The Right To Vote: A Forgotten Battle?

The General Election has been and men and women across Britain have exercised their right to vote. But do people in Britain realise the hard road to democracy that Britain has trudged? And do they appreciate the people who struggled to reform our political system and award us today with more rights and political freedom? And does this influence their incentive to vote in elections?

Brig has spoken to six students from Stirling University to ask them the following questions:

1: How aware are you of Britain’s suffrage history in connection to men, women or both? Do you think people in general are very aware of it?

2: Do you feel that female suffrage history is given more prominence in literature, films and education than male suffrage history?

3: Do you feel schools discuss Britain’s suffrage history as well or as much as they should?

4: Do you feel we should strive to help other nations without democracy move towards it?

5: Does Britain’s turbulent journey to reach democracy today give you a sense of pride or duty when voting in this year’s General Election?

JENNI KEENAN – 3rd YEAR-CRIMINOLOGY AND SOCIAL POLICY

“I think a lot of people are not as aware as they could be about the process of getting suffrage here, or how much people gave to allow everyone to vote. A lot of women don’t vote, and I’m not into shaming them for that, but I do feel that it’s important that women do take up their right to vote and learn more about the suffragettes and how much they sacrificed to give us that right.  I think people are more aware of political inequality elsewhere than here.”

“I would say that my own awareness of these issues, both here and in other countries, is what will get me out voting at every election there is. I don’t know who to vote for this time, I don’t actually think any of the parties are that great, but democracy depends on our participation. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Democracy is the worst form of governance, apart from all the others.’ I think the system here needs work and people are right to be unhappy- but if they want change they need to stand up and do something about it, not stay home and complain.”

ANNA WREN – 3rd YEAR-ENGLISH

“I would say that I am much more aware of the female suffrage movement in Britain. I think that the male suffrage movement should be acknowledged more than it currently is, however, I think it should have a focus on POC male suffrage as the white CIS male generally has a higher standing in many social circles whether in relation to jobs, pay or tax.”

“I feel the school system that I grew up with seems to think suffrage ended with women burning bras or women gaining the right to vote. I feel that there should be a vast improvement in education in this area. I feel that as a woman I have a certain duty to vote, not just for a better country or for my own benefit but also for all those who could not vote throughout history. Their work made my position possible and I feel that I should honour that. It is the same as those who fight in wars-they died so that our country could be safe and we remember that with services. I think on those who fought for my rights, equality and standard of living every time I vote.”

NATHAN TRIBEN – 2ND YEAR-POLITICS AND HISTORY

“I think very few people in Britain know a lot about our British suffrage history, nor really care, and that is sad. Some men and women fought their entire lives to have the right to a political voice and to also achieve better welfare. I think it is something more people ought to know about and should hopefully remember the significance of our democracy and how it didn’t just spring up over-night but was the result of hard work and dedication to a cause.”

“Yes I definitely feel female suffrage history is given more prominence. I was looking up fictional literature on the male suffrage history and could find very little, but there was a lot regarding women. I think women have the right to prominence as they went through an even greater and harsher struggle than men. But male suffrage history is also very important and I do think people would notice and care for it more if it were more widely referred to in the arts.”

“Yes, I do think we should help people across the world. As a politics student I am aware that some nations possess aspects to their political system that are much better than ours and we should have the humility to look at theirs and learn from it. But so many countries have very poor equality and representation within politics either due to corruption, gender oppression or a lack of political freedom or privacy in voting. I think it is important not to wield ourselves at other nations as that would be arrogant, but simply to campaign and actively encourage their own form of secure democracy to evolve.”

“I do feel a sense of duty to vote because of our suffrage history. People fought and died for my rights or went throughout life desperate for change which never came in their lifetime. I think lot of people get complacent and lazy and forget how lucky we are to live in a nation where we can have diverse parties, vote privately and freely, or vote at all. I think if these people could come and see us now, they would be proud of our system, (even although it has flaws), but I think they would be sad to see people not voting because they couldn’t be bothered, or weren’t interested or didn’t feel their vote would matter. Because voting this 2015 is not just about making a difference, but is about proudly using your right to vote as a free citizen.”

HAYLEY BURRELL – 1st YEAR-ENGLISH AND FILM/MEDIA

“I do have some knowledge of the suffragettes, one of my historical heroines being Emily Wilding Davison-the woman who tried to pin a badge on the king’s horse at Epson. I was actually writing a short story based on her so I did lots of research into her life and background. The story was about her coming back through someone who didn’t vote to see the state of the world and what her and her friends’ efforts had amounted to.”

“Nowadays voting feels like picking the best of a bad bunch but I admire the suffragettes and what they did to give me that choice. So I vote to honour their memory, otherwise they will have fought and died in vain. And I think there should be more taught about it in schools. It should be given the same priority as learning about the Second World War.”

JENNY LESTER – 4TH YEAR-POLITICS

“I understand people feeling disengaged with the political process. People died for our right to vote; so I do feel a duty to vote. Even if you are disengaged and you feel none of the posh toffs wearing different colours represents you, I think you should still go and vote; spoil your ballot paper. That is a political statement showing you feel no-one represents you and you’d rather have no-one than one of the same old same old. Not turning up to vote doesn’t do anything!”

“And yes to helping people abroad to vote; but that is only one part of the solution. Giving all people a democratic right to vote but only having one party (China) is not helpful, or having more than one party, but voter registration only being possible with a drivers licence or passport, (a financial barrier to many), which is how it is in many states in America, and is not democracy. So yeah, give people the right to vote but we also have to empower them so they can use that right.smile emoticon”

ALEX FROST-HEAD – 3RD YEAR-Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

“If we’re looking at British Suffrage in the context of all men being able to vote circa 19th century, then I don’t believe that many modern men are aware of what used to happen in terms of election. Unlike their female counterparts, there is less notoriety surrounding the struggle for the right to vote. If you were to ask them what was significant about 1918, I doubt you would get much in the way of the emancipation of all men over 21 and rich women, with regards to voting. This could be due to the fact that it only covered men in the majority, or because the emancipation gained through the suffrage of their sisters was more recent, in 1928.”

“The only reason I know of the 1918 emancipation and the 1832 Reform Act is because I studied early British politics in school, and took the initiative to read around the periphery. I think it needs more coverage in schools, both the 1928 and 1918 emancipations, (using that word a lot here), are under appreciated but the 1918 one I feel more so.”

“I am not one to be overly sentimental regarding our history. That’s not to say I am not grateful to those that have sacrificed their liberty and their lives to defend our freedoms, but I do not feel overly dutiful to a country landed by career politicians. I vote as a pragmatist; an unsightly creature in the eyes of most partisans, but loyalty to a party that will have our country burn is foolish to say the least.”

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