Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

On suffrage

Sir: In his article 'Failure of the Feminists' (12 March), Paul Johnson asserts that some women would have got the vote in Britain well before 1914 if 'feminists' had been willing to accept property qualifications.

In fact the stated aim of the major suffrage societies was to achieve the vote on the same terms as men, which before 1918 meant with a property qualification. They had been quite happy in the 1890s to accept the municipal vote on these terms. It was the Liberal leadership (and, initially, the Labour party) that opposed women's suffrage on the grounds that the class of women who would get the vote under equal franchise would be likely to vote Conservative. And of course in 1918, when all men finally got the vote, suffragists were happy to accept a measure involving not only a property qualification but a minimum age of 30 - which, incidentally, excluded a good many if not most of the young women who had volunteered for war work. So it is a little hard to blame the intransigence of some supposed 'feminists' for a resistance which in fact was at least partly due to the perceived electoral advantage of the Liberal party.

David Doughan London SW19

Liddle mistake

Sir: As anyone who knew me from my days in the National Organisation of Labour Students in the 1970s could tell Rod Liddle (12 March), I was never 'a grim Trotskyite'.

Indeed, on the contrary, I was an active member of the anti-Trotskyist Broad Left in the National Union of S tudents, and founder convenor of the 'Clause Four' Group whose successful 'Operation Ice Pick' campaign wrested control of NOLS from the Militant Tendency in 1975. An apology and correction is in order.

Mike Gapes Labour and Co-operative MP for Ilford South, House of Commons, London SW1

An un-English state

Sir: I cannot tell you how much it rejoiced my heart to read in James Forsyth's column (Politics, 26 February) that the 'Cameroons' are finally getting wise to the full extent of the threat to our freedoms from the EU.

I speak as a Germanophile who has lived very happily here in Germany for 15 years.

There are many advantages to a well-run, orderly society. Yet I can never reconcile myself to the unquestioned assumption here that the government sets the limits to my rights. The governing elite are the wise ones who know what is best for us. The English tradition, going back at least to Magna Carta, could not be more different: the people set the limits to the government's powers. New Labour appears to have been oblivious to the way their surrender to EU hegemony undermined a millennium of political development, and introduced an alien political philosophy into our affairs.

I regret that after being resident abroad for 15 years, I am disenfranchised and will be unable to do my patriotic duty in the referendum on withdrawing from the EU.

Perhaps T he Spectator could campaign to re-enfranchise long-term exiles? …

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