Here’s something our young won’t be taught in school, since these days political correctness almost invariably trumps historical truth: there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that the antisocial antics of the Suffragettes in the early 20th century actually set back the introduction of votes for women by a good many years.
Of course, the official, woke-compliant version of the Suffragettes’ story — as endorsed by the massed ranks of broadcasters, film-makers, playwrights, feminists and the education Blob — is that through their ‘direct action’ these heroic women shook a bigoted, reactionary Establishment out of its complacency.
It is thanks to the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison, say the Left-leaning myth-makers, that Parliament was driven to pass the Representation of the People Act 1918, which enfranchised women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification, and in turn led to the Equal Franchise Act 1928, which finally gave women over 21 the same voting rights as men.
The facts tell a rather different story.
There is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that the antisocial antics of the Suffragettes in the early 20th century actually set back the introduction of votes for women by a good many years
Parliament was driven to pass the Representation of the People Act 1918, which enfranchised women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification, and in turn led to the Equal Franchise Act 1928, which finally gave women over 21 the same voting rights as men
Certainly, in the Victorian and Edwardian eras there were a great many male chauvinist pigs around, who thought that the proper place for women was in the kitchen or the bedroom, at the embroidery hoop, the sketchbook or the harpsichord, and that choosing a government and running the country should be left to sensible chaps like themselves.
In my own lifetime, I’ve raised many a glass with one or two such creatures down at the pub.
But the fact is that the tide of opinion in the male-dominated Establishment was moving steadily against these MCPs, long before the Suffragettes started chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows, bombing politicians’ houses, hunger-striking, setting fire to buildings and getting themselves trampled to death by racehorses.
As early as 1848, Benjamin Disraeli told the Commons that if a woman could be head of state, a landowner and a churchwarden, she could certainly exercise the vote. (I wouldn’t say he was a militant feminist, because he is also said to have observed that enfranchising women wouldn’t make any difference to the outcome of elections, since they would all vote the same way as their husbands!)
In 1869, the Municipal Franchise Act gave unmarried women ratepayers the vote in local elections — a right extended to some married women in 1894. Now fast forward to 1909, when by a whopping majority of 110, MPs backed a Private Members’ Bill giving women the vote in parliamentary elections.
Though action was delayed when Parliament was dissolved in a row over the Budget, by now the women’s cause was moving ahead apace. Indeed many historians think it likely that legislation would have followed well before the outbreak of World War I. But then Mrs Pankhurst’s lot started hogging the headlines with their violent protests, and the backlash was almost immediate.
Mrs Pankhurst’s lot started hogging the headlines with their violent protests, and the backlash was almost immediate
According to the woke myth, drummed into many schoolchildren today, a significant step forward for women’s suffrage came when Emily Davison deliberately threw herself under the hooves of the King’s horse during the 1913 Derby, earning the nation’s support by sacrificing her life for the noble cause.
In fact, the film footage suggests she had no plan to be martyred, but was simply attempting to attach a ‘Votes for Women’ slogan to the horse’s bridle.
If you ask me — and a great many of my fellow reactionaries in the pub will agree — this was a stupid, potentially homicidal thing to try, with an 80st horse thundering towards her at more than 40mph. Yet now there are statues to the idiot.
Anyway, it was despite the campaign by Suffragettes such as Davison — or, much more likely, because of it — that the parliamentary majority for women’s suffrage quickly evaporated. Asquith’s government got tough on the protesters, with widespread public and parliamentary approval, and it wasn’t until women’s genuinely heroic contribution to the war effort made enfranchisement inevitable that legislation was finally enacted in 1918.
Isn’t it fair today to describe Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil (JSO) as the most powerful allies climate-change sceptics have?
The great Millicent Fawcett, leader of the peace-loving National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and a believer in non-disruptive protest, put it best when she labelled Pankhurst’s mob: ‘The most powerful allies the anti-suffragists have.’
By the same token, isn’t it fair today to describe Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil (JSO) as the most powerful allies climate-change sceptics have?
I’m clearly not alone in believing they do their cause much more harm than good by mucking up people’s lives, through such antics as supergluing themselves to roads, disrupting the Chelsea Flower Show, the Ashes and tennis and snooker tournaments, and endangering horses and jockeys in the Grand National.
I’ll make an exception for the silly woman, applauded by JSO though seemingly not an actual member, who threw orange confetti at George Osborne’s latest wedding. Tiresome though she was, I thought the confetti looked quite pretty.
Last month, you may recall, the American founder of a charity that has pumped millions into these protest groups appeared to see the light, when he condemned them for indulging in ‘disruption for the sake of disruption’.
I’ll make an exception for the silly woman, applauded by JSO though seemingly not an actual member, who threw orange confetti at George Osborne’s latest wedding
It was ‘counter-productive’, said Trevor Neilson, co-founder of the Climate Emergency Fund, for ‘pink-haired, tattooed and pierced’ protesters to stand in front of people’s cars, preventing them from taking children to school for exams or trying to get a job. ‘That does not encourage them to join the movement,’ he added.
He can say that again.
Now even Sir Keir Starmer, who has been keen to flaunt his green credentials in the past, is said to have joined the backlash, reportedly exploding with impatience after his eco-fanatical climate change spokesman, Ed Miliband, gave a Powerpoint presentation to the shadow cabinet about his ruinously anti-oil energy policies.
Said a source quoted in the latest Sunday Times: ‘[Sir Keir] thanked him for his presentation, but said he wasn’t interested in hope and change, he was more interested in creating sustainable new jobs to replace jobs in old sectors that were being lost.
‘He then said he was not interested in tree-huggers, before adding to everyone’s surprise: ‘In fact, I hate tree-huggers’.’
This went even further than his remark, only days earlier, that Just Stop Oil should ‘Just Stop’.
I’m clearly not alone in believing they do their cause much more harm than good by mucking up people’s lives. Pictured: Climate Activists, including Extinction Rebellion, shut down multiple exhibitions at the Met
Now, if you want to know which way the political wind is blowing, just follow Sir Keir’s giddying practice of adopting policies when he thinks they are popular, and promptly ditching them when he detects a change in public opinion.
He’s a veritable human weather-vane — and for the moment, he has clearly decided that thanks to JSO’s antisocial idiocy, the wind is blowing strongly against eco-zealotry. As for me, I admit that I’ve always been sceptical about claims by scientists and lobbyists that the planet will fry unless we return at the double to the economic model of the Stone Age. Indeed, I reckon the Government has already gone much too far towards destroying livelihoods, with its nationally ruinous target of net zero emissions by 2050.
I’m all in favour of clean air and sensible measures to save polar bears and prevent towns such as Norfolk’s Wells-next-the-Sea from disappearing beneath the waves. What’s more, I curse those vast, gas-guzzling Chelsea tractors, driven incompetently along our narrow urban streets by mums with a single child in the back.
But I have to say that nothing in this world makes me feel more inclined to buy myself the biggest diesel-powered Hummer on the market, light a real coal fire and leave every light in the house burning night and day than the sight of all those trust-funded Jaspers and Arabellas of JSO, with insufferably sanctimonious smiles on their faces, making life miserable for honest citizens.
Ah, well, as a believer in delaying the transition to net zero, I suppose I should back JSO activists’ efforts to turn public opinion against their cause. But please don’t let future historians hail them as visionary heroes.