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Expert comment, the People's Vote March

Dave SteeleDave Steele's research explores the dynamics of political crowds in Britain in the period following the French Revolution.

He comments on the People's Vote march and the UK's tradition of mass protest:-

"This weekend’s People’s Vote March highlights the power of the crowd, with the focus on numbers - did attendance reach the 1 million reported by many news sites?

"But my work on 19th century electoral reform protests suggests that the impact of political crowds is more about perception than numbers.

"This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, recently depicted in film by Mike Leigh. The fact that we are still talking about that event demonstrates the extent of projection of political power – partly due to the violent attack on the crowd by the militia but also due to the perception of the crowd size, regardless of the precise numbers attending.

"Mass protests continued over the following century including the 1831-2 Reform Bill constitutional crisis, the Chartist meetings of the 1840s and the women’s suffrage movement which finally, in 1928, won the vote for every man and woman over the age of 21.

"Like these historic protests, the subject of this weekend’s demonstration was representation - how national decisions are made and how leaders are held to account.

"Twenty-first century crowds are usually measured in the hundreds, rather than the tens of thousands seen in the nineteenth century but, regardless of actual size, yet again a seriously large crowd is demanding to have its voice heard by projecting power to the legislature.

"Whatever the outcome, we can be sure that the events of March 2019 will still be talked about in another 200 years."

25 March 2019


Sheila Kiggins

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