Peterloo and another unpunished crime

The English are a strange people. I’m not talking about their devotion to cricket (G B Shaw said “The English are not a religious people and so they invented cricket to give themselves some concept of eternity”). I’m not even talking about their devotion to fair play while spending millions on one family (the Windsors) and allowing millions of fellow-citizens to live in squalor. I’m not even talking about their Brexit death-wish. I’m talking about their total inability to detect irony.

This past week they’ve been remembering the Peterloo Massacre, when a demonstration for universal sufferage and equality was attacked by troops, some on horseback, resulting in the death of eighteen people and hundreds more were injured. There have been speeches, re-enactments, commendation of those who died and were injured, and the criminal neglect of the past condemned.

Much of which sounds familiar to us, if not to them.  A great throng of people gathered to demonstrate for their rights. A command being given and troops attacking the huge crowd, leaving a double-figure total of casualties and lots of injured. An honouring of those who died and the things they campaigned for, while at the same time fuzziness about who is to blame for the deaths.  Yep – you got it. Except that Bloody Sunday happened in Ireland nearly fifty years ago and Peterloo happened in England  exa-ctly 200 years ago.

The two events have one other feature in common, which commentators have tended to glide over: who was responsible for giving the orders and why were they not held to account by the law?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?  Who will watch those whose job it is to watch?

Comments are closed.