The last few days in Parliament have seen some extraordinary scenes. Boris Johnson, a man who seems determined to drag the office of Prime Minister through the mire, has repeatedly used disrespectful and inflammatory language. He has dismissed the fears of MPs of the death threats, rape threats, arson threats they and their families have received. “Humbug”was Johnson’s response, apparently seeing this as some kind of joke. He even referenced Jo Cox, the MP murdered by a member of the Alt Right who shouted “Britain first” as he killed her, and said she would have wanted us to ‘get on’ with Brexit. BS.
Others have suggested riots if we do not leave the EU on 31st October. Suggested these riots almost as a threat, almost as a call for riots.
I have been on a number of pro EU marches since June 2016. They have been characterised by good humour, politeness, warmth. They had a family feel. There have been dogs and children, wheelchair users. They have made me proud to be British at a time when my country, which I love, has been tearing itself apart.
I stood at Trafalgar Square over a year ago and, as I waited for the friends I was hoping to join, struck up a conversation with a a French family visiting London. They were warm in their admiration of the way this huge crowd was behaving. I have been with Americans who have taken photograph after photograph, and then decided they wanted to join in, be part of this. These marches, these demonstrations, have fostered such good feeling, such warmth from foreigners who had wondered whether London was a safe place to visit in these febrile times.
There have been no arrests. At the largest march over one million people of all ages walked together, calm, courteous even when abuse was shouted by the odd Brexiteer who had turned up to jeer. Some people tried to engage with the Brexiteers, to speak to them. They were repaid with swearing and threats, not dialogue.
I have only witnessed a Brexiteer demonstration by accident. There were only a small number of demonstrators, but they were loudly aggressive, threatening. One wore a Donald trump mask while others sang “We love you Donald, oh yes we do.” As a Remainer, I would not have liked to challenge them. The outcome would almost certainly have been violent. More than one person has said that Brexit has become like a religion, a particularly fundamentalist religion, where questioning and discussion, let alone disagreement, is treated as blasphemy and quickly suppressed, the questioner demonised.
This is a dangerous development. Democracy is a delicate creature. Look at history and see how many times people who thought they were secure were forced to flee their homes with nothing when anti-democratic, often populist, movements silenced debate and demanded adherence to a particular ideology; when the people comes to mean only people who belong to a certain group. Continue reading