Our ancient liberties - Tory style
One of the things that has most wound me up over the last few days is the sight of a Tory lecturing us about civil liberties and "ancient rights" .
This would be an MP from the Party who just a few years ago gave us:
- The ban on trade union membership at GCHQ.
- The stopping and searching of cars during the 1984 Miners' Strike to block pickets from travelling round the country.
- Section 28
- Abolition of a whole tier of metropolitan government because the democratic results upset the PM
etc. , etc.
and a bit further back, the same old Tories showed their respect for ancient rights by:
- creating a huge network of police spies to infiltrate and undermine the Chartists and Radicals and anyone else promoting democracy or wanting to improve the lot of working people
- suspending Habeas Corpus
- passing the Six Acts which made holding meetings to call for democratic reform ""an overt act of treasonable conspiracy"
- slaughtering innocent protesters at the Peterloo Massacre
- opposing the Great Reform Bill
- opposing Catholic emancipation
- passing the Combination Laws which banned trade unions
- bankrolling despotic reactionary monarchies across Europe in the Napoleonic wars
I assume David Davis is quite a fan of our most authoritarian Tory PMs such as Baroness Thatcher and Lord Liverpool.
The Whigs, forerunner of the Lib Dems weren't much better. They had the Tolpuddle Maryrs transported to Australia for setting up a union branch, and less than a hundred years ago the Liberals sent troops to break the strike at Tonypandy.
Personally I can't quite see that the golden age of Magna Carta lauded by Davis ever existed unless you were a baron. For the rest of us the rights in it weren't much use in a society where for a good few hundred years after the Magna Carta was written the bulk of the population were serfs literally owned by their masters, where until 200 years ago you could be hung for stealing a handkerchief or a bit of bread to feed your starving family, or less than a hundred years ago you could be shot after a summary court martial for suffering from shell shock in the trenches and your right to vote depended on how much property you had and your gender.
I don't think anyone Labour needs to take any lessons about civil liberties from anyone who stands in the Tory tradition - the tradition of reaction, oppression and privilege down the ages. To misquote Orwell, "the jackboot stamping on the face of democrats and ordinary working people down the ages has usually been worn by a Tory foot".