There was a lot of rumours and discussion circulating around social media in the last days about an internal dispute between the organisers of the UniteforEurope march on Saturday 25th March. The central focus of the argument seemed to be over whether the Theresa May carnival float would be present at the event.
I don’t know the whole story behind the conflict, and likewise, I found the majority of the posts and comments that were emerging in all the Remain campaign groups to be unhelpful, speculative hearsay and fundamentally damaging to the Remain campaign. Regardless of the ins and outs of this internal dispute; as a collective group of campaigners it made us appear foolish and disorganised in the eyes of the opposition and the media. What is worse, the argument caused many people to consider boycotting the event altogether and left many others feeling disheartened and frustrated. It became the exact contradiction of the unity that we were striving to achieve, making the “UniteforEurope” name seem tragically ironic.
The whole problem with the Remain campaign and why it has been seemingly doomed from the start is because of the endless internal fighting, petty squabbles and destructive pedantry of many individuals. I have tried to be a force of positivity and optimism, creating artwork and music to cheer people up and spur them on, but I must admit that as we progress closer and closer to the triggering of article 50, my enthusiasm is wearing pretty thin. I have been subjected to extensive abuse from the Leave side, and that I can accept; we are trying to challenge each other’s differing views so conflict is inevitable. What I cannot bear to stand is the bickering and unkindness and cruel comments and lack of support I have witnessed within our own side. The Remain campaign is a fractious affair with so many individual groups, organisations and projects that have entirely failed to unite even though we are striving to achieve a common cause. I have sat through too many endless meetings which involved a group of people arguing over minute details and entirely failing to achieve any real impact on the ground. Politics absolutely has to be about compromise, the Leave campaign’s success is concrete evidence of this. I am still baffled at the notion that super-Left-Wing socialist Lexiteers who think the EU is a bureaucratic super-state can agree with the ultra-right-wing xenophobic kippers when it comes to the Brexit vote, yet we can’t manage to pull ourselves together for the Remain cause. It is essential that we put aside our differences, get over our egos and agree on one key issue: We want to Remain in the EU.
The organisation of the UniteforEurope march was a complete shambles and left many people feeling bitter, upset and anxious. Despite this, there was an amazing turnout at the event and a fantastic show of solidarity from the Remainers. It was once again wonderful to see so many passionate, committed and kind-hearted people come together with some fantastically creative placards and costumes to participate in a peaceful protest. I for one was very glad not to see the carnival float at the parade, not because I don’t enjoy the satirical artwork, but because it has become a symbol of contention and dispute. I also feel that the metaphor was highly inappropriate given the terror attacks just a few days earlier, which as I understand, is the reason the float was not present at the march despite an additional crowdfunding being raised to get it there.
We must learn from our mistakes. It is imperative to hold in our minds that these protest events are about us, “the People” rising up against Brexit, coming together in unity to make out voices heard. This march wasn’t about a carnival float and it wasn’t about the internal conflict between the people who organised the event and we should not be indulging their egotistical battle for power by taking sides and fuel to the fire. This march was about every individual person who made the effort to come or those who weren’t able to but who supported us in spirit and through social media – every single human contribution counts. It was also so rewarding to see so many people using my illustrations on their banners and placards, one even appeared on BBC News footage and I sat in the pub shrieking like a mad woman. It was genuinely so rewarding to know my artwork is being put to good use.
Nevertheless, I will admit over the past few weeks I have become increasingly distressed by the developments in the Remain campaign as well as the personal attacks I have received, and I very nearly didn’t come to the march. I sat on the train in a state of utter anxiety, and the only thing that stopped me jumping off and returning home was the thought of seeing all the wonderful people I have connected with through campaigning and thanking them all for their efforts. In the end we managed to come together in solidarity for our cause and it proved that we didn’t need a carnival float there in order to unite. A march is only a march because of the people who are prepared to put their feet forwards and I am so glad that we did.