When did you first attend the SODEM protest outside Parliament and why did you come?
June 2018. I had taken the chance , on a relatively rare visit to my daughter in Surrey, to divert via Waterloo to a spend a few hours with you.
I have regarded myself as European most of my life, – most specifically since I read politics as a main subject in the sixties. My special subject, -long before we joined was ‘European Integration.
As a constitutional Democrat, the referendum was always a travesty of democratic norms, won by ‘dishonesty on an industrial scale’ by cheating, fraud, theft and illegality. It was an alt-right new fascism coup in the making. It had to be opposed.
Steve and SODEM were brave and prominent, you are true heroes and heroines. You have to be supported. Living near Crewe, being partially sighted, my access to SODEM has been limited, and initial energies concentrated in helping to set up a local chapter of the East Cheshire European Movement, – and as an individual trying to connect with like-minded folk. In my earliest photo with Steve outside parliament, I am carrying one of his flags.
Roughly how old are you?
How frequently did you come and when was the last time you attended?
Because of my circumstances, and involvement in supporting local pro EU groups and campaigning, initial contact was limited. I went on marches in our area, – from Manchester to Birmingham, Liverpool to Leeds, -as well as the June London March. Steve was present. But my first real significant contact came at Liverpool. After contact with Brenda Ashton, I had decided to stay in Liverpool for the Labour conference, to attend some pro-EU fringe events, – and took the chance – a privilege – to join the SODEM lobbying outside conference. I remember Will Hutton saying we made a difference.
I then joined SODEM at the Birmingham conference for a couple of days. I joined SODEM on the London march in October, and outside parliament on occasion in November and December. I tried to be present for major occasions, and by staying overnight in Surrey managed a few days most weeks parliament was sitting in January and February, 2019, including a few interesting times of confrontation and debate, and of course ‘Pies not Lies’ and the ‘In Limbo’ protest. I haven’t kept a good record, but I attended the march in London in March, and went to Sodem on a few occasions in the summer. In September I spent a few days in London for the 3 Million and In Limbo protest, and I think the odd SODEM.
Events, politics and circumstances then curtailed activities. Since January 2020 I have been in Germany with my partner. Johnson’s Brexit of course threatens the sustainability of our relationship, and I’ve been unable to return, partly because of uncertainty over rights, definitely because of covid, and also because I’m due surgery here for a cancer ( current prognosis very positive).
How far from Westminster do you live and what was your travelling time?
I live near Nantwich near Crewe and rely on public transport. I think the distance is c 160-170 miles. It normally takes me in practice c 3 hours with connections one way.
What’s your favourite memory?
I only turned up from time to time, and found it so uplifting to meet new, interested, open-minded, genuine, dedicated people, and feeling more at [home] and among friends, -even when harassed by the loudmouths. In early 2019 I felt I needed a Sodem fix to cope with the Brexit generation in my own town. I remember with affection Penny Lane, looking after me finding our way in the dark (I’m partially sighted), and though there are many whose faces I recognise – Barbara, Polly, Elspeth, Sue, Lynne, David Palk, showing how flag waving should be done-, Mark, Chris, Brian – there are many whose names I never learned. Thank you, for your kindness and welcome, – as well as your determination to keep this going.
It was never just about brexit, but fundamentally about usurping our democracy. Favourite memories include being with Helen Johnston and being given an ad hoc interview with Northern Irish radio journalist our joint contributions seemed to fit together well. Another strong memory was being with Tania at the barricades on College Green, with a significant number of Leave /Ukip supporters alongside including a hooligan element chanting on one side with a small somewhat disgruntle Ukip couple on the other.
A school party from Harrow, (not THE Harrow) in their school uniforms mainly Asian/ black came by on the crowded pavement very cheerfully joining a Bollocks to Brexit chant , taking our Bollocks to Brexit stickers in high good humour… when one of the elderly UKIP couple couple grumbling about us encouraging rudeness, then said something like, ‘when are you going home’? – I was lost for words, and for a second, so seemed Tania… but not the teenagers…. a girl piped up ‘We live here, we’re born here, we’re British,’ others joining in as she turned and pointed at them taking up for few seconds a chant of racist racist -but with smiles and apparently confident good humour. They were marvellous. Not easy to describe, – but giving hope that the future might well be safe in their hands… Good to have human links – thanks to SODEM – with Europeans across the country, and internationally with In Limbo and Bremain in Spain, etc.
