Posted on 13/03/2021Comments Off on POLLY ERNEST

When did you first attend the SODEM protest outside Parliament and why did you come? 

I felt compelled to take my daughter out of school and get a train to London on 1st February 2017. I couldn’t believe that the MPs were going to vote to Trigger Article 50 without a plan and I felt I had to let them know that that this was not the will of the people. I put out a call in all the Facebook Groups and expected to walk out of Westminster tube to a sea of blue and yellow flags. Instead, there was a small group of protestors from Movement for Justice and three or four other people.  I was so shocked and realised that if anything was going to happen, I was going to have to do more. 

Meg and I stopped Dennis Skinner in the street and begged him to walk through the right lobby. After the vote I thought to myself ‘Not that right!”.

I became convinced that we needed a permanent protest outside Parliament and protests all over the country. I first met Steve online when some of us were trying to ensure that the Jacques Tilly float got to the Unite for Europe march.  I met Steve in real life when he came to flag bomb the main A49 road bridge with us in Hereford. He too believed we needed a permanent protest and, unlike me, was able to devote himself full-time to making it happen.

I accidentally got press ganged into being an admin on the public page. 

I first joined him at the protest in early November 2017.

Roughly how old are you?

I am in my mid 50’s.

How frequently did you come and when was the last time you attended?

Initially I tried to come every month, but I rapidly realised that that wasn’t enough and started coming weekly, then staying down for two or three nights every week. I couldn’t believe that more people who lived closer didn’t come or that people didn’t just come in their lunch breaks.

The last actual Sodem I attended was the special one I had the privilege to organise to coincide with Guy Verhofstadt’s visit to London in May 2019.

How far from Westminster do you live and what was your travelling time?

I was living in Hereford 130 miles from Westminster and usually an eight-hour round trip.

What’s your favourite memory?

There are so many but here are a few …

On my very first trip to Sodem I spotted John Redwood on the other side of the road. To my utter surprise I found myself shouting at the top of my voice ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, look there is John Redwood, the man who told his clients not to invest in the UK. He is, he is an utter bastard’.

I was so shocked and after that I loved the shouting most.

Well, that and the singing (even though I can’t sing).  When Julian Lewis MP complained the protest was too loud, we sang ‘Julian Lewis, Julian Lewis, is this loud enough for you?” to the tune of Bread of Heaven. (See the clip in the video section.)

I loved feeling that I might make a difference (even though we didn’t in the end). It’s the only group I have ever joined where I genuinely felt I belonged. 

Final best memory was with Rachel Naunton and Elspeth Williams. One morning after the first appearances of The Grid Girls a man approached us clutching a piece of paper. “Are you with Nigel?’ he enquired. Bemused we explained that we weren’t, but he showed us his email with the picture of the women. ‘Nigel said they’d be here.  Aren’t they you?”. We were now wetting ourselves. “Does it look like we are with Nigel?”, I asked. “Oh”, he replied “are you Remainers?”.

I met the very best people from all walks of life and made friends forever.

Tell me your story

I’ve probably already told it. I felt I had to do something after failing to engage properly in the Referendum campaign. I had put up a poster in my window but didn’t get out on the street.

After the result I cried for days. To this day I still can’t remember casting my vote because the misery of the resulted blotted it. We’d lived in France for 4-1/2 years, our children went to school there, our youngest was born there. How could we want to turn our backs on that?

I became convinced that we needed to ask people “are you sure?’. I didn’t know how but I knew I had to do something. I got involved with my local Labour Party convinced the opposition would oppose (even though I knew that Jeremy Corbyn had gambolled onto College Green on the morning of June 24thcalling for Article 50 to be triggered as soon as possible). I became the branch secretary and rapidly realised, with a sinking feeling, that I was on a hiding to nothing.

I joined the European Movement, I set up Herefordshire for Europe, I marched, I wrote angry poetry and attended every event I could. We ran street stalls, and I did radio interviews and debates. I took my son and youngest daughter to Brussels and attended the premiere of Postcards from the 48% in the European Parliament.

I spent three and half years giving it my all. I created Pies Not Lies and borrowed Cake Not Hate (from York for Europe). We ran these events many times at SODEM and it was my pleasure to bring joy and hope to people at the time. I presented some home-made pork pies to the liars in chief Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore on their way to the select committee hearing, and the Daily Mail christened me The Pork Pie protestor which became my twitter name. 

I fundamentally believe that peaceful protest is the cornerstone of democracy.

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