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The Levellers are back in Islington.


Yesterday, I said that one of the things I loved about running this blog was the amount of new knowledge I acquired along the way. No sooner said than done.

I have been fascinated by the way in which Jeremy Corbyn and I are on a level playing field. He may be better known to you as ‘Leader of the Opposition’; he may have an army of supporters behind him; his face may be on every TV screen; he may have access to campaigning funds beyond my wildest dreams – but as far as the returning officer at Islington North is concerned, he is just a man whose name appears on the ballot paper along with that of Susanne Cameron-Blackie and the other candidates. No special treatment, no relaxation of the rules, no bowing and scraping. Truly a General Election is a leveler of citizens.

There was something about typing that word ‘Leveller’ that rang a bell in a dark and cobwebby corner of my mind.  Very cobwebby as it happens. A gossamer labyrinth festooned with the dust of a thousand conversations and snippets of information.  Was it a pub quiz, or perhaps a history lesson 50 years ago? I had definitely heard that word before and in connection with politics. You probably got there way before me – but Google is my friend (and belated tutor).

The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War. They started meeting,  of all places,  in Islington – in a tavern called the ‘Rosemary Branch’. They were early Libertarians rather than Socialists. They were the first to adopt the habit of writing pamphlets and petitions to publicise their cause.

They wrote effectively not merely because they were exceptionally gifted or technically well equipped … but because they wrote with a purpose clearly understood and deeply felt, and for an audience which they knew to be close and immediately responsive … they can fairly claim to be the fathers of the tradition of plain English writing dedicated to the service of the plain man.

So there you are – Islington wasn’t such an odd choice for me – it had long been a place where people who believed that all men were equal, that all religions should be tolerated, that all men should be treated equally by the justice system, were moved to write about it. I hadn’t realised that I was so ignorant about English history. Needless to say, I have spent the afternoon reading everything I could find about the Levellers. It is almost as though Islington was pre-ordained for me.

If the Levellers were early minimalist Libertarians, the other political group group which came to prominence and opposed them – the ‘Diggers’ – were fledgling hardline Marxists. How hugely appropriate, as Jeremy Corby digs a hole in which to bury the Labour Party!

At the moment we are in danger of creating a justice system that doesn’t treat all men equally. Those who are accused of sexual offences are being marshalled into an area of the justice system that simply isn’t a level playing field with rest of the justice system – different rules apply, with very unfair results. Whilst I am currently campaigning on the issue of this ridiculous sum of money that is being expended on compensation claims against the NHS, I don’t want anyone to think that I have lost interest in the fate of those who have been on police bail for years on end, waiting for a charging decision from the CPS, or have had to forgo their homes and pensions in order to pay for their defence.

There is a connection between the two issues – in many cases it is those same firms of personal injury lawyers, fed by those irritating advertisements on afternoon television, who are scalping the NHS – just as they have scalped many other institutions; motor insurance pools; then with the historic sexual offences – the church, and various charities running care homes – that is not to suggest that some of the claims against those institutions are not valid – merely that they have clearly been targeted by rapacious personal injury lawyers trawling for business.

PPI (Payment protection insurance) which has proved such a lucrative income source for many of these firms – ‘Gladstone Brooks’ cheerfully advertises that it has reclaimed £800 million for its clients, at what benefit to Gladstone Brooks we do not know – is drawing to a close. So presumably they will be looking for a fresh source of institutions to target.

Where those ‘fresh sources’  turn out to be taxpayer-funded, as is the case with the NHS – then I am interested, because what we are witnessing is a grand transfer of tax payer funds into the hands of personal injury lawyers via ‘no win, no fee’ agreements.

Take the case of the surgeon who has been convicted of carrying out unapproved ‘cleavage sparing operations’ on patients; the Trust involved has chosen to pay an average of £37,000 to the women involved – and Eight and a half million pounds to the lawyers who were acting on their behalf. We don’t know the terms of the settlement – it may well be that the Trust thought it was cheaper to settle at this stage rather than risk the costs going even higher.

Emma Doughty, clinical negligence solicitor at law firm Slater and Gordon, which represents more than 60 victims, said: “Although we have seen hundreds of claimants, God knows how many this actually affects.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of claimants and then we have got to think about people who haven’t come forward, people who have died. It’s on a huge scale.

“I would say, from our standpoint and what we know, there have been cover-ups since the late Nineties.”

Sound familiar?

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Bandini May 10, 2017, 10:54 am

    Emma Doubty:

    “It is thought that around 13,000 Vaginal Tape implants are used every year [in the UK] to treat women suffering from stress urinary incontinence, and 1,500 mesh implants… … increasing number of women are coming forward… …Some research has put the failure rate for this type of product at 15% per year… …the MRHA has made recommendations to manufacturers about this product and continue to keep it under scrutiny… …not yet clear how many women in the UK have suffered from the use of this faulty [?] product [on the NHS].

    If you believe that you have suffered harm as a result of a Vaginal Mesh [or perhaps would simply like a new car, exotic holiday or extension to the house], please contact Emma Doughty at Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free confidential consultation.”


    • cherie79 May 10, 2017, 2:37 pm

      I had the TVT op. five years ago, no problems and the best thing I ever did. All risks were explained at the time and I think the claims are greatly exaggerated and sometimes due to other reasons. As soon as I saw the lawyers were involved I just thought here we go again! The surgeon explained there was a very small risk of complications which I accepted so why would I be due compensation for a choice freely made?

