‘I‘ve been up and down the country talking to young people in universities and youth groups. One message has come over countless times: ‘We don’t want to be stuck on a small island with Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg’.
The quote above is from Lord Adonis, who, alongside Jessie Venegas, Liberal Democrat prospective Parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith and Fulham, and Green MEP Scott Ainslie shared a platform for a panel discussion on ‘London in Europe’, hosted by the European Movement in Wandsworth & Merton.
The event was held in the main hall of King's College School, Wimbledon on October 7th. Over 70 local people came out on a rainy, chilly evening to listen to and ask questions of the panel. Each of the panellists set out their views on the latest developments with Brexit and responded to the recent statement by Priti Patel the Home Secretary that she needed no lectures from the ‘north London liberal elite’.
Very sensibly, the panellists were quick to note that no one in the hall could have any link to this newly created tribe as they were all residents of south London. Equally sensibly, the panel forbore to point out that this Home Secretary was born in north London and had recently been paid £1000 per hour to advise a US company bidding for a defence contract, so although she is definitely no liberal, she could surely be categorised as a member of an elite – perhaps the north London right wing group?
On a more serious note, it was acknowledged that there had to be more of an effort to engage with other parts of the UK, which prompted Lord Adonis’ comment above. He has indeed been travelling across the country to attend meetings of local groups to find out their views on Brexit.
Jessie Venegas highlighted the ludicrous aspect of the Government’s advertising campaign entitled ‘Get Ready for Brexit’, pointing out that it did not give any practical advice. Scott Ainslie gave a very positive account of how all the British MEPs who were not members of the Brexit Party had created a successful cross-party alliance which outnumbered Nigel Farage’s bunch.
The overall mood was one of quiet determination and the audience posed questions on a variety of related issues. The final question was about how optimistic the panel felt about securing a People’s Vote and what Boris Johnson’s chances might be in a General Election. Lord Adonis pointed out that as soon as Johnson has to extend Article 50 beyond October 31st, he will have Farage on his back, which will weaken the Tory Party’s position significantly.
To answer one of my personal concerns, I had a brief chat with Scott Ainslie in the margins during the post discussion drinks. I asked him how aware MEPs across the European Parliament are of the strength of anti-Brexit feeling in the UK, bearing in mind the pro Brexit slant of the mainstream media. I came away reassured; our message has got across, and I am sure that the big People’s Vote march on October 19th will only serve to reinforce this.
After a glass or two we all went home feeling much more positive, and sure that it was not just as a result of the wine.