Left Wing Right Wing: Thoughts from the Deputy Politics Editor

Emily Davison was killed at the 1913 Epsom Derby promoting votes for women [Image: Arthur Barrett]

This edition, I’m pleased to temporarily assume responsibility for Left Wing, Right Wing, quite timely considering the current commemorations for “100 years since suffrage” or rather the 1918 Representation of the People Act. As a woman, I feel greatly indebted to the suffragettes who fought so hard for votes for women and sacrificed so much in the process. Yet, I must qualify it by noting the limitations of the Act. It only allowed certain women to vote, those over thirty and based on property-owning criteria. Young, working-class women were the largest group excluded.

The initial 1918 legislation was an extraordinary achievement, but women who needed a voice the most were still excluded.We live in an era of visible social change. The fight for equality goes on. There has been an emergence of high profile campaigns for equal pay at the BBC, and by the #MeToo movement. Yet, like the 1918 Suffrage Act, the progress made by both of these campaigns have so far mainly impacted the up-per echelons of our society.

This week a legal battle was launched against Tesco and Asda, who have been paying their mainly female shopfloor workers up to a third less than the male warehouse staff, for what the workers say is equal work. This is a case which has been scarcely reported on. Similarly, while shocking cases of sexual harassment have been exposed in the film and media industries, little attention has been paid to lower paid workers who are often more vulnerable to abuse. A Unite survey found that 89 per cent of workers in the hospitality industry had experienced sexual harassment at work.

Social movements must reach all levels of society in order to be a success. The 1918 Suffrage Act was a remarkable achievement, yet the women who needed representation the most were not granted it. The achievements made by modern social campaigns are ground-breaking – but we must not assume that the work is done. Let’s keep the spirit of the suffragettes alive by continuing to call out injustice at every level of our society.

Leave a comment



Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.