  • margo May 10, 2017, 11:53 am

    Very glad you’re back, Anna.
    Good luck with the election!

  • Macheath May 10, 2017, 1:11 pm

    ‘They started meeting, of all places, in Islington.’

    That alone was worth re-opening the bar for – in fact, had the form not already been in existence, I have little doubt you would have single-handedly invented the medium of blogging in order to share such a delicious piece of information.

    As I understand it, the Diggers started out calling themselves ‘True Levellers’ – which sounds more than a little Judean People’s Front – and depriving landowners of their property; Corbyn is a worthy successor.

    Meanwhile, to add an element of temporal coincidence, three Levellers executed on May 17th 1649 are commemorated in an annual gathering and political meeting in Burford; you were only a week out with this post.


  • TheBlockedDwarf May 10, 2017, 2:37 pm

    “Diggers started out calling themselves ‘True Levellers’ – which sounds more than a little Judean People’s Front “
    Another interesting ‘left wing of the English Civil War’ sect were (and still are …just.. I think) The Muggeletonians or the The Church Around Muggeleton and Reeves who were the 2 ‘Prophets’, the ‘Witnesses’ from the Book Of Revelations (of course, how could they not have been?) and foaming mouthed Anti-Quakers. One of their meeting rooms was in the garden of the Gun pub in Islington, where they would meet to smoke and drink and read from a large bible (they eschewed ‘church services’ infavour of socialising). They were notorious for their habit of publically cursing all who reviled their faith.Including, before they abandoned the practice in the C19, Sir Walter Scott.

  • The Jannie May 10, 2017, 3:24 pm

    “it has reclaimed £800 million for its clients, at what benefit to Gladstone Brooks we do not know”
    Before we had time to advise against it, my daughter used a similar firm; they charged her 30% of the amount recovered. I’ll let you do the sums . . . . I claimed on my bank myself and kept it all.

    As an aside, the best of luck with upsetting the “Opposition”.

  • Lisboeta May 10, 2017, 5:14 pm

    Whether this surgeon was conducting operations in cases where it was either ineffective, inappropriate or unnecessary is one issue. However, I can understand the appeal of ‘cleavage sparing operations’. (I learned yesterday that my niece, 44, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.) As for Slater and Gordon, if there’s dirty work afoot, their name seems to be connected with it. Oops… should I have inserted “alleged” into that last sentence?

  • Chromatistes May 10, 2017, 6:13 pm

    O frabjous day – the landlady returns.

  • Daedalus X Parrot May 10, 2017, 8:20 pm

    Fascinating stuff Anna is it also coincidence that the Levelleres were the first to successfully use pamphleteering techniques in spreading their message. Not unlike the glory days of Libertarian/ right of centre blogging you and you colleagues started 10 years ago.

    Also of interest, the Levellers wore sprigs of rosemary and sea- green ribbons do as to be recognised by fellow believers and also at several funerals of Levellers, some of whom were executed.

    Perhaps your campaign team should wear sea-green and sport a sprig of rosemary when campaigning.

    • TheBlockedDwarf May 10, 2017, 8:37 pm

      glory days of Libertarian/ right of centre blogging you and you colleagues started 10 years ago.
      Not sure I would describe The Landlady as anyways ‘right of centre’ , she’s just right even when she’s wrong 😛
      Seriously though, for example her current NHS campaign, is more ‘socialist’ than the Trotskyite Worker’s Paper Colouring Book for young pioneers.

      • Anna Raccoon May 10, 2017, 9:19 pm

        There were so many good bloggers ten years ago, I was terrified of stepping into the fray! Old Holborn, Devils Kitchen,Tory Bear, Leg Iron, Obnoxio. They wrote brilliantly. Leg Iron and Obnoxio are two of the few who continue to churn out good writing – and of course Grandad and Frank Davies. Everyone else has retreated into sound bite Twitter….its not the same. It may be snappy, and sharp, and clever but it’s not giving the main stream media a challenge in the way that great blogging did.

        Had the local paper in doing an interview – ‘how did you find the figures you quote’…..’er, I googled annual accounts for NHS Litigation’……’Oh, can you do that, could you send me a link?’…….

        Strewth!……Give me strength.

        • TheBlockedDwarf May 10, 2017, 10:51 pm

          Had the local paper in doing an interview – ……’Oh, can you do that, could you send me a link?’
          and boy, did it show in the article ! I wasn’t joking when I said even I could written better (actually I would have pleaded with Pat Nurse for ‘ five secrets of successful local journalism’). Most of the hostile comments on the article were solely due to the lousy reporting. But what does one expect from a paper that headlines ‘rare 4 legged chicken born’ the same day…

  • Adams May 11, 2017, 9:23 pm

    ” No special treatment, no relaxation of the rules, no bowing and scraping. Truly a General Election is a leveler of citizens.” Not under the FPTP voting system it isn’t . In my area I will get a Liebour MP whatever I vote ,the same as in the last 4 general elections . in the marginals the weight of the vote is magnifies by three times .
    A landslide for T MAY on maybe 30% of the electorate . A Not a democratic result in my book, more like a horse race .

  • Anne Fallon May 15, 2017, 10:59 am

    Agreed with this blog – I have a vote in Islington North, will think carefully about how to use it – Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the ogre the media make him out to be though in my experience.

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