Tell me your story
I’m a 73 year old partially sighted widowed former teacher and local government officer. I grew up in a mining village in Staffordshire. One grandfather and all his brothers were miners, my grandmother’s brothers were miners. My father met my mother in Yorkshire, (posted to an RAF base), -she was a trainee teacher – and my father took the chance to train as an emergency trainee teacher after the war. Both of my grandfathers had joined the army as regulars before the Great War, – largely because of necessity, – work and accommodation. Both were in the contemptible little army that crossed to France early in the war. One was in the RHA, – had his horse killed, – and a unit he served in was awarded the Croix de guerre. One of his brothers, a CSM in the Suffolks, not unusually for CSMs won MM DCG and was then killed on the Somme in 2016. My grandfather in the South Staffords spent a few weeks marching around Flanders in the rain digging new trenches every night… before his battalion was effectively wiped out at the first battle of Ypres. He was captured. German surgeons later saved his life with a major intestinal surgery unrelated to the fighting. My father and uncles all served in the 2nd world war. 11th November meant something to them, – it was not a nostalgia-laden flag waving matter. I was the first of my family to attend University and was privileged to study politics, and an enlightening range of other stuff across sciences and arts at Keele in the 1960s. My special subject was European Integration, – years before we joined. I have been interested in concepts of democracy, constitutional legitimacy, etc all my life, and though convinced of the fragility of our so called democracy, our elected dictatorship, and its institutional incapacity to change, – I was utterly dismayed at the extent of the rot over the last decade, culminating in an illegitimate unconstitutional referendum which our weak electoral laws could not protect from fraud lies cheating and criminal electoral fraud, – or the malevolence of the established leadership of both major parties determined not to make a major campaign informing about the EU or positively supporting it. The evidence for the current coup was there in spades in 2016, – I experienced the vehemence of anti-European but actually racist spite from the kindly elderly middle class men and women on the streets of my comfortably off little town, -and experienced a frisson of fear, so reminiscent of 1930s Germany. Everyone was spouting the same range of (skilfully sold) slogans and untruths, no-one was willing to engage with evidence, or discuss beyond the presented slogan. None were interested in discerning what was true. Over the last few years we have continued to argue from evidence, – not realising the extent to which those behind the coup, the Kochs, Mercers, Elliotts the Cummings and Johnson , – have no moral compass, no belief in constitutionality, honour legitimacy, – only a determination to win and control, – and like their kleptokrat backers in the USA and Russia, steal as much money from the rest of us for themselves and their mates as possible.
It is not clear to me that we have the tools to persuade enough people of their follies, given their command of the media, control of all the institutions of state, and willingness to take any measure to retain control to defeat them, -yet. This is not a counsel of despair however, -the inherent contradictions of their positions, the impossibility of reconciling their ideology with realities, and the nature of unforseen events, must one day bring them down. We must not go away, we must keep ourselves together, recruit where we can, associate the EU flag with resistance to tyranny, support electoral change, green issues, maybe XR, -we are fundamentally on the same side, -withhold support for parties that themselves colluded with this mess, which do not recognise the fact, which do not collaborate with others to achieve our ends, in spite of our rotten system. Keep writing, keep talking, when possible keep marching, keep in touch with friends in Europe. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must not go away.
~ Maybe we should learn from the Hong Kongers, the Martin Luther Kings,
Supporter of Sodem, member European Movement Macclesfield and East Cheshire, In Limbo, British in Germany, a foot soldier only, flags, marches street stalls leaflets, letter writer to local papers, nagger of more restricted but valuable friendship group, father of 3, grandfather of 4, all of whom turned up on marches, – one a veteran from 12 months to 3 yrs of age, -one only born 3 months ago…
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