By Daniela Salvalaggio, 3rd year English
Disclaimer: the views expressed here are not representative of Epigram's opinions, which remains a neutral publication.
On Tuesday the 27th of November, Daniela Salvalaggio and a handful of other curious students from University of Bristol joined Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) for its first #ParliamentTakeover.
The Green Soc Co-President Amy Heley and I took a 6am bus that arrived at Victoria Coach Station at 9.15am. We headed to Victoria Tower Gardens to meet the others, I was encouraged by the sight of the hundred or so other young people present, all sharing the common goal of a People’s Vote and the eventual stoppage of Brexit. I envisioned us all storming into parliament and ripping off our jumpers to reveal our OFOC shirts underneath, in a veritably heroic manner.
The reality was much more democratic than dramatic. We had all exercised our rights to contact our MPs and try to arrange meetings with them. My own, Ruth Cadbury MP did not respond, but given that she is a Remainer, I was not overly concerned. Most of the meetings took place in the Central Lobby, which meant it was crowded with young people speaking with political legends such as Hilary Benn. Jacob Rees Mogg was also there, looking a little disconcerted as he bolted out of the Lobby, a near escape from OFOC’s spokesperson, Femi Oluwole. Each meeting started out the same way: would they be supporting the deal? If no, would they consider supporting a People’s Vote?
I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline Lucas, Amy’s MP and the Green Party Co-Leader, who we knew was going to vote down the deal and support a People’s Vote when the time came. Lucas also adamantly believes in the importance of young people heading the debate, as we are the ones to will have to deal with the consequences. Being a politician who I massively identify with I was thrilled to meet her, but I was aware that having easy conversations with similarly minded people was how we got in this pickle in the first place.
I was aware that having easy conversations with similarly minded people was how we got in this pickle in the first place.
Which is why it was such a wonderful coincidence that another Bristol student, Bethy McKeefry, is the constituent of Philip Davies MP of Shipley. To give some context, Philip was one of two conservative politicians to have blocked a law to ban upskirting in the UK in June of this year. All the UoB students were invited to attend.
Ten of us clambered into his office, which included the complete collection of Margaret Thatcher’s autobiographies and a small bust of her head. In fairness, also a Quran. Once we were settled, he told us that he did not support Theresa May’s deal, his reason being that it was not ‘hard’ enough. Davies claimed that the people voted for a hard Brexit and his interpretation of this was that we must leave both the customs union and the single market. We questioned if he thought that the majority of people still felt that way after witnessing the now very real Brexit fallout. He responded that none of the economic disasters predicted by Remainers had occurred, neglecting the small fact of a 12% drop in the value of the pound against the Euro since the Brexit vote. This back and forth became tiresome, each of us having our own pool of statistics to choose from, so eventually we said: Okay, so ‘no’ to the deal, then what?
It appears Davies’ allegiance to Theresa May is not that strong, but besides that, he said the option of a ‘no deal’ would not be the Armageddon that we (and the Bank of England) predicted. Following that, he claimed that a People’s Vote would be undemocratic. When we protested that the initial vote was arguably undemocratic due to the promises made to the public, he told us that 300 million to the NHS was still very feasible. We said that the leave vote had been abstract, without clear evidence of what was deliverable by the government and he accused us of calling the leave voters stupid and enhancing the divide. He insulted the academic sources we used to support our arguments and accused us of living in a bubble, even echoing that Brexit classic: ‘Britain has had enough of experts.’
'he told us that he did not support Theresa May’s deal, his reason being that it was not ‘hard’ enough...He insulted the academic sources we used to support our arguments and accused us of living in a bubble, even echoing that Brexit classic: ‘Britain has had enough of experts.’
Conversations about Brexit are tough because we are all guilty of associating with likeminded people, meaning clashes are likely when the two sides meet. Safe to say, we did not change each other’s minds but shook hands as we left nevertheless. Despite our frustrations, conversations like these are vital for facilitating proper debate and it was therefore an important encounter. Most importantly, by debating with these MPs we were exercising our democratic rights in the most direct way possible and it was a pertinent reminder that the fight isn’t over.
OFOC and Amy Heley did a fantastic job organising this trip, and there are more to come.
Featured Image: Twitter / @OFOCBrexit