Socialist Worker

Statue 5: Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850)

South west corner of Parliament Square

Issue No. 1963

Leon Kuhn

Leon Kuhn's Robert Peel

Peel was made chief secretary for Ireland at the age of 24. His main “achievement” was founding the Royal Irish Constabulary, an English-run body protecting landlords from desperate peasants and preventing nationalist rebellion. Peasants became the main targets of the “peelers”, as the new police came to be known.

In 1822 Peel was appointed home secretary and in 1829 he set up the Metropolitan Police along the lines of the Irish model. Traditional policing methods were not working — using middle class militias to break up riots and demonstrations, such as the Peterloo massacre of 1819, was leading to heightened political hostility and organisation among the masses.

Peel’s new police force was ten times bigger than the old one, much more rigid and hierarchical and more military in character.

The Met was soon being deployed against the Chartists, Britain’s first mass working class movement for social reform.

Peel became the first leader of the new Conservative party and was elected Prime Minister in 1841.

His five year term as prime minister was marked by the Irish potato famine, in which over a million Irish died — not as a result of the potato fungus, but of Britain’s subjugation of their country. Food continued to be exported to Britain throughout the famine.

Read Leon Kuhn on » Smashing statues through the ages

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