|At the Tolpuddle Martyrs museum 2017|
Over time, and considerable struggle, people have achieved a great deal to overcome oppression. For example, the right not to be treated as property, as slaves were until the abolition of slavery in 1833. We also take it for granted today, but it really wasn't that long ago, that only the very wealthiest property owners that were allowed to vote in general elections. Men with urban property got the vote in 1867, while men without property over 21, had to wait until after the end of First World War in 1918 to be eligible to vote. Women without property, thanks to the Suffraget Movement, finally got the vote ten years later than men in 1928. Finally, under a Labour Government, Harold Wilson in 1969 made it possible for 18 year olds to decide who represents them in Parliament, and so the fight for democracy goes on. Today, 16 year olds, while old enough to get married and have children, are unable to vote. It must be right that young people should have the chance to choose who makes the laws that they are expected to obey? Democracy, it seems, even now, is work-in-progress.
As a consequence of past class struggles men and women are now able to vote in general elections and choose, if they wish, to elect representatives that will demand a descent living wage, a proper education, adequate health care and to be cared for when they get old. Progressive change would not have happened were it not for the 19th century liberal approach to politics, 20th century Socialism or people making themselves heard by protest.
In the 21st century it seems to me an enduring truth that there are two broad views of how people are governed: The Conservative way and the Labour way. The distinction is simple, the Conservative Party exists to look after and maintain the the interests of the owners capital, while the Labour Party's purpose is to protect the workers (the people that toil to created the wealth). Both systems claim to oppose the ill treatment and exploitation of human beings that existed in the past, and the opportunity to protest, helps ensure that people will never be slaves again.
There is still much work to do and damaging inequality still remains in the UK, so until the norm across society is fairness, justice and equality we should take care not to judge too harshly those that stick their neck out to try to make their lives better.
History of Slavery
History of Voting
Equal Franchise Act 1928
Labour's Manifesto 2017
UK Equality Trust
World Wealth Inequality
More on Socialism