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What would William Cobbett say about today’s political rabble?


THERE can be no doubt that the vast majority of those who sully the Palace of Westminster are inadequate, obsequious poltroons.

Although there has never been a time when our legislators were universally regarded as free-thinking paragons of virtue, there have been occasional champions of the common man who have warned us about the insidious behaviour which has always been the temptation of the political animal. 

One such was the journalist, farmer and politician William Cobbett, the MP for Oldham from 1832 until his death three years later.

Being the son of a smallholder, the mostly self-taught Cobbett was a champion of rural life and campaigner to improve the conditions of the poor. He was scornful of ‘the race of merchants, and manufacturers and bankers and loan-jobbers’ who had displaced ‘the ancient nobility and gentry of the kingdom’, and he supported Catholic emancipation. He warned against the over-reliance of the poor on the potato crop and his fears were justified by the famines between 1845 and 1852.

Sometimes he is lazily given the epithet ‘Left-wing’. That is a description which Cobbett would have abhorred. It is the deliberate deceit of socialist historians that those who do not subscribe to their murderous ideology are incapable of wanting the best for their fellow man; consequently such a man as Cobbett has to be regarded as ‘Left-wing’. He was undoubtedly a thorn in the buttocks of the establishment and felt required to emigrate three times to avoid prosecution.

Were he alive today Cobbett would quickly recognise the characteristics in today’s politicians that he recognised in his contemporaries and predecessors.

For example he was not a fan of the virtue signallers of the day. He voted to abolish slavery in 1833, but criticised Wilberforce and others for their disregard for the native poor. This passage could equally be a criticism of the Metropolitan elite who currently squander our money on vanity projects, overseas aid, NGOs and lockdowns.

‘You make your appeal in Piccadilly, London, amongst those who are wallowing in luxuries, proceeding from the labour of the people. You should have gone to the gravel-pits, and made your appeal to the wretched creatures with bits of sacks around their shoulders, and with hay-bands round their legs; you should have gone to the roadside, and made your appeal to the emaciated, half-dead things who are there cracking stones to make the roads as level as a die for the tax eaters to ride on. What an insult it is, and what an unfeeling, what a cold-blooded hypocrite must he be that can send it forth; what an insult to call upon people under the name of free British labourers; to appeal to them in behalf of Black slaves, when these free British labourers; these poor, mocked, degraded wretches, would be happy to lick the dishes and bowls, out of which the Black slaves have breakfasted, dined, or supped . . . Talk, indeed, of transmuting the wretched Africans into this condition! Will not the care, will not the anxiety of a really humane Englishman be directed towards the Whites, instead of towards the Blacks, until, at any rate, the situation of the former be made to be as good as that of the latter?’

He had words which are particularly apposite for our semi-British, semi-American, totally-WEF First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

‘A man of all countries is a man of no country.’

‘Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.’

‘The tendency of taxation is to create a class of persons who do not labour, to take from those who do labour the produce of that labour, and to give it to those who do not labour.’

He had no time for the mainstream media of the day . . .

‘But I do not remember ever having seen a newspaper in the house; and, most certainly, that privation did not render us less industrious, happy, or free.

‘The very hirelings of the press, whose trade it is to buoy up the spirits of the people, have uttered falsehoods so long, they have played off so many tricks, that their budget seems, at last, to be quite empty.’

Cobbett was scornful of his contemporary Thomas Malthus who, like the odious crowd which includes Yuval Noah Harari, David Attenborough, Bill Gates and Stanley Johnson, wanted to limit the world population.

‘To suppose such a thing possible as a society, in which men, who are able and willing to work, cannot support their families, and ought, with a great part of the women, to be compelled to lead a life of celibacy, for fear of having children to be starved; to suppose such a thing possible is monstrous.’

In Cobbett’s scathing condemnation of Henry the Eighth we can observe parallels with the vanity of our current overlords:

‘All law and justice were laid prostrate at the feet of a single man, and that man a man with whom law was a mockery, on whom the name of justice was a libel. It is easy to imagine that no man’s property or life could have security with power like this in the hands of such a man. 

‘Numerous things were made high treason which were never before thought criminal at all.

‘His people, deserted by their natural leaders, who had been bribed by plunder or the hope of plunder, were the terrified and trembling flock; while he, the master-butcher, fat and jocose, sat in the palace issuing orders for the slaughter, while his high priest, Cranmer, stood ready to sanction and to sanctify all his deeds.’

William Cobbett was the enemy of paper money and the scoundrels he observed in the burgeoning finance industry. He foresaw the origins of tax havens and the dominance of a small number of accounting firms:

‘The art of financiering consists principally in multiplying and confusing accounts, till, at last, no one has courage to undertake an examination of them.’

Cobbett campaigned against the Corn Laws (which were supported by the patrician Malthus), and defined the health of the rural poor by a simple test. Instead of the facile Build Back Better alliteration of the WEF, he had a far better combination of Bs:

‘Happiness for a rural worker was defined by access to the three Bs – bacon, bread and beer.’

In his most famous publication Rural Rides, which described his travels in England between 1822 and 1826, he bestowed compliments on Norfolk and Guildford but had harsh words for the following:

‘All Middlesex is ugly, notwithstanding the millions upon millions which it is continually sucking up from the rest of the kingdom.’

‘Westbury, a nasty odious rotten-borough, a really rotten place.’

‘Deal is a most villainous place. It is full of filthy-looking people. Great desolation of abomination has been going on here.’

I have no doubt that a latter-day William Cobbett would be a regular contributor to TCW Defending Freedom and might describe the typical subscriber thus:

‘Men of integrity are generally pretty obstinate in adhering to an opinion once adopted.’

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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