Minds aren’t being changed by the same old prominent moderate faces – it’s the energetic, irreverent, cross-spectrum youth campaigns which will win a new vote.
The campaign for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal has gone from being a fringe project, which many initially wrote off, to a mainstream cause.
It’s become dinner-table discussion, garnered momentum in pubs, clubs and Constituency Labour Parties across the country, and seen backing from local councils and national organisations. In August, the scales tipped as the first polls showed that a majority now support the cause.
Some, such as Labour’s Barry Gardiner, have suggested that even if we secured the vote, it would be a lost cause – that all we would achieve would be more division, and the alienation of anyone who voted Leave.
It’s true that Brexit was a vote against the status quo – a deep-seated frustration with a Tory government that pursued austerity over people’s lives. An establishment class, neglecting ordinary people’s concerns, that had the gall to front a referendum campaign ignoring them. No surprise that people wanted to take back control from an undemocratic elite.
But there’s a new establishment now.
A government hellbent on a hard Brexit, but too preoccupied with infighting and backstabbing to get anything done. A government which has seen thirteen major resignations, lost 33 seats, and has a Prime Minister barely clinging on. A government in shambles.
It’s because of this that the promises that they made have not come to pass. There is no Brexit dividend to fund the NHS, and no grand trade deal with the United States. No Brexit deal has been agreed at all – and there are less than 6 months to go.
People in my hometown in the North East voted overwhelmingly to leave, desperate to see change. The highest Brexit vote in the country – 83% – came from Middlesbrough. But politicians have let us down. The government’s own leaked analysis shows the North East will take a 16% hit to growth with no deal, and an 11% hit even if Theresa May manages to negotiate something.
The report concludes that Brexit will most hurt the region that most supported it; and now, the majority of people in the region back a people’s vote. If a referendum were to take place tomorrow, the North East would be split 50/50 – a sensational shift of 16 percent points from 2016.
The new undemocratic elite is in power, and people are deeply frustrated with them. This, surely, gives us hope that not only is a people’s vote the route out of the chaos, but that there is a very real chance we can win one.
There’s something else new, too – a difference within the campaign, compared to the polished, elitist fearmongering of 2016. A new kind of energy, and optimism, and hope. Young people.
1.4 million young people have turned 18 since the Brexit vote: YouGov reported this week that 84% of them support remaining in the EU. If given the chance, they’d vote to do so in huge numbers – and that’s without that swing vote from the disillusioned masses.
It’s here that the real powerhouse behind the campaign for a People’s Vote lies. Minds aren’t being changed by the same old prominent moderate faces – the Blairs and Umunnas and Adonises. It’s the energetic, irreverent, cross-spectrum youth campaigns which have rapidly dominated the headlines.
Student-led campaigns like For our Future’s Sake (FFS) have young supporters from the Greens, to Labour, to disillusioned Tories. They’ve won the backing of 60 students’ unions, and national organisations including the National Union of Students, British Youth Council and National Society Of Apprentices.
The campaign has been called ‘provocative’, running stunts at LabourLive and Boris Johnson’s former Foreign Secretary residence, and demonstrations and rallies attended by a significant 160,000 people over the summer – and it is this energy which cuts through the noise. It’s a lot to be hopeful about.
We know that the reason Theresa May is so afraid of giving the people a final say is that she knows she will lose. A government that pretends to support the ‘will of the people’ is quaking about what the people might do.
There is no doubt that there will be a public rejection of their single biggest project. And so, we won’t just secure a people’s vote – we can win one. Just as the infamous red bus promised: let’s take back control.
Luke Myer is a supporter of For our Future’s Sake, a youth and student-led campaign for a people’s vote.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.