- Category: Opinion & Comment
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Throughout history, one way or another, people have always had to fight for their rights. Rights denied them by the ruling elite, whether those in power be Emperors, Russian Tsars, French, or British monarchs, fascist dictators, or unelected administrators handing out directives in organisations such as the European Union.
Over time our and after considerable struggle, people have, however, 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 1807. We take it for granted today, but it really wasn't that long ago either that only the very wealthiest property owners that we're allowed to vote in 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 with women, thanks to the suffraget movement, got the vote ten years later in 1928. Finally, under a Labour Government, Harold Wilson gave 18 year olds the vote. So the fight for democracy goes on and 16 year olds, while old enough to get married and have children, can't vote, but maybe one day they'll have the chance to choose who makes the laws that they have 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, or without 20th century Socialism.
For me it seems an enduring truth that there are two broad views of how people are to be 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 created the wealth) and to make sure that the ill treatment an shameful exploitation of human beings that existed in the past should never be allowed to come back again.
There is still much work to do and damaging inequality still remains in the UK. For example, the richest 1000 people have more wealth than the poorest 40% of the population.
Realistically, it's going to be difficult to persuade, or legislate to compel those currently controlling the country's wealth, because once the cash is in their hands they are adept at finding imaginative ways to cling on to it. The money goes offshore, squirreled away in trust funds so that the very wealthy never really pay a fair share of tax. As a consequence life remains a struggle for those without the financial means to compete, so the best most people can do is hope for is an occasional Labour Government who, if they resist the temptation to slip back into Tory Light, should be capable of temporarily tipping the balance in favour of the people and take sufficient power away from the wealthy few so that, maybe, nurses and others desperate for assistance, won't have use food banks to keep going? I think we're due for that kind of change right now.
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