Peter Sibley, Oxford Rugby Blue, Captain of Bath Football Club, my housemaster and one of my history teachers, used to argue that the reason why we, the British, never had a revolution in 1848, ‘the year of revolutions,’ was down to the British weather.
The Chartists were already to go, to march on the establishment centre of power in London. The day dawned, and there was a steady drizzle, consequently most ‘revolutionaries’ stayed at home. Perhaps peering out from behind the curtain every so often to see if there was any let up in the rain. At some point in the early afternoon, there would have been a final inspection and reluctantly the ‘revolution’ would have been called off.
We laughed of course and moved on. Mr Sibley also had a theory that Lord Kitchener didn’t drown in 1916 but moved to Russia and changed his name to Joseph Stalin.
On Sunday the family gathered at the Racecourse, to round off the birthdays celebrations for my parents. The talk round the table was of the political chaos that the referendum result had unleashed. The view was expressed that the Tory party would unite around the new leader as soon as one was to be appointed (yes I also move in reactionary circles)
There was certainty that the Brexit and Remain wings of the party would drift back together as the real work began of making Britain safe again for the robber barons of capitalism. The faces may change but the policies and the consequences will be largely the same.
We have had our moment of fun, the establishment has been threatened, it has taken notice, but it knows what is best and gradually the will of the people will be ignored, and the heady hopes and dreams that the leave vote fostered will be replaced by the daily grind and struggle to survive.
Or so they hope.
But maybe they are wrong.
The political nation has miscalculated. It did this once before in 1647. The miscalculation was to use the referendum to sort out differences in the Tory party over Europe. Certain that the British people would heed the advice of their betters and vote to stay in the EU. A Union imperfect in so many ways, the butt of bent banana jokes, but given the alternatives the lesser of the two evils.
But the people didn’t play ball. People fed up with growing inequality; with continuing austerity, with fears for their children’s future, uncertainty in the jobs market, unable to get on the housing ladder, fearful for the NHS and on schools, gave the establishment a bloody nose, ignoring the warnings and preferring the uncertainty of exit. And their vote counted this time. Not the wasted vote that so many cast in a general election, this time everyone’s vote counted.
The political nation ignores them at its peril. People expect change. Not straight away, not in the next fews weeks, but certainly within the next two years. They won’t accept a fudge or a clever legal argument to keep the status quo. They voted out and they want out.
Of course in 1848 the Chartists never sought a revolution. Their petition, signed by 6 million people allegedly, sought to draw attention to the continuing inequalities and sufferings that the poor and working classes suffered. It was largely ignored by the authorities and the movement withered, though much of its legacy survived to surface decades later.
But we can get something from the decision to leave. People were engaged because they wanted to send a message to the Establishment, but also because their vote counted. Reform of the voting system would make a vote count in the General Election and other elections. It would redress the ridiculous situation of a Tory Government wining a majority in the House of Commons with 37% of the vote. That would give us a genuine democracy and not the half baked one that we have at the moment.