Today over 100,000 people are expected to march through London’s streets in the biggest collective call for democracy for a generation.
We are demanding a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit because democracy didn’t end on 23 June 2016. The referendum two years ago wasn’t the end of the story – it has to be the beginning of something new.
Those of us campaigning for the people to have a say over our collective future must make clear our vision for the greatest social transformation this country has seen in years.
We know that Brexit would make our poorest communities poorer still.
That it would make the powerless even less able to effect change.
The People’s Vote campaign must take this opportunity to transform the way things are – not to defend the status quo.
The fact is we can’t carry on as we are. Our economy is failing far too many – forcing parents to use foodbanks to feed their children, demonising migrants and condemning all of us to climate breakdown.
Successive governments have neglected remote parts of Britain and former industrial areas, where it’s harder to get a good education, to get a good job – or even to get around, thanks to inadequate transport links.
The UK today is host to grotesque levels of inequality. It should come as no surprise that the 30 regions identified as the worst “coldspots” for social mobility – from Weymouth to Carlisle – all voted to leave the EU. With seven of the poorest 10 regions in northern Europe in the UK, we should have predicted the resulting substantial majorities for Brexit in those areas.
For too many people in our country, life is unstable, unfulfilling and unfair after decades of de-industrialisation, followed by a financial crisis and an ideological assault on public services. When the likes of Vote Leave offered them an opportunity to “take back control”, it’s no wonder so many jumped at the chance.
Yet those ‘bad boys of Brexit’ are using the current chaos to accelerate the very ideology that got us into this mess. They support policies that would make us more like the United States where, without the safety net of social security benefits, falling ill or being made redundant can quickly lead to homelessness.
British voters were right to demand radical change – and with bold ideas we can reprogramme our economy so it is designed to make everyone’s lives better.
Those of us campaigning for a People’s Vote and urging the public to back remaining in the EU must not only expose the danger in the Brexiteers’ ideology but crucially offer a better and more attractive alternative.
We need to knock on doors and listen to our friends, our neighbours and – most importantly – people we don’t yet know. And we need to address their very real concerns with a new social contract to end inequality and put in place far-reaching constitutional reform to genuinely give power back to the people.
That means championing a massive investment in public services, together with policies to make the minimum wage a real living wage, to ensure the highest paid receive no more than 10 times the salary of those at the bottom of company pay scales, and ultimately working towards a universal basic income that would guarantee economic security for everyone.
It means ensuring the tax dividend the Treasury enjoys as a result of migration is channeled into those area where most migration happens, to be invested in projects chosen by the local community.
And it means establishing a constitutional convention to allow the people to redesign our democracy. They could bring more powers back to the regions, replace our archaic House of Lords with an elected second chamber – perhaps based in the North as a symbol of the dispersal of power – and swap our rotten first past the post electoral system, in which the majority of votes cast simply don’t count, for a proportional system.
There is no ‘moderate’ solution to these deep-rooted problems. There is no centre ground in opposing the brutality of an economy that dashes people’s hopes and condemns them to poverty and exclusion.
We must make – and keep – a promise that ours is a politics of change, of something better. Ours is a politics of hope.
Caroline Lucas is the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion