Politics 17 December 2018 | 12:39

Theresa May has ruled out a People’s Vote, but I don’t buy it

17 December 2018 12:39

The last week has been a ridiculous time in UK politics. And given the chaos of the last two years, that’s saying something. We saw an unprecedented declaration of contempt in the Government, a Tory no-confidence ballot in Theresa May and the cancellation of the most significant parliamentary vote in whole the Brexit process. Then May got stuck in her car and had a tiff with Juncker. At one point, someone also nicked off with the House of Commons mace.

But one of the strangest moments came overnight, as the PM tried to hit out at the People’s Vote campaign. She ruled out a public vote, saying it would do ‘irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics’ – because our politics is in a great state right now. She insisted her deal is still the best option for the country, despite the fact it’s universally unpopular and would be rejected in Parliament – as she herself admitted – ‘by a significant margin’.

At For our Future’s Sake, we represent millions of young people across the country who are frustrated with the government’s failures. We’ve seen students and young people become more engaged in politics than they have been in years – writing to MPs, organising demonstrations and taking over Parliament. We’re angry about the Brexit shambles, the impact on our futures, and the political BS. So, when she rules out the idea that the public should be given the final say, forgive us if we don’t buy it.

Theresa May is the U-turn Prime Minister. She’s been in office less than 900 days and in that time,  she’s backtracked on the customs union, EU migrants’ rights, the dementia tax, pensions, winter fuel, the energy price cap, public sector pay, NI women’s abortions, free school lunches, calling a general election, the negotiation sequence, and the meaningful vote. At this point, her ruling out a People’s Vote is more of a guarantee that it will happen than anything else.

It’s clear that there’s no future for May’s deal and that none of the realities on offer compare to the expectations raised in 2016. There’s no agreement in Westminster and with fourteen weeks to go, not much time left either. But it’s also clear that there’s growing momentum across the country and in Whitehall for a People’s Vote.

This isn’t about politicians, or establishment grandees; this is about ordinary working people. It’s about the grassroots, youth-led movement that rallied 700,000 people to the streets of London in October; socialists and Tories, Leavers and Remainers, students and steelworkers. Voters in every Labour seat now want a public vote, including in some of the strongest 2016 Leave areas like Doncaster, Sunderland or Redcar.

I’m from Redcar and the people I know who voted against the status quo in 2016 are now hopelessly frustrated with Westminster’s failures. It’s not about wanting to keep things as they were; young people on Teesside are desperate for change. Many of them voted Leave for all kinds of reasons – the pressure of austerity, the collapse of the steel industry, youth unemployment double the national average. But today it’s clear that politicians chose to squabble and delay the process rather than stand up for us, and now no version of Brexit will make us better off.

In Whitehall, too, the whispers abound. Civil servants are preparing for it. The prime minister’s chief of staff and de facto deputy are rumoured to be considering it. The corridors of power are recognising that giving the people the final say is the only way out of the deadlock.

And to be honest, if any of the young people I represent had to pick who decides their futures, between Theresa May or the people in their communities, I know where my money is.

Luke Myer is a campaigner with For our Future’s Sake, a youth and student-led campaign for a People’s Vote.