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I haven’t marched in almost 50 years – but for my grandchildren's future, I’ll fight for a Final Say on Brexit

Heather Welford
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I haven’t marched in almost 50 years – but for my grandchildren's future, I’ll fight for a Final Say on Brexit

I haven’t marched in almost 50 years – but for my grandchildren's future, I’ll fight for a Final Say on Brexit

It's been about 45 years since I last marched in protest. From 1969 to 1975, as a schoolgirl and then a student, I was at it all the time. Now, as a grandmother, I'm doing it again.

But this Saturday, I'm getting up at the oldie-unfriendly time of 4am, to catch a coach from Newcastle to London (a coach! These days I travel by train first class with my senior rail card). I've been spurred to do more than just write to my MP, shout at the telly and listen to the Remainiacs podcast.

I'm marching for a second referendum, a people's vote. To me, it's the only realistic means we have of breaking the ridiculous deadlock over the EU, and doing something positive for future generations. I look at my four little grandchildren, aged between one and five, and I'm sad they won't have the wonderful choices to live, travel, work and study in Europe that I, and my now adult children, had.

I see our country becoming isolated and isolationist. The small-mindedness of the Leave movement has been utterly depressing. The way many older people have stuck doggedly to a right-wing, populist notion of Britain's ability to thrive alone is baffling. I wonder if they, or their even more elderly parents, have noticed that the health and social care services they now rely on, depend on European workers.

The UK needs to play its part in tackling climate change, global and national inequalities, and the migrant crisis – all of which will affect our grandchildren more than us, and, if the planet survives, their grandchildren in turn. We'll be more effective facing these challenges as part of the European Union, than going it alone.

As for effectiveness, I'm under no illusion that the march is any guarantee of immediate change. My student experiences taught me that. We lefties occupied the university admin building a couple of times. I can remember seeing secretaries walking away from their offices, carrying their huge typewriters to set up elsewhere, followed by spotty hoards in loon pants (what nuisances we must have been, and we left the place filthy, too).

The NUS conference of 1975 was one long drunken weekend, alongside a networking opportunity for embryo politicos whose names I saw pop up as MPs and ministers in the 90s. None of it made much difference, which is probably why my political engagement faded as work, children and other responsibilities took over for the next several decades.

Yet now I feel the urge once more to act, in that grand old tradition of taking to the streets to protest. It's the principle of the thing – together with the slight, very slight, hope that a massive turnout will show the rest of the country, and the world, that we have to vote again.