by Rab Bruce’s Spider

This week has seen the marking of the 100th anniversary of some women being given the vote. This was, of course, a momentous occasion but a word of caution is required when celebrating such things.

To begin with, it must be acknowledged that the Suffragette movement was absolutely vital in bringing about this change. Suffragettes underwent horrendous intimidation and were regarded as enemies of the State for a long time. They ran the risk of being verbally abused or even physically assaulted by members of the public who were whipped into fury by the media of the day. In addition, imprisonment and forced feeding were the fate of many.

This shows that the British State has always seen any attempt to dilute its power and authority as a threat. Extending the franchise away from wealthy males was perceived as dangerous. It did eventually happen, of course, but the Suffragettes showed us that the British State will never willingly concede any power unless it has little option. It also confirmed that the media will always be on the side of the status quo and will be able to influence many members of the public with its constant messages of othering.

Extension of the franchise is an ongoing, gradual process. For example, while it is right that some women being able to vote should be commemorated, we should not forget that many of the young men who fought and died in the trenches during World War 1 were considered too young to vote.

During the Twentieth Century, the franchise was eventually extended further until we reached the stage where men and women aged 18 or over have equal voting rights. This is as it should be, but we should not fool ourselves that this is the end of the process.

In Scotland, young people are now permitted to vote from the age of 16, while the UK Government stubbornly insists that people under the age of 18 are not mature enough to vote responsibly. This is the next stage in the process, because it is quite unconscionable that people who are considered old enough to leave school, find work and pay taxes, to marry and even to join the armed Forces and perhaps give their lives for the State, are not permitted to vote in elections. The excuse that they are not mature enough is quite pathetic. Anyone who has visited a school knows that many young people are perfectly capable of listening to arguments and making up their own minds. Indeed, they are often better informed than elderly people who have been exposed to State propaganda all their lives and still trust the mainstream media.

So, yes, let’s celebrate a momentous event from 100 years ago, but let us also remember that it was only one step, albeit a very large and important one, on the long road to democracy.