Thursday, May 06, 2010

Winston and Sylvia - why voting is important

A ten-minute walk from where I live in East London, there are two monuments. One is large and impressive, and a well-known local landmark. The other is small and hidden, known only to a few locals, historians and researchers.

The large monument is a statue of the former local MP, Winston Churchill. He was the head of a wartime coalition government which turned the course of the second world war. He is rightly celebrated, and once stated "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

A short distance down the hill is a small triangular wooded patch of land opposite the tube station. This morning, a few straggly bluebells are blooming there in the watery sun. A small brass plaque shows that the copse was named Pankhurst Green in 1990, in honour of the sufragette Sylvia Pankhurst, who lived in a house nearby from 1932 to 1956. In fighting for the deocratic rights of women, she was imprisoned and force-fed many times before eventually achieving her objective in 1928, when all women, regardless of income or status, were finally allowed to vote.

Winston and Sylvia clashed many times in the village local village halls and the columns of the local paper. Winston was elected as both a Liberal and a Conservative MP, whereas Sylvia was at various times, a member of the Labour, Conservative and Communist parties. They disagreed on many things. However, there was one issue on which they were in full agreement; the importance of every citizen having a vote.

I know that many people are disillusioned with politics and politicians. 'Twas ever thus. Democracy is not a perfect system, and the likelihood is that this is the last general election without any element of proportional representation. However, voting is a right that we should cherish. I will be voting, as always, on election day. I remember Sylvia Pankhurst, who fought to give everyone that right, and Winston Churchill, who fought to let us keep it.

Please take just a few minutes on May 6th to use your vote.

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