Would the Peterloo marchers be satisfied with today's Britain?
200 years ago, a crowd of people seeking political change became victims of a massacre. Are their issues now our issues?
They did not die in vain. Though Bamford did not live to see universal suffrage, which arrived in 1928, his bravery, and that of the other Peterloo protesters, laid the foundations for British democracy. The massacre also led to the launch of the Manchester Guardian – now the Guardian – after John Edward Taylor, a witness to the killing, watched in horror as the existing media colluded in an establishment cover-up which sought to blame the protesters for the bloodshed.
Modern-day Middleton is dominated by the inevitable big Tesco and a soulless shopping centre, built in the 1970s in what architects called “the American style”. The top floor now hosts the Lighthouse Project, a social enterprise that provides a safety net for the sort of people the local council used to help before its budget was cut by a quarter in the government’s austerity drive.
Two hundred years earlier, people were going hungry in Middleton after the government introduced the Corn Laws, which imposed tariffs on imported grain, turning bread into the preserve of the rich. “We should have moved on by now, shouldn’t we?” says Michelle Porteus, a Pantry volunteer.
Harpurhey is a friendly place of great deprivation: nine out of 10 households contain people who may need high or very high levels of support, according to the council. Yet despite this widespread dependency on the state, there is distrust of the politicians who run it.
Yet a new generation of young people are determined for their voices to be heard. Anita Okunde, 15, from Middleton, represents Rochdale at the UK youth parliament. She says she would walk all the way into Manchester to campaign for better mental health provision for young people, or to demand action on knife crime.
The ‘precariat’ lives on After their pints in Harpurhey, the Middleton marchers went through Collyhurst, now a big council estate soon to be “reimagined” by the council with help of the Far East Consortium, a Hong Kong-based development company.
The same was true in 1819 for Bamford and friends, according to Dr Janette Martin, curator of the Peterloo exhibition at the John Rylands library. “Early 19th-century handloom weavers and those employed in the cotton spinning mills were victims of periodic trade slumps, when large numbers would be thrown out of work, to be rehired weeks later as and when trade picked up and the manufacturers needed more workers. Remind you of the gig economy and the so-called precariat?”
“Have you got an eye for detail, do you want to add the finishing touch to something big? If you say Yes I Can! here at the Radisson Blu Hotel, were [sic] looking for ambitious people just like you!” gushed the job ad. There was a certain irony in that particular hotel advertising that sort of job at a time when Manchester is getting ready to mark the sacrifice working-class people made to fight for their rights. Just look at the red plaque outside: it is slap bang on the site of what was once St Peter’s Field, where the massacre took place.Read more: The Guardian
No They'd like our tellies and the internet. They wouldn't be satisfied with today's Guardian: trying it's best to prevent change. Nice article, helenpidd, but we'd love to have you back at the YLPLighthouse Pantry in Middleton to see the members' support for each other. Not competing for smoked salmon, but helping each other manage and keen to share food fairly. Sam Bamford would recognise the solidarity.
No because remainers want centralised goverments and grain mountains No. They’d ask why their democratic majority to leave the EU was being resisted by crappy people like Guardian journos and readers. Clip of that No, Bojo the clown and his team of village idiots are turning the clock back to when only rich posh men had a say in parliament.
Sadly, I think they would be shocked and disappointed at how little has really changed. Inequality is still rife, the north is still treated as the poor relation to the south, even though the south owes much of its wealth and success to the industry carried out in the north. That ABBA song just popped into my mind , Portaloo couldn’t escape if I wanted to . La la la la Portaloo .
Is this what they marched for?
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