Sunday, 2 October 2011

Peterloo and public school politicians

Along with about thirty thousand other people, I was in Manchester city centre this afternoon for the TUC demo outside the Tory party conference.

The conference is taking place at the Manchester Central Convention Centre (Manchester Central railway station until 1969), close to the site of Peter's Fields where in 1819 fifteen people demanding parliamentary reform were cut down by the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry in what is now known as the Peterloo Massacre.

A lot has changed since 1819.  Working-class men and women got the vote in 1918. In 1819, the Tory Prime Minister was the Charterhouse and Oxford educated Lord Liverpool; now it's an old Etonian...

There have been only been three Prime Ministers not educated at a public school or Oxbridge, two Labour (Brown and Callaghan) and one Tory (Major). When will we see the next one?

The photo shows the RMT rail union's Manchester branch banner depicting the Peterloo Massacre, ending with a quote from Shelley's 1819 poem The Mask of Anarchy:

"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few"


  1. Surely working-class men got the vote before 1918.

  2. Not all working-class men got the vote until 1918. Skilled workers got it in 1884 subject to property qualifications which weren't abolished until 1918. Before then, out of an adult population of 26 million, only 8 million men had the vote. Obviously none of the 13 million women had the vote and neither did 5 million working-class men who failed the property qualification.

    The proposal of the suffragettes before WWI to enfranchise women on the same basis as men would have given about a million women the vote rather than all women over 30 who got it in 1918. Men who had been conscientious objectors in the war were initially excluded from voting. And the system was still skewed against the working-class until business votes and university constituencies were abolished in 1948.


  3. hey matt, great site mate...
    i am writing while the medication still allows me..i love manchester so very much, i have done as long as i can remember,and i have managed to collect some really old history in books and such..(i bid and won a 'pamphlet for the people' from 1919 for the centenary of 'peterloo'ist edition')...what i was asking is in one book i was reading about the manchester ship canal and how 'london' would not give funding needed or not enough needed and so bridgewater offered some kind of share ,pay in scheme for the local people and was this the first of its kind? maybe i read it wrong..tzmREPUBLICofMANCUNIA