I am always interested in dissenters and radicals and 16 August is the 195th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. In 1819 hundreds of people marched to St Peter’s Field in Manchester where tens of thousands gathered to hear Henry Hunt and others including Samuel Bamford talk about parliamentary reform. The protesters wanted the right to vote and the right to elect members to parliament who would help them gain social and economic equality. Eighteen people were killed and hundreds were injured when the cavalry charged through the crowd with their sabres. Last year Maxine Peake read ‘The Masque of Anarchy’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley, in a moving and atmospheric performance in a candlelit Albert Hall. I would recommend seeing it if you can. The poem was written as a response to the Peterloo massacre.
It is amazing to think of what little rights our ancestors had but people are still fighting for those basic rights today – decent jobs, decent pay and a decent standard of living. Companies seem to be making increasingly higher profits at our expense whilst workers have zero contract hours and their wages go down but every other cost rises. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority have recommended a pay rise for our MPs but the politicians say it is, ‘Inappropriate’, (Danny Alexander) or ‘Can’t be justified’, (Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg) yet they will all take it when it comes in, in 2015! There really isn’t much evidence of us all being in it together, more a case of the top 1%‘ are too privileged and rich to join you’ but they let us have the majority of the tax burden. Look back in history and it will all seem too familiar. This blog isn’t meant to reflect my own political views but sometimes it is hard to remain silent while there is still so much suffering and deprivation in the UK today. Although we have the vote, not much seems to have changed since 1819 and we are still trying to get social and economic equality. Perhaps the Education Secretary should make studying and reading the Masque of Anarchy compulsory in schools?