One hundred years ago today, the first women won the right to vote. On February 6th 1918, royal assent was granted to the Representation of the People Act, extending the franchise to 5.6 million more men and, for the first time ever, 8.4 million women. This was a crucial and historic moment, but it was by no means the end of the struggle for democracy.
Since 1918, our democracy has developed massively. Women were granted full voting rights alongside men in 1928, the voting age was lowered in 1969, devolution was introduced and the use of referendums popularised. But the way we elect MPs has remained the same. This means we have been lumbered with a voting system designed for the 19th century. Despite the right to vote being extended, millions still feel unrepresented and disenfranchised.
That’s why today, along with hundreds of others, I will be commemorating the struggle of the suffragettes by choosing not to eat for 24 hours. We are calling for a new voting system, fit for the 21st century. One in which all votes count equally, regardless of where you live or who you vote for.
First Past the Post results in Parliaments that do not reflect the public, governments that do not have the support of the voters, and a political system which alienates rather than empowers. In 2017, 68% of votes had no impact on the final result, either going to losing candidates or piling up in safe seats without influencing the makeup up Parliament. We are calling for Proportional Representation so that seats in Parliament properly reflect the public and all votes matter.
The alliance of politicians, activists and members of the public pushing for real democracy is gaining momentum. MPs, MEPs, Peers and public figures - from five political parties and none - are joining hundreds of us in a 24-hour fast to demand Proportional Representation. Support for electoral reform has surged since the 2015 general election and is showing no signs of going away.
We recognise the severity of what campaigners went through to win the vote, that for some British people hunger is a daily reality, and that sexism remains prevalent in the 21st Century. In respect of this, we are inviting supporters to donate the money they would have spent on food for the day to be split between the Trussell Trust, the Fawcett Society and Make Votes Matter - you can do so here.
Although we are lucky in the UK to have the right to vote, we must take action to reform our woefully unrepresentative political system. The time is now for Proportional Representation.