On Mastermind on Monday one of the contestant’s specialised subjects was on the Levellers which I did
vaguely recall were an early movement to improve our
democracy so I looked up further details and discovered the
They were prominent during the Civil War in the 1600s with the political aims of extending the franchise and achieving manhood suffrage as they believed that everyone had equal rights to the vote.
They were called the 'Levellers', as they wished to level out society. They had
many ideas on how they thought society should be and their political and
religious objectives were put forward to Parliament in 'The Agreement of the
People' in 1647. This document was much more radical than those before it.
Along with their political aims they wanted to reform the legal system to give
equality to everyone before the law and achieve recognition of people's
fundamental rights and liberties.
They were however not sucessful primarily because they didn’t gain popular support which meant that they could easily be ignored and thus defeated.They also failed to make inroads into the army with only limited rank and file support, despite their aims being to their advantage, as soldiers were more interested in their pay and conditions than in theoretical schemes of government. They also had no support from the officers, the so-called 'Grandees', like Cromwell and Ireton as their power could be curbed by the Levellers ideas. This meant they had little support in Parliament because the rich and wealthy landowners felt threatened by them for if their objectives were achieved they would lose power, money and land and there would be a major destruction of the social order.
Interestingly as with the Chartists, some 200 years later, the
Levellers emerged at a time when there was severe economic hardship and this
made their policies attractive to working class people, who would have mostly
benefited from their reforms. However, as the economic situation improved
support for the Levellers started to decline. This was the major reason as to why they
lacked popular support.
Coming right up to date for our agenda to achieve mass support we sadly need the economic conditions to seriously deteriorate so that the people are forced to consider how badly the current system of governance in this country has let them down. At that point they should hopefully focus on the necessary improvements needed to give them a far greater say in the way they are governed which needs to start with a recognition of the people's inherent sovereignty.
Next year of course with the double economic whammy of Covid and at best a limited trade deal with the EU the conditions should be ripe to advance our six demands.
If the people want politcal reforms they will have to wake up and demand them - it is up to them.
As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard “If we
want things to stay as they are, everything will have