Or “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”
My favourite book on English History is A.L. Morton’s “A People’s History of England”. It tells our history from the perspective of the common man, rather than that of the Kings, rulers and other notables. The book loses me a bit as it approaches the modern age, showing the author’s almost communist tendencies, but before that it is a fair representation of how England would have been for… the Peasants.
Of course, we are so much more civilized, educated and democratised these days and the barbaric events of times past couldn’t possibly happen today, could they? But as I look at history around that key year of 1381, the similarities with today strike me profoundly:
“Late in May the inhabitants of villages in South Essex attacked and killed tax collectors. They took to the woods and sent out messengers asking for
support to other parts of the County and Kent.”
And in 2013 and 2014, at County, Borough and District elections, the villages and burgers of Kent and Essex took to their ballot papers to vote for unprecedented numbers of UKIP Councillors:
- Kent 2013: 17
- Essex 2013: 9
- Basildon 2014: 11
- Castle Point 2014: 5
- Maidstone 2014: 4
- Rochford 2014: 4
- Southend 2014: 5
- Thurrock 2014: 5
Back to 1381:
“On the 7th June Rochester Castle was taken and on the 10th Canterbury”
Well, well, well, Rochester again in 2014. We keenly await the result on Thursday night, perhaps many kippers reading this helping to get out the UKIP vote “on the day”. Canterbury perhaps not so, it’s a LibLabCon stronghold for now, but not far away is South Thanet, a highly likely Commons seat for Nigel Farage in May 2015.
“By this time the revolt was general all over the Home Counties and East Anglia and a concerted march on London began.”
And here we are, in 2014 and 2015, many of UKIP’s target seats along the East Coast from Lincolnshire to Kent, and other towns around the Home Counties. What is it about the people of the East of England that makes them so bolshy? I put it down to Danish and French blood, which gene studies show is still predominant. The People’s Army of the East is marching on Westminster.
In 1381, they even managed to gain support from Londoners:
“The apprentices and journeymen had their own quarrel with the government and John of Gaunt, whose financier friends formed a ruling oligarchy in the City. Besides, there were the numerous slum dwellers, reinforced during the past two or three decades by hundreds of runaway villeins. Even sections of the well-to-do citizens, including two aldermen, Horn and Sybyle, were friendly.”
This has striking parallels with today. As academics Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin have observed in their book “Revolt on the Right”, it is the “left behinds” who are turning to UKIP. The increase in wealth is only going to those higher up the scale: like George Osborne’s financier friends in the City perhaps? And the runaway villeins? They are the settled English population in East London who have fled out of London in the last few decades in droves, driven away by high property prices and immigration, swelling the populations of areas such as South and coastal Essex, Medway and Thanet. And we have our own two “friendly aldermen” in Messrs Carswell and Reckless.
Morton continues the story:
“On the next day there was a massacre of the Flemings living in London.”
Ah, the Belgians again, nowadays responsible for hosting the EU Headquarters in Brussels. That is where today’s anger is directed, at the unelected bureaucracy to which our politicians have been handing power for the last 40 years. In fact, that anger is now directed at those politicians, and many of them will pay the price for that disloyalty to our country in May 2015.
Of course, the Peasant’s Revolt did not change the world overnight. The King made some promises to the assembled rebels, and then when they left, he broke his promises. Sounds like Cameron making promises to “do” things, but then never doing them. As Morton reports:
“But, though the rising had failed, there was no complete return to the old conditions.”
We must not allow this rising to fail. We must remain unified and resolute. We must hold the present rulers to account and force them to change, so we can remain a United Kingdom where the people, the peasants, can enjoy a fair share of the wealth that the country can generate when freed from the shackles of the European Union and the metropolitan elite.
Photo by The British Library