17 August 2019

Yesterday marked 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, when a mass protest for expanded suffrage and against the rotten boroughs was attacked by a cavalry charge. Chris Dillow wonders about the commemorations: “The protestors were demanding a wider suffrage. One would expect those Tories who sanctify the ‘will of the people’ to celebrate such demands. And we’d expect lovers of freedom to condemn those who killed the protestors: they were, after all, doing just what Stalin did later — murdering opponents of the regime. But this is not what we see. It is trades unions and leftists who are marking the day: Mike Leigh made a film of it. Tories, on the other hand, seem much quieter. Why? For one thing, many Tories have never really been on the side of freedom. … During much of the Cold War, Tories supported Pinochet, apartheid, Macarthyism, the forced labour that was national service and the criminalization of homosexuality. There were happy with repression, as long as it was they who were the repressors. … So perhaps there’s really no mystery after all about who’s commemorating Peterloo and who isn’t — because, 200 years on, many on the right haven’t changed much.”