Millicent Must Fall

MPs have trashed the democracy that generations fought for.

Sarah Ingham

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Last year, a century after British women first got the vote, a statue commemorating suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square. Today, it might as well be torn down. Millicent must fall.

The battle for the enfranchisement of women took some 60 years. With the current sorry state of British politics, we must ask ourselves whether it was worth all the struggle and sacrifice. On Monday night, MPs reduced the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ to a bawling fishwife who’s been on the gin. Their grotesque circus trashed Britain’s claim to be a democracy.

‘Silenced’, said notices on the Speaker’s chair and held up around the commons in response to the government’s prorogation. ‘Finally’, said voters, the paymasters to the mass of anti-democratic, showboating windbags loafing around on the green benches, who cost a minimum of £77,000 a year plus expenses to maintain. MPs’ newfound eagerness to be in the chamber sits oddly with their usual four-day week, a summer break that often exceeds six weeks, and all those half-term holidays. Scottish judges might have ruled the government’s suspension of parliament unlawful, but frankly, if Monday was anything to go by, MPs’ absence from SW1 for five weeks is not long enough.

‘Deeds not words’, urged Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Recently, very few in the Commons have taken her counsel on board. Whichever side of the Brexit divide a voter might be on, after three years, parliament’s inability or unwillingness to implement the referendum result is anti-democratic – and that should worry us all.

MPs could only fall back on witless clichés to justify their anti-democratic manoeuvrings of the past two weeks: ‘No one voted for …’, ‘Crashing out’, ‘Harm my constituents’, ‘Destroy jobs and livelihoods’. But clairvoyance isn’t part of any MP’s skillset. None of them really knows the upshot of leaving – or of remaining, for that matter. If MPs can foresee the future so clearly, perhaps they could share Saturday’s winning lottery numbers with us. We know their opposition to ‘No Deal’ is simply ‘No Leave’ in political Newspeak.

Voters also know that the overwhelming majority of MPs voted to invoke Article 50 in 2016 and were then re-elected in 2017 on manifestos pledging to take the UK out of the EU. Despite all that time on their hands since then – and those vast salaries – it can be inferred that most politicians couldn’t be bothered to read the small print of what they were signing up to, now that those pledges have been abandoned. It’s as if ‘the most momentous decision since the Second World War’ was nothing more than a tiresome pay-as-you-go phone purchase.

Since the 2001 General Election, when turnout was lower than 60 per cent, our representatives have uttered pieties about how the public must be more engaged in the political process. More cant. Voters are seeing that their participation in the referendum counts for less than zero. Can’t MPs see the logic of their antics of dither, indecision and delay? People will legitimately ask: why should anyone bother voting? In fact, why have elections at all?

Votes ignored, political opponents threatened with arrest, demands for state surveillance of private communications… it must be doubted whether this is the version of British democracy in which Fawcett, Pankhurst and all those other women wanted to have a voice.

On Monday, shadow minister Dawn Butler berated Boris Johnson for not appointing a replacement to Amber Rudd, who held the women-and-equalities portfolio, in addition to her work-and-pensions brief. In the real world outside of Westminster, women aren’t particularly bothered about a pretty token ministerial post. They do, however, care that their vote isn’t being taken seriously, and that democracy itself is being undermined.

MPs would do well to go across Parliament Square, stand in front of the statue of Millicent Fawcett, and quietly reflect upon the struggle for women’s equality and the vote… before they summon the bulldozer.

Sarah Ingham is a writer working on a history of women and the British military. Follow her on Twitter: @inghamsarahj.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Brexit Politics UK


Steve Roberts

13th September 2019 at 4:33 pm

Ingham raises the most relevant issue arising from the authoritarianism of the political class in denying democracy. Who rules ?
” People will legitimately ask: why should anyone bother voting? In fact, why have elections at all? ”
What we have at the moment is rule by the tyranny of the minority, the majority are been ignored, denied and democracy is ridiculed, universal suffrage and with it the sovereign will of the people has lost all meaning and social and political power, the political class are a law unto themselves , this is tyranny, one in which we have no power to control these authoritarians. The old chestnut of “..well we have the option to vote out anyone we do not approve of…” has been shown to be yet one more illusion, the political class have found new ways to even deny our chance in a GE, quite possibly they will find ways to even extend the five year terms.
Oh that will never happen, it can’t possibly…… remember this, these people will stop at nothing , that is what they have proven over the last three years and more.
We need to be rid of the political class and their lackeys in the established order, further than that we need to ensure that in future anyone who is to be allowed to represent us is in our control.
The task is how to achieve that, the first step is understanding that is what is needed, all the antidemocratic institutions and obstacles to our sovereign will need to go, to not understand that is a serious deficiency of political understanding, and is a serious obstacle in itself.

