It quickly becomes apparent why there is even more friction than normal between the rival groups of protesters. A few yards away, a woman with a tricycle that has a union jack strapped to its handlebars is wearing a shirt which says “WTO Rules”. She is strikingly calm, given what she says happened to her two days before. “A man came up to me and called me a Nazi scumbag,” she says. “He grabbed me from behind and then dragged me down to the ground. Then he started to beat me with my own flag and tried to break my windpipe.” The police, she says, have told her it was caught on CCTV and that they are investigating.
She decided to come back two days later, bearing scars and having seen her doctor, because she feels strongly that Brexit is being betrayed. Behind her are banners held by other Leavers. “Leave Now. I’m thinking what Guy Fawkes thought,” one sign says.
No one outside the Palace of Westminster believes their side is winning the Brexit battle. Everyone feels they are the losers. But one matter they do agree on is that the politicians have let them down.
Last week’s events in the Commons illustrated the depth of the crisis. Three days of hugely important votes did not chart a clearer way forward. They merely confirmed what MPs did not want – and that in all probability Brexit will have to be delayed. Labour seemed indecisive at times, and to be offering just more of the same. Chaos inside the Westminster bubble fed the public’s anger and despair outside.