Great news: a Unity rally has just been called in Trafalgar Square for 6pm on Monday. It’s for those who love Britain and don’t want to see it snapped in two. It’s all very last minute, but even if there is a happy few of us it can make a difference.
What’s the point of holding a rally in London? It’s true that no one there will have a vote, but this is for those who still love this county and can’t bear to sit back and watch it fall apart. Those who want to do something, no matter how small. The rally should enforce a point : that the UK is an extraordinary union of peoples, and that those outside Scotland do hope they’ll vote to stay. Alex Salmond talks about the referendum as ‘Team Scotland against Team Westminster’ – as if Scots are pressing the ‘eject’ button on a reviled political elite. We need to tell a different story: about an alliance of countries which, acting as the United Kingdom, has been the greatest force for good that the world has ever known.
Those thinking about coming on Monday need know four things…
1) Don’t expect slick organisation: this is a DIY rally. There is no political party, or millionaire backer, behind this. Yes, 6pm on Monday is not at an ideal time, even for Londoners. Yes, two days is hopelessly short notice. But then again, there are only six days left to save the country. Permission to hold the rally was sought by the historians Dan Snow and Tom Holland, who are running www.letsstaytogether.org.uk and the associated petition. They asked for permission to hold a rally in Trafalgar Sq at 6pm, and were granted it a few hours ago.
2) Bring flags, if you can find some. Saltires, Union Flags, rubber daffodils, red dragons, English roses: this is a celebration of our strength through the diversity.
3) Take it upon yourself to spread the word. This may be the time to send an annoying email to everyone on your contact list. Post it on your Facebook page, if you have one: say you’re coming along, and would like to meet up with any friends who can also make it. Word-of-mouth is the only way this rally will work: there is no budget. Use one of two Twitter hashtags: #unity2014 or #LetsStayTogetherGetTogether.
4) Lobby three friends. If you know two or three people who could bunk off work a bit early – perhaps their bosses will understand that the UK is a few days away from dissolution – then cajole them. Hell, bring them along to the Spectator for a cuppa if that’s any incentive.
Now, the Spectator’s office is just ten minutes away, so I’m thinking of inviting some subscribers around for a cup of tea in our garden at 4.30pm and we can walk over later. I’m trying to gauge interest in this – if any subscribers would like to come, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to with ‘Unity’ in the subject heading, and say that you’d like to come along and whether you’d bring anyone – friends, family etc. And check for updates to this blog.
Eddie Izzard will be there, but don’t let that put you off. This is not about celebrities: it’s about ordinary Britons, the type who wrote so eloquently in this week’s Spectator about their love for the UK and why they think it’s worth keeping. Bring flags, bring your friends, lobby your friends to turn up – if you don’t have a vote, and you care about the survival of your country, this may be the only thing you can do.
It was a week before the 1995 Quebec vote where the now-famous Montreal rally (video, above) started to be organized. A lot of Canadians said it was one of the most moving moments of their lives as citizens. We Brits tend not to do this very much, but that’s the problem. Failure to say how much we value this country, and cherish its diversity, has allowed Alex Salmond to tell Scots that – in effect- the rest of the UK doesn’t care about them.
Leah Maclaren was 18 years old in that 1995 Quebec referendum and living in Montreal – the first vote she ever cast. She discusses it in this week’s Spectator podcast (below).
The View from 22 podcast
This won’t be anything like the same scale as Montreal (where Air Canada offered cut-price ‘unity’ tickets for people to join in), and then a few Quebecois resented the mass descending on Montreal. The Trafalgar Sq rally won’t be any intrusion. And it conveys the same sentiment: English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Scots saying the unity of this country matters to them – and that they hope Scots will vote to keep it on Thursday.