The Conservatives & William Cobbett

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2017 by kmflett

The Conservatives and William Cobbett

The decision by the CPS to charge Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay with offences related to expenditure in the 2015 Election is now a matter for due legal process and certainly not for comment on a blog.

The wider issues around the 2015 expenses issue remain however, particularly as it is clear that the Tory Party in 2017 is again receiving large donations for its Election campaign. One hopes lessons from 2015 have been learnt and they are being properly accounted for.

There remains however a general feeling that Elections such as the current one do not take place on a ‘level playing field’ and that while strict rules are on place for how Elections are carried out not everyone is concerned to stick to them that closely.

There is a sense here of the Cobbettian…

William Cobbett (1763-1835) was a farmer, journalist and radical MP who relentlessly attacked the ‘Old Corruption’ of British society before the 1832 Reform Act. This was a world where people held key and well-paid posts because of who they were or who they knew. Quite often the actual work was done by someone else.

Cobbett’s attacks on ‘The Thing’ were by no means straightforward to the modern world. He was for example anti-semitic and often criticised ‘pensioners’ by which he meant those in receipt of a living from the State even though they did and had done little or no work for it.

EP Thompson encapsulated the Cobbettian worldview in the Making of the English Working Class. Describing Cobbett’s intervention in the 1806 election for the Westminster seat in the unreformed Parliament, he noted how Cobbett summed up the opponents of the radical candidate:

‘relations of placemen and pensioners’, ‘tax-gatherers, magistrates, policemen and dependent clergy’, ‘play-actors, scene-shifters, candle-snuffers, and persons following.. immoral callings’.

The irony was the Cobbett, a farmer, was in many of a radical Tory outlook. He just couldn’t stand the political stench associated with the pre-1832 Tory Party and said so.

June 8th gives electors the chance to sweep away this kind of political place holding. It’s worth noting that Jeremy Corbyn’s expenses claims are invariably frugal as befits a North London beard wearer and allotment holder.


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