Too often we take our democracy for granted. 200 years ago this month, working people from across Greater Manchester marched into the city centre, putting aside their day to day concerns about living conditions, working hours and poverty pay, to ask for the right to decide how they were governed and who they were governed by. Devastatingly, the authorities ordered the cavalry to charge the crowds of almost 80,000 protesters for parliamentary democracy. Hundreds were injured and 18 never made it home. Among them were Joseph Whitworth, a teenager from Hyde, who was shot by a soldier, and William and Edmund Dawson from Saddleworth, who were attacked with sabres. Joseph Collins of Dukinfield was beaten so badly he couldn’t work for two months and John Nuttall of Gee Cross was badly injured by trampling.
It is inconceivable to us today that we wouldn’t have the right to choose our own representatives, or that our own law enforcement might assault and kill British citizens standing up to make a point. On Saturday 17th August, I marched from the constituency to the site of the protests, this year marking the bicentenary with a bigger crowd of walkers than ever. It was brilliant to give a strong showing to pay tribute to the working people who went before us, whose sacrifice helped secure our rights today.