Britain is in the grip of a general election and many people are still trying to decide which way to vote. However, a large section of the potential electorate probably won’t vote at all, probably due to disaffection with the process – and the resulting representation they receive. A friend of mine re-posted a piece today calling upon women, in particular, to remember how hard their enfranchisement was won.
This took me to recall a piece of writing I’d been thinking about for a while. It was to be a fictional eye-witness account of the day when the Peterloo massacre took place. For those who don’t know about this, it took place in August 1819 when 80,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Manchester (England) asking for two things: the vote and the introduction of import controls to protect cotton workers’ jobs. The authorities unleashed cavalry on the peaceful protest and 18 people were killed with around 700 seriously injured.
My interest in this event came about many years ago when I attended school events at the Manchester Free Trade Hall which, at the time, I understood to stand on the site of the massacre. What I didn’t know then was the hall had been built to celebrate the defeat of the protesters and the maintenance of free trade.
So today I re-started my research, only to come upon an actual eye-witness account of the event at http://www.peterloomassacre.org/eyewitness.html. Having read it, I decided I couldn’t write it any better.
Anyone considering not voting in this, or any other election, should read it and think long an hard before giving up something so precious.