Just read this great essay by David Starkey in the Mail .
Got me thinking of other historical precedents in Britain, and how MPs are ignoring them at their – and the nation’s – peril. Such as the history of suffrage in this country and why the franchise was expanded as it was in the 20th Century.
The franchise was extended to the ‘gammons’ in 1918 precisely because millions of working class men had been sent to fight and die in a war they had nothing to do with precipitating. There was no way to ensure the stability of the British system without this, particularly as dangerous Marxist ideas were doing the rounds then.
Of course, to offset the influence of radical politics on the working class vote, the franchise was also extended to middle class property-owning women, who would have a more conservative outlook (at that time – it can be argued that this bloc of voters now keep the current Westminster consensus in place).
[Coincidentally, the right to own guns was slightly curtailed around this time, as well. I suppose it just isn’t the done thing to have millions of working class blokes trained in the use of arms actually owning any.]
Subsequently the property requirement was lifted in 1928, making the voting franchise universal.
Parliament and the Government are behaving right now (and for the last 30 years or so) toward the electorate as if the extension of the franchise in 1918 only applied to middle class property-owning women.
They would do wise to heed the lesson of their predecessors…those with nothing to lose tend to behave as if they have nothing to lose. And when you take away from them the one thing that might allow peaceful change, or at least ignore its fruits, then you take away the one link to the political system the ‘gammons’ have.
The last 30 years may have been punctuated by mass political apathy, but that is only because the Westminster consensus has ignored the masses. They do so now at their own, and the system’s, peril.
Is it really worth it over a so-called economic argument?