Marching for the Peoples vote and Rene

Three years later, with 10 days to the Boris Brexit Deadline, we march. We march like Michael did this summer, to show our support to remain in Europe, or at least to have another and more informed vote: To remain: to look out (not in), to keep the peace, to join an influential trading block, to work, to ally ourselves to our tribe, to collaborate on long term projects, to keep the fragile unions of Ireland and Scotland, to keep the status quo and walk on – to be conservative! On this day, that Parliament meet within a stones throw of us, for the first time in 40 years not since the Falkland Island debarcle, the ‘meaningful vote /debate’ is shelved unexpectedly for at the last minute there is an amendment that must be voted on before the Boris Brexit Deal, The Letwin amendment. It has arisen due to lake of trust in Boris,  a way of trying to close a loophole. The fear was that MPs could support the deal on Saturday, meeting the requirements of the Benn act, but then the legislation implementing Brexit could fall, allowing a no-deal exit on 31 October. Indeed one of the many placards was Boris with a lying long nose. Not since the Falklands had Parliament met on a Saturday.

We march because it is all we feel we can do, as the shenanigans and drama unfolds next door to us in Parliament, on our television news, on radio waves and while the rest of the world gets on with developing. Michel (84) is the instigator – he had been on the previous Brexit march after all. With our resting chairs, dressed in matching Autumn colours of warm burnt rusts, we take the train up to London, (and here we hear of the sudden death of James Holloway, founder of the Cut, great man, lover of Shakespear and theatre, every Saturday running theatre for kids) down to Parliament Square.

We are amongst our tribe. The last time we’d exited this tube we found ourselves in a pro Brexit gathering, a very different feeling and atmosphere. Outside, a man, pitching well to his market was  selling Donald Trump loo rolls, announcing Donald Trump crap paper. Breakfast  in a cafe we remembered from before, via the to the television and reporter emcampment, before we settled ourselves on the grass with a fine view of the big screen, under which small ant forms of politicians spoke.

The first to speak was Patrick Stewart, like all the speakers he remarked on us coming here today: “You haven’t just filled a nice bar in north London, you have taken over an entire city. Before acknowledging the basis of us being here: There was “nothing democratic” about the 2016 referendum.”People weren’t just misled, they were lied to,” He spoke of the birth of the Peoples Vote movement in a pub in Campden 2 years ago, and look at it now. I million people. Patrick Stewart was there from the start, along with a cross bench selection of MPs Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry, Caroline Lucas, Jo Swinson, etc. George Soros is one of their benefactors and several pro-EU groups  moved into an office together in London’s Millbank tower in order to co-ordinate their campaign to retain strong links between Britain and the European Union.

He passed the batton to those most affected, the young people, two from National Students Union (fight for truth and social justice),  before a raft of friendly diverse politicians took to the stage. For me Caroline Lucus was the most impressive. They all said thank you, they all said we must get the peoles vote. But Caroline said more, she said what we wanted: to welcome those who were here from Europe, stay, we want and need you, to welcome free flow of us all over Europe, to enjoy free trade with our tribe, and above all to negotiate vital deals, like those affecting Climate change which cannot be done alone and must be done with powerful groups.

Sadiq Khan made some quip glad not to be like his precursor before talking about econonic self harm, and how he was proud to share the stage with Michael Hestletine.

Sandi Toksvig was hilarious and poignat basing her talk around Would you buy a used car from this man? We were being sold a used car, from the Nigel Garage, where the seat belts didn’t work, where the boot had not room, and the passenger side had no door.

Others came and went, Anna Soubry, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry : “This is a pivotal moment in our history and it shouldn’t be left to a handful of MPs. MP Antoinette Sandbach, who had the Conservative whip removed, credited the crowd with “changing her mind” on a second vote. “It’s undemocratic and not what people voted for, but it’s honourable that I put my job on the line to protect tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost in the north west from no-deal Brexit.” John McDonnell – a late convert to back a second referendum.

