People Are Counting Out Change UK Already – But We Aren't Going Away Any Time Soon

The East Midlands voted Leave by a clear majority in 2016, but everwhere we go we receive with a warm welcome, and the majority of people were very supportive towards our party and the idea of a People’s Vote.
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Like you, I am fed up of the Punch and Judy politics happening in Westminster. Four weeks ago I was sitting in a pub having a pint when a friend said to me: “have you heard Change UK were looking for MEP candidates? I think you will be perfect!”

I went home and looked at their website and read all their values and aims. I clicked yes to all of them. It was the first time that ever happened to me looking at a political party’s website.

As a nurse I have a duty of care; I couldn’t sit down and watch how the country I loved and have given me so much committed and act of self-harm. I sent in my application.

That was the start of an incredible journey. I was called to London to a committee, and three days after I went to Bristol to launch the campaign.

Since then I have been here, there and everywhere across East Midlands and beyond. I have spent most evening and weekends on the road, canvassing, debating, being followed by TV crews and talking to people.

In 2016, the East Midlands voted Leave by a clear majority but I was pleasantly surprised that in every town and city I have been received with a warm welcome, and the majority of people were very supportive towards our party and the idea of a People’s Vote.

I have experienced high and lows, though; the campaign trail has been mentally and physically hard. I was expecting a backlash from the Brexiteers – but I wasn’t ready for the harsh words from the Labour and Lib Dem supporters. Are we not supposed to be on the same side? Apparently, if you are a nurse and you love the NHS you can only vote Labour. Well, being a nurse and basing my practice in evidenced science, all the evidence shows that any kind of Brexit (red, white or blue) will have a serious negative impact into our beloved health service. I would say if you love your NHS you cannot vote for a party that is trying to facilitate Brexit, and bailing out the Conservative Party. In fact, that is the main reason I left the Labour Party in the first place.

The Lib Dems are proclaiming that they are really the only option to stop Brexit. My question to them is: where have you been the past three years? Their party seems to want erase history deny any role in the coalition. But the truth is the Lib Dems bear a huge responsibility for Brexit – they led the way in calling for and in/out referendum, playing both sides. They put Cameron in power. The effects of austerity they oversaw is largely why the referendum was lost. And that’s not even to mention among their 12 MPs, one is a Brexiteer!

We might not be topping the polls and a lot of people are trying to count us out already, but let me tell you something: we are going nowhere. Considering our journey only started a month ago, I think it’s a remarkable one.

We should take the polls with a pinch of salt. Remember 2016? All polls suggested that Remain was a done deal! Only this week have shown in the Australian election how wrong the polls can be.

Let’s not forget that I am not a politician and that I am still doing my full time job as a Nurse. It has been hard being 24/7 on the public eye.

I take all the insults and abuse as a compliment. It means that we have rattled the other parties’ status quo and they see us as a real threat.

I believe in people and everywhere we go, we have found hundreds of them coming to talk to us, to tell us that they have changed their mind. I am overwhelmed how fast we are growing, with support groups and volunteers are popping up all across England on a daily basis.

This was my first political campaign and I have learned a lot, but this is just the beginning. We are creating a movement. Four weeks ago we didn’t exist and now we have over 100,000 supporters. Change won’t happen overnight, but I am certain I am not alone walking towards change.

The first step toward that is voting for Change UK in the European elections on Thursday.

Joan Laplana is a Spanish nurse working in the NHS, and a Change UK MEP candidate for the East Midlands

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