Bring out the artillery! Persuasion is the weapon of choice for Remainers who still think they can stop Britain leaving the EU

 

Over one hundred thousand feet carrying over fifty thousand people came forth on Saturday. Why? Why were they standing tall on that sun-kissed July afternoon in Parliament Square when they could’ve been at home or elsewhere? They were there because they believed, believed that the United Kingdom made the wrong decision by voting to leave the EU. They stood there as one organism determined that it is possible to right that wrong before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is enacted and Britain begins its two-year process of leaving the EU for good.

Gathering at Park Lane at 11 a.m. they marched to Parliament, cheering and chanting as they held their signs, which not only praised the EU but also sent a message to MPs in the House of Commons that it is still not too late for them to change things. David Lammy, a pro-Remain MP for Tottenham and one of the keynote speakers in Parliament Square, appealed to the crowd and his fellow MPs that they are not obligated to agree with the result of last week’s referendum.

Alongside Lammy and among those who spoke were other influential speakers, including Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron and Bob Geldof, both of whom emphasised that the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union is not over yet, that there is still much fighting to be done.

The main message was clear then: ‘It is not over’. Yet an adjacent and equally important message that was directed to all those who will participate in campaigning over the next months and years was: ‘Do not force the opinion either’. A large part of fighting for Britain to remain in the European Union is persuading those who voted against staying in the EU. Over the past week and even before the referendum, those who wanted to vote Leave were stereotyped as racists, fascists and bigots. This is incorrect. the majority of those who voted to leave the EU had genuinely solid reasons; they were worried not just about migration but their own financial security, which is completely understandable. The way to persuade this sector of society is not to hammer the message in but to ask, listen, and then explain your own position in a considerate manner, hoping that it changes their mind. If it does, then you and the your companion in the conversation have moved one step closer to a more united Britain. If it doesn’t, then they are perfectly entitled to their opinion and the issue should no longer be forced on them. With hate crimes rising 57 per cent in the last week alone, it is essential that civility be maintained. From the pages of history comes a phrase that sums up the strategy which must now be taken.

When Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, a French General and colonial administrator, coined the phrase ‘winning the hearts and minds of the people’ it was used in the context of a rebellion in China. Today in 2016 amid our own political war, it comes to the fore again because in reality this wasn’t a referendum won or lost on the policies of the parties, but on the hearts and the minds of the people. On June 23rd thousands went to the ballot box not quite knowing which option to cross until the options were presented before them, the result was a choice based on what felt right at the time. This was a referendum based not just on numbers or policies but on emotions too.

It is with this in mind then that the Remain campaign must move forward. The hearts and minds of the fifty thousand in Parliament Square on that sunny July afternoon may have been decided, but it is still just a drop in the ocean. To be victorious, those who are fighting for Britain to stay must not only convince the MPs in the Commons but people across the United Kingdom, from Falmouth to the Orkneys, from Cardiff to Norwich.

The 23rd was certainly a defeat, but while that battle may have been lost the war has only just begun.