On March 12 the Glasgow Guardian published a rather confused opinion piece by one of its News editors that criticised the Glasgow branch of Our Future, Our Choice. OFOC is a student-led organisation that is campaigning for a People’s Vote as a way to break the deadlock that has gripped British politics. Following its formation in January, the Glasgow branch has been highly active on campus by leafleting, organising talks and writing to MPs, so it is pleasing to see our efforts have been noticed.
On Monday the Glasgow campaign were active on library hill leafleting for the forthcoming "Put it to the People" march on the 23rd of this month. The mass protest, expected to attract at the very least half a million people, will take place in London next week and it is not an exaggeration that it could be an era-defining protest. It was our efforts in mobilising for a march in London, rather than say organising one locally in Glasgow, that attracted the ire of the author, who criticised the campaign for being London-centric.
Indeed London-centrism is a problem that has faced British political life for decades and it is in part one of the reasons for the Leave result in 2016. Yet, the author is mistaken to think that the OFOC campaign is somehow London-focused. Perhaps a bit of research into the Glasgow branch activity would not have gone amiss, which would have shown us engage with local politicians such as Paul Sweeney, Jo Swinson and Patrick Grady. Or even a quick look at the incredible work of the N.I. branch which met with Michel Barnier last week to emphasise just how important an open border is for maintaining the fragile peace in Northern Ireland.
The reason for the protest taking place in London is fairly simple to explain. Like everyone else, the People’s Vote campaign did not expect that six days before our scheduled departure, there would be absolutely no clarity as to whether we are staying or going. When it became increasingly apparent that March 29 would not be the exit day, the People’s Vote campaign announced the march with only five weeks to mobilise for it. The campaign has had to make a decision based on what would make the maximum impact in a very short space of time.
Although considering logistics is often several steps too far for those who confine their political activism to writing in student newspapers, it makes perfect sense to have the march in one location. A mass protest with hundreds of thousands of people in the capital city outside parliament is highly symbolic. Indeed if you look at major protests in France, Egypt and Ukraine in recent years – what do they have in common? The epicentre is in the capital city.
What make the criticism all the more bizarre is the very fact that upon encountering local activists, he criticises our campaign as being London-centric. He argues "Brexit will affect us all and support for a second referendum does not exist solely within London". Well clearly not. If you are going to pick on a movement for being London-centric, perhaps it is not the best idea to pick one that is mobilising busloads of grassroots activists from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Stirling.
Another stick used to beat OFOC and the People’s Vote campaign is the fact that it costs £30 on the megabus from Glasgow to London. This is seemingly evidence of an elitist mindset. Interestingly the author seems to have forgotten that he has already mentioned we are offering places on a bus for £20 but let’s leave that to one side. The reason we are able to offer the bus so cheaply? Due to the generosity of local people who can’t make it, but want to make it easier for young people like ourselves to turn out in huge numbers. In fact, if anyone reading this cannot afford the £20, a generous individual has offered to cover the cost for those who are less well off, so feel free to get in touch.
What makes lofty opinion pieces such as these all the more frustrating is the fact that there is clearly a lot of common ground between the author and ourselves. Brexit is a "slow moving car crash" - agreed. It is an "act of self-sabotage" - agreed. I suspect that the real issue for the author is not OFOC itself, or the march in London, but a more deep-rooted dislike of the People’s Vote campaign and its leadership. Certainly, if they don’t fit his brand of armchair radicalism he should have a look at the work of groups like "Another Europe is Possible" or "Love Socialism Hate Brexit" that are doing excellent work providing alternative voices for a second vote. Perhaps he could even join them on the 23rd.