A Century on From Voting Rights – We Must Use Them

For anyone who has seen the film Mary Poppins, it will come as no surprise that “votes for women” and the importance of the suffragettes in their fight to extend voting rights has been a well-recognised theme throughout the past century!

Last week I attended an event dedicated to one of the most important figures in the suffragist movement, as Millicent Fawcett’s statue was unveiled in Parliament Square. It was great to be there with inspirational women colleagues from across the political divide, all of whom are where we are because of the efforts started by Millicent Fawcett and others like her, who paved the way for the increasingly strong representation of women in public life.

For many of us in Greater Manchester, the extraordinary efforts of Emmeline Pankhurst and the leadership she showed along with her sisters are equally as important, and it’s brilliant that she will have her own statue unveiled in Manchester. This project, which has been brought forward with the help of Government funding, is currently scheduled to be unveiled in December.

This milestone year marks 100 years since women first won the right to vote, and voting was extended to all men, making this one of the most important centenaries in British democratic history. A number of campaigns are planned throughout the year to remind people of the fight to win their rights and the importance of exercising them.

Just as political parties fundraise today by getting together over a cup of tea, suffragettes did the same. Tea parties were used to increase awareness of, and raise funds for, the suffragette campaigns. And in honour of this tradition tea parties will take place across the country to get people talking about equality. This great initiative is called EqualiTeas, which will run from 18th June – 2nd July, and I am encouraging all groups and organisations to host an event and support the #Vote100 campaign.

The right to vote was hard fought for, and should be valued. With local elections taking place tomorrow I hope everyone uses their chance to shape Stockport’s future. Turnout is historically lower at Local Elections than at a General Election, but this doesn’t mean using your vote is any less important, and I would urge anybody reading this to make use of their right which was so hard-won. Vote tomorrow.