ROBERT HARDMAN says the thousands in Parliament Square seemed as weary of Brexit as the rest of us

Even among these well-shod, well-organised Remainer diehards, there was no concealing the signs of protest fatigue this weekend.

So if this lot are starting to tire of the Brexit debate, imagine how everyone else is feeling.

Saturday’s march in favour of a second Brexit referendum was certainly a big one — perhaps the biggest in the three-and-a-half year history of this festering political sore. Yet the positions are so entrenched on both sides that these gatherings have started to develop a zombie feel, rather like those demented lonely bellowers who stand there morning, noon and night howling inanely at the Westminster television platforms.

Aerial view of the anti-Brexit protest in Parliament Square, London, on Saturday, after it was announced that the Letwin amendment had been accepted

Even as the cliff-edge result of the ‘Super Saturday’ vote was announced — a thumping great victory for those of a Remainerish bent — the response was weary delight rather than euphoria. They were clapping and cheering, of course. But I didn’t see any cartwheels. There was much more cork-popping mayhem right across the country earlier in the day as England stormed through to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

You only needed to look at the banners as the marchers weaved their way through the capital. The jokes and slogans were as tired as the Westminster street cleaners who, having just finished mopping up after a fortnight’s lie-in by the Extinction Rebellion brigade, must now dispose of thousands of discarded Remain banners.

One of the most prominent was a giant replica of a Camembert with the slogan ‘Fromage — Not Farage’. That was funny in those shell-shocked days after the 2016 referendum. Come autumn 2019, it was not merely past its sell-by date but starting to pong.

Carnival float depicting the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings with a giant hand up the rear of a puppet-sized Boris Johnson, the work of Dusseldorf-based artist, Jacques Tilly. Mr Tilly had slapped the words ‘Demonic Cummings’ on his monster and given him a Nazi-style uniform

Carnival float depicting the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings with a giant hand up the rear of a puppet-sized Boris Johnson, the work of Dusseldorf-based artist, Jacques Tilly. Mr Tilly had slapped the words ‘Demonic Cummings’ on his monster and given him a Nazi-style uniform

There were umpteen posters, too, on a tired ‘Eton Mess’ theme and a lot of earnest messages like: ‘Fixing Britain’s Broken Politics.’

Best-in-show was a carnival float depicting the PM’s adviser Dominic Cummings with a giant hand up the rear of a puppet-sized Boris Johnson. It was the work of Dusseldorf-based artist, Jacques Tilly. Mr Tilly had slapped the words ‘Demonic Cummings’ on his monster and given him a Nazi-style uniform for good measure. Perhaps he didn’t get the memo that it is only the nasty Tories and Brexiteers who do cheap abuse.

At least Mr Tilly had made some effort. Many protesters gave up on any attempt at wit or wisdom and simply scrawled the F-word next to a photo of Boris Johnson.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a Brexit debate inside the House of Commons on Saturday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a Brexit debate inside the House of Commons on Saturday 

The vast majority, it must be said, were friendly and polite, even when two dozen kamikaze Brexit Party ultras attempted a counter-march against the flow.

The most striking thing of all, however, was the make-up of this crowd. ‘People’s Vote! People’s Vote!’ chanted an overwhelmingly white, middle-to-late-middle-aged, middle-class chorus who, it must be said, could no more claim to be a cross-section of the British people than a Surrey golf club hog roast. There must have been tumbleweed blowing through many a Home Counties Waitrose on Saturday afternoon.

The organisers had made much of the fact that this was a national march involving buses from all corners of the kingdom.

Most, however, had not come far. When Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah bounced on to the Parliament Square stage, shouting ‘Ok! Who is here from the North East?’, there came forth an uncomfortable silence.

Back in March, the Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow got into trouble while covering the last big pro-Brexit march. He told viewers: ‘I have never seen so many white people in one place’ (Channel 4 later apologised).

Well, I also covered that event and I can honestly say I saw no more minority faces on this occasion. And this was a bigger event, too.

I am not being glib. Just to be on the safe side, given the toxicity of this debate, I took a series of 360-degree photos around me in Parliament Square and filmed the crowd shots on the jumbo screen. I went back through them all afterwards. What was even more apparent than the complexion of this crowd was the average age. It is received wisdom that the Brexit vote was all down to grumpy old white folks, whereas Remain is the preserve of the young, angrily mourning their ‘stolen youth’ (we heard a lot about ‘stolen youth’ all weekend).

A pro-Brexit supporter argues with pro-Remainer outside the House of Commons on Saturday

A pro-Brexit supporter argues with pro-Remainer outside the House of Commons on Saturday 

There were plenty of students and children in the mix, of course, with several served up for the benefit of the TV cameras. But they were easily outnumbered by grey heads old enough to remember the days when Britain actually voted to stay in the Common Market.

I encountered a particularly high quota of retired teachers — and would wager that one of their ilk (probably from the geography department) was behind the thigh-slapping banner which stated: ‘Enough of Woolly promises and Mammoth Lies.’

At 86, Lord Heseltine was by no means out of place as he produced one of the more eloquent speeches (there were some utter clunkers).

Brexit, he warned, was a ‘creeping paralysis’ while ‘the very existence of our United Kingdom now hangs by a thread’.

He received some of the loudest cheers of the day.

There were also rock star welcomes for Tory arch-rebel Dominic Grieve, Labour’s Hilary Benn and a quartet of Lib Dems led by party leader Jo Swinson. ‘They look like a wee band!’ chirped the compere. There was certainly a touch of the Eurovisions about culture spokeswoman Layla Moran’s orange mac.

It was, by now, tipping it down. The celeb contingent on stage consisted of Star Trek’s Sir Patrick Stewart and Bake Off’s Sandi Toksvig — who likened Boris Johnson to a dodgy used car salesman — while Sir Bob Geldof and John le Carre mingled in the crowd. Ex-Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell — billed rather flatteringly as someone ‘who brought peace’ to Northern Ireland — introduced a video message from two former PMs, Sir John Major and Tony Blair.

The former warned of the impending break-up of the UK. The latter was adamant that the British will flock back to the EU fold come another referendum.

For all their sincere determination to quash one ‘People’s Vote’ with another, at no point in the entire afternoon did I hear anyone among the hundreds of thousands on parade address the obvious but awkward question: ‘What if the EU don’t want us back?’

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