Building the new Maginot Line

I went on the march yesterday. I like to think of myself as number 700,001 but that’s probably being optimistic. The press coverage, at least last night, was unusually generous but I suspect everyone was overwhelmed by the numbers. The tube trains were rammed, Green Park turned into an exit only station and the crowds kept on coming. The front of the march got lost somewhere in the middle as a rolling crowd simply began to move.

You’ve seen the banners; especially the funny ones, the ageist ones the photos of young kids but you should have heard the people. This was simple indignation at the failure of the political class to write a stupid wrong foisted on the country by the multiple failures of the Conservative party and the right wing press – who I sometimes think simply wanted some revenge for being caught out hacking people’s phones.

This roar of indignation and this call to put things right rolled in shouts of protest from Marble Arch through Trafalgar Square and down to Westminster. It was tangible. You could hear it coming. The anger was real but the people were friendly. I think everyone felt a sense of delight and communion that here they were with people who felt like them; anxious, powerless but determined to make a point.

There were politicians there but this was no party political event. It was exactly what it was meant to be, a shared demonstration by people who valued our place in Europe, valued tolerance and open borders and wanted politicians working to make us better, safer and united citizens of the world.

Of course, the sniping and crowing has already started. Did you know that this was the largest demonstration in London in all of history not to be attended by Jeremy Corbyn? TV wanted to say that last night and also to tell us that there was a pro-Brexit demonstration in Harrogate attended by Farage and, at a generous count, around a thousand people. More people went to under seven football yesterday across the nation but Harrogate got mentioned on the news. Balance, you understand.

Will it make a difference? Probably not. Events are still being driven by a fractious, ugly, factional government but at least the people who attended made a point. That will be forgotten in a couple of weeks but, ironically, we’ll be celebrating the centenary of the armistice as we start building our new Maginot Line.

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