Billy Connolly once said that the desire to be a politician should forever exclude someone from actually being a politician; he had a very good point. I wonder what kind of Parliament we would have if it was made up of MP’s who when first asked if they wanted to get into politics responded with “Hell, no” and made a run for it. I wonder if we might have a better government and a better democracy, rather than the well-sauced gravy train that we seem to have at the moment.
Mr Connolly also said that we shouldn’t vote, because it encourages the politicians. Again, given our ridiculous voting system, and the selection of votees currently on offer, I also have sympathy with that point of view. I suspect that most of us would agree that encouraging politicians in any capacity other than to learn how to answer the damned question being put to them, should be positively discouraged. It’s a bit like celebrating there being more estate agents in the world or being pleased about the increasing number of solicitors on the roll. No one is ever happy about those things. However, although I can see the point, I cannot subscribe to it.
Before the term was bastardised for a day when people disgrace themselves buying things they don’t need, for prices that are not really discounted, the real Black Friday was on 18 November 1910. Women who were protesting were removed from the Houses of Parliament and many were seriously injured in their removal. On 4 June 1913, nearly three years later, things had not improved for women and Emily Davison famously died after having thrown herself under Anmer, the King’s Horse at the Epsom Derby. She died four days later on 8 June 1913. I write the words describing it now. Everyone knows about the woman who threw herself under the King’s horse. Her life reduced to one sentence. Can you imagine what a horrific death it must have been to have been trampled to death by a horse and then taking four long days to die? All she wanted was to be treated equally and have the same rights to vote as men. It seems a tad harsh to me.
After Emily died, in order to try and beat the women who were on hunger strike into submission, the government (all male) introduced what is known as the Cat and Mouse Act, because of how cats play with their prey before they kill them. Women were imprisoned. They went on hunger strike. Emily Davison was force fed forty nine times. When the women were sufficiently ill, they were let out of gaol until they were well enough to serve the rest of their sentence. Then they were returned to gaol where they went on hunger strike. And so the cycle continued.
Of course, as well as Emily Davison, we’ve all heard of the Pankhursts. There is also another suffragette called Sophia Duleep Singh, of whom you may not have heard. She was such a pain in the arse that apparently King George V declared “Have we no hold on her?” I fervently hope not. Sophia died at the age of seventy two having dedicated her life to women’s rights.
It is easy for us to speak of these women with our mouths, and to forget with our heads what it must have been like for them. To be arrested and imprisoned for wanting to be treated equally. Equal treatment is not shocking today, but only because those women and the necessity of two World Wars beat the government into submission. Would I be prepared to give my life for it? Would I be prepared to be beaten up, or go on hunger strike for the rights that I now have? I’d like to think that I would. But it is not something that I have ever had, or will ever have to seriously consider; those women lived it. Some of them died for it.
No one really likes politicians do they? I was incandescent when Nick Clegg said he wouldn’t vote to raise tuition fees and the minute his feet were under the table, he voted to raise tuition fees. If Theresa May says “strong and stable” one more time in one of those ridiculously staged public appearances, I will think that she is really a robot whose programming has hit a glitch. And Diane Abbott’s grasp of figures is worse than mine, which I didn’t think was humanly possible; life is full of surprises.
Considering the selection, I really do think that we have come to the time in our political history when a box “None of the Above” should be included on the ballot paper. Things would get really interesting when “None of the Above” get in. I suppose that’s when we start rounding up all those people who don’t want to be politicians, to be politicians. But until that day, even if you just spoil your ballot paper, please register to vote and then vote. Not for your country, not because the Press told you who to vote for, but because what is now your right was once considered a privilege. On the 8th June, it will be one hundred and four years to the day that Emily Davison died, never having lived to see her dream come to fruition. Putting a cross on a piece of paper or a scribble through it is the only way I can think of to best honour her sacrifice.