People’s Vote campaigning in Epsom

February 14, 2019 1:04 PM
By John Vincent

European flag flying

A good way of judging what's perception and what's reality to stand on a street corner campaigning for what you believe in. This Saturday morning, with a cold wind blowing but sunshine in the sky a group of us stood in the centre of the Surrey town of Epsom. It's a well to do town with levels of prosperity that parts of England would love to share. Being connected to London there are major service industries that ensure Epsom flourishes. Its not just Derby Day.

The Brexit deal on the table provides no clarity or certainty about the future. The signs are that Brexit will become a never-ending nightmare if we go through with it. However, it's both evidence and emotion that shape our view of the world and no more so than with Brexit.

Regardless of political views, in a public place there are people who engage and there are those that don't. On a British High Street in winter, most are busying themselves about their business and are not keen to dwell. It's more often that those with stronger views are the ones who take the time to engage in conversation. My approach is to try not to impede anyone but to make it clear that I'd like to talk. It's easier with a leaflet in hand and a simple introduction. So, I start: "we're campaign for a People's Vote - Would you like a leaflet"? Then it's a question of quickly gauging any response. As a flavour of the comebacks that I got here are a few sentences on what happened.

Those who welcomed our campaigning efforts were more than happy to express a view. A positive warmth and support came to the fore without prompting. Frequently, there was an astonishment that the Country had got itself into such a ridiculous situation. Everyone has a story to tell about how Brexit is affecting their lives. Younger people were concerned that opportunities previous generations had will be cut off.

I got a warm answer from a French woman, but as she whispered - I don't have a vote.

One middle-aged man seemed sullenly pragmatic about the affair. His expectations were so low that he anticipated nothing better than an unholy mess. He was grateful to see us campaigning, but he held out little hope that it would make any difference. It's a pessimism and sad resignation that more than a few must feel.

One guy suggested that I go back to Germany if I liked the Europe so much. When faced with this, politeness is the only way to be. There's little I can say in that moment to transform his outlook. Little Englanders are not new.

I got a couple that told me they were bored with the whole subject. They had gone past caring what happens next. It's like it's not my problem and another version of the sad resignation I mentioned earlier.

Believe me, I am not being biased when I say this, but the angrier people are Leave supporters. It's like they have an inner rage. One or two will swear without any provocation whatsoever other than just seeing a European symbol. All you hear is negative slogans right out of the Daily Mail.

Overall, the hours we spent were productive and I'm sure we offered a hope for those with a positive assessment of our role in Europe. The indication was masses of dots on our chart calling for a People's Vote. Concluding, it's clear that the last couple of years have not healed the wounds of the referendum. Opinion on the streets is just as divided as it was when I was campaigning in early 2016. No wonder Parliament is divided when the Country is divided. It's only by going back to the people that there will be any resolution to this impasse.