Saturday, 15 October 2016

Chipping Norton`s other secret

Chipping Norton might well be a dump, as Peter Wilby says, but it`s hardly its "best-kept secret" (First Thoughts, 7th 0ctober, 2016). Following the passing of Gladstone`s Criminal Law Amendment Act, which forbade peaceful picketing, 16 Chipping Norton women were sentenced to imprisonment, with hard labour, in May 1873. They had, apparently, prevented two farm labourers getting to work by threatening them with sticks, and according to Hansard, by pushing them into a hedge, and declaring "they would duck them in a pond if they attempted to return to work".
 The severity of the sentence by the magistrates was much discussed, and after winning the 1874 election, with his eye on wooing working class voters, Disraeli was soon to legalise peaceful picketing. Theresa May might have similar ideas about gaining new support, but Disraeli`s "window-dressing" reforms fooled no-one, and in the 1880 election, Tory seats fell from 350 to 214. Treating the electorate like mugs is never a wise policy, whatever the century!

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