Written by Annissa Warsame |
I go to Millbank tower, just next door to the Conservatives headquarters. The hard exterior of the tower gives little away but it is actually home to trove of political organisations. A stone’s throw away from Whitehall and the former home of Tony Blair’s 1997 election campaign, before they were priced out by the million pound per annum rent. This tower also houses ‘For our Future’s Sake’, abbreviated FFS, the young-people and student wing of the ‘People’s Vote’ movement.
FFS, a play on letters for the oath For Fuck’s Sake, was an idea conceived in a pub amongst friends. One night in February, wistful of their former days leading student unions and stumped at the state of current Brexit negotiations, the co-founders of the movement Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Richard Brooks and others got to discussing.
Both had been sabbatical officers at their respective student unions and Brooks even a NUS (National Union of Students) Vice President for Union Development, during the 2016 referendum. They were experienced enough with national student mobilisation and well versed with what it would take to run a campaign this large. After a few meetings with Open Britain and connected organisations, the ball started rolling. They registered as a limited company in March, “for ease” Brooks tells me, and so the campaign began.
“FFS is very simply a group called For our Future’s Sake. It’s led by a bunch of young people and students from across the UK and we’re campaigning for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal.”
According to Brooks, “FFS is very simply a group called For our Future’s Sake. it’s led by a bunch of young people and students from across the UK and we’re campaigning for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal.”
“From my perspective, a ‘People’s Vote’ is giving the people of the United Kingdom, all 65 million of them, as opposed to 650 MPs in Parliament, the opportunity to have a voice, essentially, on whatever the final Brexit deal looks like.”
When I ask what a ‘People’s Vote’ shall look like Brooks stresses it isn’t “a second referendum really simply because I think it’s an entirely different proposition to 2016. What we think it is, is a really clear vote and in my head, they’d be two options:
“One would be whatever the deal is that Theresa May and Jacob Rees-Mogg- if we’re being honest- manage to cobble together by the end of 2018, versus all of the benefits that we currently enjoy as a member of the European Union.
“So, I think it’s a really different proposition because, those are the two realities there versus what we had last time which was a reality versus, in reality, a fantasy.”
When I meet Chetwynd-Cowieson, our former FXU Student Experience, she has just been, at 25, elected Chair of the British Youth Council, the biggest youth organisation in the country.
From her days as a President at FXU to Middlesex University and now FFS, she explains how “it’s been a bit of a mad journey”. Just last year, she was working on widening the profile of student-parents on Middlesex’s campus and encouraging them run for sabbatical positions. But to Chetwynd-Cowieson, her latest venture is, “the right thing to do and the democratic thing to do, to have a ‘People’s Vote’.”
“The majority of young people don’t want Brexit, yet our politicians ignore us and pursue it anyway.”
I also ask, what she imagines the ‘People’s Vote’ to look like, she responds: “Once you’ve gotten over that hurdle [of obtaining a ‘People’s Vote’], then you can start to be like ‘What does that look like?’”
“But like realistically we’re not going to be the people who write the question. We can lobby MPs, on what like our group say they think is the right question to be asked.”
“But like realistically we’re not going to be the people who write the question. We can lobby MPs, on what like our group say they think is the right question to be asked. But it’s parliament who would come but with whatever the question looks like.”
“So, our personal preference is that you would have an option to remain and reform but it’s one of those things we’re going to have see how it goes. And do some quick thinking and work on it.”
“…there is still so much work to be done, to get that final say in the first place.”
“Over the summer, we’ve not wanted to get complacent about thinking ‘Oh we’ve got a ‘People’s Vote’, so now let’s concentrate on the nuance.’ ”
“We’re still very much in the mind frame that there is still so much work to be done, to get that final say in the first place.”
Adding to this, Brooks concludes:
“I’m under no illusions that FFS is going to change the world. But I can’t pretend like it’s not a really good feeling to know that we are, in our ways- and me in my own way- are trying to make a positive difference in the world.”