The long line of English radicalism from the Levellers through the Chartists to…Compass?!

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A bit late I know, but although I wasn’t there it seems that Jon ‘Darling of the Soft Left’ Cruddas gave a stonking speech to the Compass conference at the weekend. Read a transcript of the whole thing over at Liberal Conspiracy.

“We lost the election in England, badly. It is in England that our future will be determined. Let us begin by reminding ourselves who we are.

We are Labour and we are not new. Our roots are centuries deep in the struggle for democracy and justice. We are the light shining in Buckinghamshire. With Rainsborough at Putney. The Levellers Charter was ours. Standing with the crowd at Peterloo. Standing with the Irishman Bronterre O’Brien and William Cuffay.

The People’s Charter was ours. John Ruskin’s rallying cry is our creed – ‘there is no wealth but life’. Standing alongside match girls; dockers; miners. With railway workers at Taff Vale.

With the Men’s Political Union and the Suffragettes.

This is Labour’s gift to us all today.

And in turn Labour’s future is our obligation. Make it once more the defender of society against the power of the state and the market. Organise the powerless. Give voice to the voiceless.”

I’m a sucker for a politician who has bothered to at least open a history book. But did he really mean to say “Levellers’ Charter?” Was that a slip of the tongue, thinking ahead to the Chartists? Would have been better to name check the Levellers’ Agreement of the People.

If I ever get to write a historically literate speech for a politician I will slip in the words spoken by Richard Rumbold, a veteran of the New Model Army and republican revolutionary, as he stood on the scaffold awaiting his execution:

“I am sure that there was no man born marked above another; for none comes into this world with a saddle upon his back, neither any booted or spurred to ride him”.

Although the earlier warning of the danger of popery might need to be toned down.

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