…… though there’s also a statue of Gandhi keeping a watch on things in Parliament Square.

  • Barry Snelson 6th Sep '16 - 8:01pm

    Mr Raw and I do not often sing from the same hymn sheet but his first point is exactly right and a stance I have been advocating. Labour is in disarray. We can increase our own profile with measured, courteous (but well thought through and destructive) attacks on the competence of Davies, Fox and Johnson, and by extrapolation the whole Tory Juggernaut.

    As to the second point, I wouldn’t know what to predict for WSC. He was inordinately fond of the British Empire but also famously unpredictable and erratic.

  • Stevan Rose 6th Sep '16 - 9:24pm

    Mr Raw and I also do not often sing from the same hymn sheet but his second point is also exactly right.

    As to Brexit, when I know what it is and I’ve weighed up what it means I’ll make a judgement. In the meantime I’ll keep an open mind and look for the opportunities without talking the economy down. Optimism. I worry that marches and placards simply reinforce the image of a party in denial looking back with rose tinted glasses at something that isn’t there anymore, at least not in the form it was. And ignoring all the issues that need to be fixed to convince anyone to change their mind. What is the point of being angry? Be constructive, be measured, be positive the UK will succeed whatever the outcome, try and influence that outcome. Angry is a negative emotion.

  • Well, well…

    My dear Barry and my dear Stevan,

    re Hymn Sheets

    You are beginning to show commendable signs of a learning curve.

    You never know, we might even turn you into proper 1960’s radical Liberals from before the dark age – providing, that is, you keep up the effort and the good work. You never know,
    In this world of darkness……
    So let us shine
    You in your small corner,
    And I in mine.

  • Peter Watson 6th Sep '16 - 11:44pm

    Why would Churchill and Mandella have been on the march when so few other people were?
    A claimed 50,000 (though officially estimated at 30,000) people in London marched for Europe in July. Two months later, with marches all across the UK organised well in advance, probably fewer than 10,000 people joined the march nationally. Given the rush of new members joining the Lib Dems to fight to remain in the EU, this apparent decline must be pretty disappointing.
    A few parallel LDV articles are reporting on the march, but I think that the anti-Brexit movement should consider why support was so low for this national demonstration (timing? logistics? publicity? indifference? wait and see?) and address that rather than attempt to portray it as a successful part of a popular mass movement.

  • Barry Snelson 7th Sep '16 - 8:15am

    I’m not quite sure about the ’60s. I can still recall studying for my engineering degree by candlelight, wearing all the clothes I had in the freezing cold, because the power workers were on strike (or was it the miners, or was it both?).
    But your views are expressed courteously and constructively and I respect that. Not all contributors meet that test.
    This party also has a left/right split but its liberal values should make that a strength, not a weakness, as we listen to each other, share with each other and learn from each other, unlike some other parties whose factions eternally fight with each other.

    As to ‘radical’, my views are that this country was sliding, inexorably to economic and social ruin on a grand scale, despite what desperately optimistic politicians claim, and that ‘radical of a wholly new order’ is required to save it.

    But not just the simplistic, “find someone who has some money left and tax it off them” but completely invert the way the British see themselves as the first step to a second, better, and more just and fair, industrial revolution,

    A collection will now be taken from the congregation. Please give generously.

  • John Peters 7th Sep '16 - 9:19am

    Very Lord of the Rings.

    On the next March for Europe there may be two living banner carriers amongst hordes of the dead.

    Appealing to the dead doesn’t seem to be a strong argument.

  • Barry,

    John Peters talks about the dead, but I can assure him that I, for one, am very much alive and kicking even though Gladstone, Squiff, LL.G. and dear old Jo are long gone.

    I was….. and a whole generation was… a radical, and I still am. As to the future we should be discussing issues and cooperation with Caroline Lucas and Patrick Harvey and fashioning a radical socially liberal sustainable future.

    Bob Dylan wrote it, Pete Seegar performed it………… Forever young. Try it on You Tube.

  • Stevan Rose 7th Sep '16 - 11:45am

    “let us shine”

    Wasn’t that used in the Morrisons ad?

  • Sue Sutherland 7th Sep '16 - 2:32pm

    I think Catherine made a good rousing speech and Lib Dems need to hit the button every time they talk about the EU so the emotive message of Leave is countered by an equally powerful emotive message for Remain.
    However, I do have great sympathy for those who voted Leave because they haven’t shared in the positives the EU has brought because of Thatcherism and more lately austerity. So I’m glad to see Stevan wanting to see a new Radicalism to sort out this problem, although I think rejuvenated Liberalism is the answer because it gives a reason for equality which is quite different from Socialism.
    As for Churchill, I think we have to remember that he was voted out of power in spite of leading us to victory in the war. I remember watching his funeral and the dockyard cranes being lowered in respect which I thought meant that those workers held him in affection. However I learnt just recently that the dockers refused to work the cranes unless they were paid because they disliked him so much! The reason was his aristocratic bias which he revealed perhaps most famously in that post war election when he referred to ordinary people living in their cottages during an election broadcast.
    It is the rights of the sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those dockers that we Lib Dems should be fighting for now because inequality has led to a polarised unhappy nation, and to Brexit. So let’s fight for Britain to stay in the EU, fight for a Referendum on the new treaty but please, can we also fight as loudly as possible for those who see no future for them in the EU.

  • Had Mandela been there it would have boosted the attendance …

  • rewegwyn 7th Sep ’16 – 6:49pm………….Had Mandela been there it would have boosted the attendance ….

    As he’s been dead for almost 3 years I’ve no doubt that you’re correct….

    However, attributing views to the recently, and not so recently, dead is a tricky business…During the run up to the referendum I was often met with the argument that, as a remainer, “I should be ashamed for betraying the sacrifice of the WW2 dead”….

    We have enough trouble figuring out how the living feel….

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