A Game

15th September 2019 at 7:45 am

The first step is to remove the culture that an MP is a sacred cow. They are Joe Blow who managed to make more friends than enemies (which usually means they were fence-sitters and people-pleasers) and willing to play the game of mutual benefit. “Vote for me, I’ll make sure you get that job.”
Then the cult of personality surrounds them (to which they become addicted to… why else is Winnie’s Boy hanging on so tight?), they are now a “player”, and it all becomes self perpetuating.
That is what has to go.
An MP is a person with enough narcissism to want to be in the game. Which means they always have to be checked that they are staying on course. And when they deviate, when they fall out of love with their brief and into love with their status and perks, then nothing short of ruthless removal will do.
If they always have that pressure on them, so they will then put pressure on their public servants (the unaccountable and deeply inefficient) to do better, because they know they will be dealt with in the face of incompetency or lax attention.
And then the whole set-up must be controlled by their local party or support base. Those people, then, must always have the checks and balances that they have no vested interest in propping up a sagging hypocrite, that their original goals in joining a party, participating through the years, handing out on election days, etc, remains unsullied.

John Millson

16th September 2019 at 7:53 am

Quite simple: no more than two parliaments or 10 years, which ever is sooner.
Yes, MPs should be accountable the whole time…to their constituents, not just the members. Ideally, the voters of the parties in the constituencies should be selecting the candidates. We need capable mature people, to represent us.

Ven Oods

13th September 2019 at 2:36 pm

There may be two explanations for the MPs who are currently reneging on campaign promise:
1. They want to reverse the referendum and hope to be forgiven.
2. They are committed to doing what they think is in the best interests of the country – and by extension their constituents – and are prepared to risk their jobs rather than their principles.

All we now need to do is select which we believe to be likelier.

A Game

15th September 2019 at 8:03 am

Well, 21 inadvertent sacrificial lambs have answered that question.

Robert Johnson

15th September 2019 at 12:06 pm

A GAME: “No, J Millson has just argued very nicely that business people’s vote is worth two of everyone else’s.”
Joking I take it?
That’s the main argument they have isn’t it: trust in experts from established institutions,
accept their authority and do not question it, because they know better than you. Therefore, when they ask things of you, obey them, or else it can only mean you are getting above station. Stay in your lane and listen to your betters etc….and ps you are moral and intellectual pygmy for shunting the higher calling of EU membership…you are worth nothing, shame on you..and you smell.

Jim Lawrie

13th September 2019 at 9:45 am

“Dawn Butler berated Boris Johnson for not appointing a replacement to Amber Rudd, ” An attempt to add sexism and misogyny to the charge sheet against Boris Johnson. But as the author points out, no-one seems to have noticed this missing ministry, except Dawn Butler.

They spend their days trying to come up with anything at all that will deflect from the issue.

John Millson

13th September 2019 at 8:32 am

What is the actual point of this diatribe? Sp!ked is reaching new depths of puerility.
Of course MPs aren’t ‘clairvoyants’. As public servants, representing all their constituents, they should be reflecting and reacting on what business, industry, education, retail, health, security, agriculture etc., are saying.
Yes, we need a General Election very soon but don’t expect the new intake to be miraculously more dilligent and less ‘amoral’. MPs are ‘us’. ‘We get what we deserve’ is too blunt, but maybe more of us need to look at own selves a bit longer?

Neil McCaughan

13th September 2019 at 12:18 pm

A large number of MPs lied – repeatedly – to their constituents at the last General Election. Liars like Yvette Cooper who swore she would respect the outcome of the referendum, and then did everything she could to subvert it. Liars like Anna Soubry and Justine Greening, Liars like Hillary Benn and Keir Starmer. Liars like Letwin and Spelman, liars like Soames and Grieve.

These aren’t representatives. Merely hireling traitors.

