On 2 July 2016, 60,000 people took part in a March for Europe from Park Lane to Parliament Square.
There were probably 60,000 different reasons for being there. Mine was to share a message of togetherness, reconciliation and tolerance.
When I was asked to speak, I immediately wanted to invite my friend Huda Jawad to speak with me. Huda and her family escaped to the UK from Saddam's Iraq and hers is an important voice to hear.
In the event, there wasn't time for us both to say everything we wanted to say. I said a few words and handed my microphone to Huda.
Here we are:
P.S. If I'd more time to speak, this is what I would have said:
I'm proud to stand before you as one of the 79% from Lambeth, the most pro-Remain borough after Gibraltar. When I was asked to speak today, I could have spoken alone but wanted to speak with my friend Huda. We were in Brussels for a meeting in European Parliament on March 22, the day of the airport and tube bombs there. To get home that evening we had to get a taxi to Lille and catch the Eurostar from there. As we crossed passport control at the station, I was in the line behind Huda, very conscious of her scarf and anxious on her behalf. I vowed that I had her back and that if she was questioned by the border official, he'd have me to reckon with too. Luckily it all went smoothly and we got on the train and came back home to London.
I wanted to be here today because I believe that we must stand as allies with our friends and with our neighbours.
I urge you all to be an ally to your friends and neighbours.
And that's what I call on our leaders to do for the UK and for Europe.
It was 100 years ago yesterday since the Battle of the Somme began. My Welsh great-grandfather was awarded the Croix de Guerre for treating French soldiers wounded by German bombs. The EU was founded so nations would work together so war would never happen again. We unravel these hard fought for alliances at our peril.
But teamwork is difficult.
Teamwork is fragile.
I've heard people say the EU is a dying project. How can something forged in the ashes of the 2nd world war as a project of peace and reconciliation ever be a dying project?
What would my great grandfather and those sleeping their last sleep in France say to us if we abandon the most successful peace and reconciliation project the world has ever known?
This project needs to go on and whether the UK is in the EU or not we need to stand with our family - like I stand with Huda
I wanted to come here today to lend my voice to a cry of hope for Europe. Whatever happens with the politics of all this we've got to live together as a country, whichever way we voted, and as Europeans. I'm incredibly angry about where we are and with our politicians. In the 7 stages of grief I'm still in the angry stage but I don't want to talk about anger I want to talk about love. Love for our friends and neighbours. We can't control what goes on around us but we can choose how we respond.
Don't choose anger choose love.
If it’s your first time reading this newsletter, find out more here.
If you enjoy this newsletter and get something from reading it, tell your friends! 📣
If you like ChangeOut, you can buy me a coffee! ☕️
All past issues of the newsletter are here and available to all subscribers.
Subscribe to get them hand-delivered by me to you every week.
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.