More than a million people were in London this weekend for the Put It To The People march. That makes it among the biggest demonstrations this country has ever seen. A huge thanks to everyone who made the journey – whether by train, plane orwalking from Swansea.
This march wasn’t about pitting Parliament against the people – as the prime minister has tried to do. It wasn’t about Left versus Right. It wasn’t even about Leave versus Remain. The Brexit debate has moved on. It was a message sent from all parts of the country, by people of all political persuasions and none: this Brexit is broken and it must be put to the people.
The spectacular scenes on Saturday – alongside the5 million signatureson a parliamentary petition against Brexit – have begun to have an effect on the direction of politics as well. Most notably, the chancellor was on aSky Newssofa yesterday describing a new referendum as a “perfectly coherent proposition” which “deserves to be considered”. That’s a huge deviation from the government’s official Brexit policy.
Elsewhere, the influential chair of the Commons’ Brexit select committeeHilary Bennannounced publicly during the march that he will be voting for a “confirmatory referendum” on Brexit this week. And Tory ministerMark Field, formerly a vocal supporter of Theresa May’s deal, has said he would be “happy” to revoke Article 50 entirely if it meant avoiding “utter paralysis” over Brexit. Of course, if Field thinks Brexit will be a damaging and not what people voted for he should back a People’s Vote.
These shifts among key MPs will matter as Parliament attempts to take control of the Brexit process this week.
Meanwhile Labour’s shadow Brexit secretaryKeir Starmerhas suggested that his party could fight a snap general election with a manifesto pledge to put whatever Brexit solution emerges to a public vote. Starmer is well known to be on the more pro-European wing of his party, but the leadership has generally moved in his direction over recent months. The demonstration over the weekend will allow him to make an even stronger case that Brexit must be put back to the people.
The march has not caused an earthquake in itself – one event was never likely to be decisive amidst this Brexit mess. But it has caused tremors and cracks are appearing. Last weekend could prove to be the moment the Brexit edifice started to crumble and fall down. That’s thanks to all of you who took to the streets to show that the “will of the people” cannot belong to just one side. Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Brexit must now be put back to the people.