Robert Johnson

13th September 2019 at 1:47 pm

MP’s are “amoral” if they are not “reflecting” on what business leaders are saying? Is that what you are saying? So you’re saying they are not reflecting? What would sufficient reflection look like? Full and fair reflection would lead to…what? You have obviously reflected on this. Because you have sufficiently reflected, what is the right moral conclusion? What is to be done with Brexit?
Please separate the wheat from the chaff for us. You think God is trying to tell us that we should listen more to remainer inclined business leaders?

John Millson

13th September 2019 at 3:07 pm

MPs who listen and reflect on what many business leaders say about the possible bad consequences of a disorderly Brexit, and who want to protect their constituents if they can, aren’t ‘guessing’, or as the writer of this piece says, using ‘clairvoyance’. (MPs who don’t listen at all, don’t care about the negative consequences are in a minority in Parliament.)
‘What is to be done with Brexit?’ We need to leave the EU in a mutually agreed & orderly way. Hardly controversial or ‘morally’ superior – just hard-nosed common sense.

Robert Johnson

13th September 2019 at 6:11 pm

So business leaders are not motivated by self interest and are unquestionably acting for the benefit of a higher cause here..the greater common good? Well, I can’t believe my ears. I’ve been indoctrinated to believe otherwise.
Could it be possible that you are being naive? Did you believe all the dire stuff that was said in 2016 about what would happen simply if we failed to vote remain?

A Game

15th September 2019 at 8:11 am

R Johnson:
No, J Millson has just argued very nicely that business people’s vote is worth two of everyone else’s.

John Millson

16th September 2019 at 8:13 am

Of course business leaders are motivated by self interest. Some care about society; most probably don’t have a well developed social consicence. There is nothing anyone can do about that. They won’t hesitate to cut costs when there is the faintest whiff of ‘downturn’ etc.
Re the 2016 immediate aftermath. Confidence, ‘normality’, was restored because we knew we had at least two years to get some sensible withdrawal apparatus in place, with a ‘safe pair of hands’ in Theresa May. Naturally no one thought May would be such an appalling Prime Minister and so many MPs on both sides wouldn’t think about the country as a whole.

Zammo McTrotsky

16th September 2019 at 7:09 am

The point of this diatribe is to keep the indignation levels of Spiked’s fans up. They don’t do much thinking anyway, and a lucid moment can’t be allowed to happen, so red-faced, double-denim swaddled rage must be constantly stoked. They are a propaganda outlet of the radical right
That’s their job.

Stephen J

13th September 2019 at 7:58 am

Sarah Ingham wrote:”People will legitimately ask: why should anyone bother voting? In fact, why have elections at all?”

Well yes, that is what some leavers might think, probably most.

However, the remainders will be happy that elections have become meaningless, right up until the point when the government comes after THEM!

A Game

15th September 2019 at 8:21 am

S. J:
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… those Remainer Fuckers would chew threw a car tyre in order to vote.
That’s part of the hideous dupe. Discourage their opponents, whilst they know never to stop voting themselves.

A Game

15th September 2019 at 8:23 am

Whoops, I’ve awakened the censor. I’ll self censor to take some of the visual sting out of it.
S. J:
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… those Remainer F**kers would chew threw a car tyre in order to vote.
That’s part of the hideous dupe. Discourage their opponents, whilst they know never to stop voting themselves.

Jane 70

13th September 2019 at 7:14 am

Surely the crux of this dismal farce is that our votes are not being taken seriously : Leave supporters, men and women alike, are equally disgusted, demoralised and itching to get rid of these parliamentary poseurs.

Democracy is indeed being undermined and we now face the fact that we have effectively been disenfranchised by legal and procedural manoeuvres, all because we voted the wrong way.

Jane 70

13th September 2019 at 7:18 am

So this doesn’t only apply to us, the female Leave voters: some of our most vociferous opponents come to mind: Lucas, Soubry, Thornberry, Abbott, Swinson, Black.

Robert Johnson

13th September 2019 at 2:36 pm

Well I agree with you…now it’s in the hands of the supreme court to see whether a Benn law can be enforced that takes a dump on a previously passed law that is international in scope and was passed by the same people who are now trying to enforce a 2nd law that prevents the 1st law that they themselves agreed to. The “no deal” default is at fault because they never realized when they voted for the default that the default position would kill lots of people (or worse) and ruin most peoples lives.
Or something like that. but it looks like remainer judges might come in handy if you want a guaranteed chance of a 31st Oct no deal Brexit to be a guaranteed no go.

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