The recent Jeremy Deller statue in Manchester that commemorates the Peterloo massacre, to me, looks like a stack of poker chips.
This seems apt because it suggests that the deaths it represents were the result of a government treating its populace like counters in a game- disposable tokens of lesser worth to those who sent the 15th Hussars into a crowd, sabres drawn.
The people who were there (exactly two hundred years ago today) had had the temerity to gather together to ask the government to reform the laws of parliamentary elections. At the time, Voting was restricted to the adult male owners of freehold land with an annual rental value of 40 shillings (£2) or more – the equivalent of about £142 in 2016 – and votes could only be cast at the county town of Lancaster, by a public spoken declaration at the hustings (Wikipedia).
The same inequality of power exists today.
We may all have the right to vote, but those we have the power to elect are still mostly cultivated in the same Petri dish of privilege and wealth as they always were. I recently heard an interview on the Guardian podcast site with Guy Shrubsol, author of the blog Who owns England? . This project lays bare the cold and mostly hidden truth that the vast majority of land ownership in this country remains absolutely in the hands of those who were gifted it by William the Conqueror a thousand years ago.
The jealous grasp of the elect continues to protect its own interests not only with regard to the huge expanse of England it owns and controls, but also furthers that wealth through blinkered, anti-democratic electioneering, lobbying and the spread of misinformation.
Boris Johnson- immoral, apeing glutton snuck at the top of the tree.
Brexit – gaping class divisions worsened & exploited through misinformation & mass media deception.
Continued use of fossil fuels and expanding interests of multi-national oil companies
The UK arms industry, which continues to excuse itself and spit rhetoric at international bodies that dare to criticise its “ethics”
[Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA]
In today’s news-
In fact, everywhere I look there are signs of increasing wealth division, social breakdown and a general apathy towards everything I place value in- liberal values (i.e. personal freedom), education, the environment, culture etc.
This isn’t to deny the existence of movements seeking to arrest this decline.
Extinction Rebellion is clearly a galvanising force for a sector of our society, but it would be daft to suggest that the broad swathe of England- the working class, the middle class, the upper class- feel actually personally invested in what the movement represents or how it operates.
This week, on Tuesday, I walked to the bus stop with the kids. On the hill below our house, a lone middle aged man in a suit floored his Range Rover and pointlessly accelerated past us at about 45 miles per hour in a 20 zone. My son had noticed that he had been held up by several, smaller cars and was seeking to outrun them by taking a different route. His impotent rage, his transparent, oversized, empty car, his obscene recklessness- this is England.