The most gravitas went to Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who came on just after the amendment had passed, and the square erupted in the light rain.  “It’s an historic moment, we have defeated Johnson again. We are not going to let him whip out with his sell-out deal.”

A giant flag unfurled across the whole square, as David Lammy talked. We have no idea what it said, as it was well over our heads. At one point it’s wave force took Michael off his feet and he fell back with grace onto soft grass, within seconds friends had come to help us.

Duncan Campell gave us the important back story to the importance of keeping the Good Friday agreement, with both Tony Blair and John Major sharing the view. Northern Ireland, not just an annoying inconvenience but

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine said that Brexit “is a creeping paralysis, where yesterday’s nostalgia distorts tomorrow’s opportunities.” He reminded us that this this vote is not just ‘getting it done’, that his will mean years of protracted negotiation. “Europe, our largest home market will embroil us in years of detailed negotiation. Every decision will now be decided by unanimous votes of the remaining 27. Trade deals take so long because they can be hijacked by small groups in any one of those parliaments or even local authorities, leaving us at the mercy of every European pressure group.

“They call it taking back control. They dream of Donald Trump as some newly discovered benefactor when it is clear that the only special relationship he knows is ‘America first’. Yes we will save our contributions. The price – our economy already poorer by amounts that dwarf any savings.”

I missed the talk of the story of remain. That these 3 years have not been wasted, but have politicised us, have opened eyes, etc.

We left to the television encampment, to see Laura Kuenssberg and Hugh Edwards prepare for their 6 slot, she in the pink coat we would see close up on our TV screens later.

Meeting Rene Saran with Michael

Dear Dieter
I finally met Rene.
As you know she worked closely with Tamsyn, through whom I first encountered Socratic Dialogue.

After attending the largest demonstration outside British Parliament demonstrating for a Peoples Vote (reminding me of the Socratic Dialogue Question, Under what circumstances is it right to disagree?), Michael and I made our way to Rene’s flat off the West End Lane, Hampstead. (We were drive up in an electric BMW!)

She has two careers, and one of them, the weekend one, opened the door for us. Rene was seated in her chair and gave immediate welcome and instruction as to where we should sit. Although she commented on how her memory fades, she showed little sign of this, was alert and poignant throughout our hour with her.

Having just re-read her collection of stories of her life, I asked her about her time working in Vega, London’s first vegetarian restaurant, run by a man called Walter Fliess. Somehow, my mother also knew him. (My mother, dead these 30 years, would have been Rene’s age). Yes, Rene remembered it well. Stafford Crippss, the Labour Minister, used to dine there and he and Walter would discuss politics together. When asked what Walter was like, I could feel her reluctance and finally said. Well he is dead. This is just for historical record. He was not easy and not everyone got on with him. I got on with him as I knew what I wanted.’

In a classic and probably annoying way, we asked her what was her most memorable Socratic Dialogue. One with Dieter she said, something about education.

‘It was the most beautiful summer, in past memories’, she said of the first summer in Denmark before coming to England. ‘We had a bicycle each. Three bicycles, Maria,  Mana and I, and we bicycled off to collect rose-hips to feed the children when they arrived. These were the first children coming out of Germany, and rose-hips were full of vitamins.’

K played quite an important role in establishing SD in England.

We rose to leave, and so did Rene, using her frame to stablise her. She looked down through her window. ‘Can you see the huge and beautiful Beech tree? Over there’, she said. ‘And beside is a great Chestnut, no not that one, this one,’  she guided my gaze. ‘I do not like to go out into the road any more. It is so noisy and dirty. But the garden, I get down to the garden in fine weather.’

At 98, she does not feel curtailed in her Hamstead flat. Her memories are rich. She has a contentment with her space and view. Her carers are caring, their photographs on her mantle piece.

Jackie, the weekend career, guides us out. As we walk to the station (‘It will take you 7 minutes’, said Rene), we marvel at Rene, her rich life and mind alert still.

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