Suffragettes, Voting and Elections

I’ve just watched the Suffragette movie (on the plane) and it brought me to tears. It has always been a topic close to my heart. Too many times we take what we have for granted, especially in the West, and this has been highlighted to me over the last 6 months whilst in India.

Politics and Government

I studied a degree in Politics and Government at City of London Polytechnic (now London Guildhall University I think) which had the Women’s Library attached to it. 

I studied women in politics and I know about Emmeline Pankhurst, the Women’s Social and Political Union and that Emily Davison threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby. Her sacrifice brought the world’s attention to the fight for votes for women. 

Suffragette- the film

Reading and studying about history and knowing what happened is important knowledge. Seeing the story of the fight dramatised on screen is entirely another. It brought it to life and made it real. The horrific, cruel and barbaric force feeding of the women in prison who were arrested for protesting. The way society treated them for fighting for their rights – their children were adopted and they were dismissed from jobs. Beaten by police in peaceful demonstrations. Stripped in prison. They suffered degrading and humiliating treatment for years so that women could have the right to vote. It was the sacrifice by Emily Davison that brought the world’s attention to their plight which led, eventually, to a change in the law. Women over 30 years old eventually were given the vote in 1918. 

Politics

I am sometimes occasionally political but mostly I don’t say as much as I want to; especially these days on social media where it attracts unwanted attention of the trolls. A couple of years ago though I was so incensed by the lack of choice and diversity in the local council elections I stood as an independent candidate. I had no hope of winning in a safe Conservative seat but that didn’t stop the attacks in the press and in social media, in leaflets and pamphlets. It was pathetic but I was flattered they thought I was a real threat. I was asked several times what I would do if I got elected and my answer was always the same ‘I have no idea!’ – I just wanted people to have a choice other than Tory, Labour, LibDem and UKIP – all of whom were fielding white old men. (I’m pleased to say I didn’t come last.)

Voting and Elections

I constantly get irritated when elections come round and friends and acquaintances tell me they “can’t be bothered” to vote and that all the parties are the same. It annoys me that people don’t use their right to vote. I impression on young people to vote, especially women, and tell them that women died so that they might vote. It is important. Change will never happen if you don’t get involved. 

Don’t think your vote counts? – Then demand proportional representation. 

Don’t like your local council? – then stand to be elected! You don’t have to be a ‘politician’ and it’s free – there are only forms to fill in. It costs nothing but your time. 

I won’t rant about Parliamentary elections – the change in the way elections (and parties) are funded needs a radical overhaul to allow independent and individual candidates to stand. Help should be made available for those navigating the system. You never see a job advert to become your local MP do you and I don’t see why not frankly. The fact that you can’t get rid of them when they’re doing a crap job needs looking at. Any other person would lose their job but MPs seems to be untouchable. I won’t go on as I will have a proper rant.

The EU Referendum

In the UK there is a referendum in June on whether we should remain within the EU. Living in India we have received and seen no information at all on the arguments for and against staying within the EU. From what we have researched there seems to be very little actual information and a lot of propaganda and scaremongering on both sides of the argument. It is frustrating that my generation and the younger generation, who have grown up within the EU, don’t have ready access to the information. The older generation will have their own memories of what life was like outside the EU, although the world has changed a lot since then. (I mean the World Wide Web was invented for a start (by Sir Tim Berners Lee)!)  

We will still be voting though. We have registered as proxy voters – entrusting our votes to a friend. It is perhaps a once in a lifetime chance to make a difference for future generations – whether that is in or out of the EU. Rarely do such opportunities arise. Scotland’s turnout for the Independence vote demonstrates that people really will go out and vote on matters that are important to them. I hope that the turnout for this referendum will be just as high, if not higher. Although, I suspect like most people, this is an unexpected opportunity that no one actually asked for.

Politics and Government today

I live in hope that politicians will see that people can be motivated when the issue is important and relevant to them. It is a shameful fact in our democracy (or elected dictatorship as I prefer to call it) that turnout in elections is so low. Governments of the day claim to have a mandate from the people when 2/3 of them didn’t vote for them. Turnout is only 2/3 of the entire electorate, if that. Every Government tries to cling onto power once they have it, by any means possible. There are always loud noises made when the constituency voting boundaries are changed and yet the recent change in the electoral register, which has potentially disenfranchised thousands, has pretty much gone unreported. 

Your vote matters

If you are of voting age make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you use your vote in every single election. Postal vote if you can’t be bothered to go to the polling station on the day. Most of all, if you are really dissatisfied, please protest with your vote – deface it, scrawl on it and say what you think or go traditional and draw a dick. It will be counted as a spoiled ballot paper/ vote and that is important. Only when people speak will they be heard. You have a right to be heard – use it – because when you don’t have a right to be heard, you really notice it – trust me, I know.

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