A lot was made of the Suffragettes last week and I thought a few words immediately after the rather hysterical and fawning coverage they received might be the right way to go. There can be no doubt that what the Suffragettes were fighting for was right and I think we're all in agreement that to discriminate regarding who does and does not get the vote based on gender is no better than it would be to discriminate on the grounds of race or ethnicity. Whatever qualification you might decide to use use, be it age, employment status or whatever else then it needs to be applied consistently and fairly across all genders and all races. To think otherwise is, frankly, mad.
However, there is a saying that I have used on these pages and others before - just because you ended up getting what you campaigned for doesn't mean your campaigning had anything to do with it. Moreover, there are less than noble ways of going about achieving your goal and it's worth remembering that the Suffragettes engaged in such less than peaceful forms of protest as burning down the houses of MPs (most notably the last Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George), the planting of bombs and destroying public property. Millicent Fawcett, a peaceful campaigner for many of the same basic aims as Pankhurst et al, regarded them as a hindrance to the cause.
Something frequently forgotten is that the oft-cited (indeed assumed) dichotomy of men could vote and women couldn't wasn't quite true. Indeed, it was only when women over the age of 30 were given the vote after World War 1 that the remaining working class men previously excluded from the franchise also received it. Now we were still circa half a century away from total voting equality and no doubt that is somewhat embarrassing, but the terms of the argument, and the Suffragettes' precise role in the ultimate winning of it strike me as being altogether more complicated and nuanced than the media coverage last week might have suggested. There were much wider issues at play.
It's also impossible not to comment on this without some reference to the recent call for an across the board pardon for all criminal convictions relating to Suffragette activity. Surely when it comes to pardoning somebody the most pertinent questions to ask are 1) is what the person convicted of still illegal? and 2) are we still pretty damn sure they were guilty as charged? If the answer to both of those questions is yes then any suggestion of a pardon is off the table. I'm not disputing that some of the treatment of Suffragettes by police and prison officers could be filed under 'cruel and unusual' but 'campaigning for women's suffrage' was not illegal and nobody was convicted of that.
Meanwhile, over at Oxfam it seems a few of their number have given the phrase 'missionary work' a whole new meaning. It's always interesting to hear the puritanical hypocrisy of people who engage in vices of their own, be they drugs, gambling, sex or whatever else, preaching fire and brimstone about the behaviour of others and using the fact that they work for a 'charity' to hold them to a higher standard. Look, if there's one thing that this story demonstrates, it's that people who work for 'charities' (especially big corporate charities like Oxfam) are not 'saints' but a fair enough cross-section of society, most of them doing a job for money and spending that money as they see fit.
So...like the rest of us really. End conversation.
Or at least that conversation - I find it stunning that more has not been made of the ongoing phoney bone of contention regarding whether or not Oxfam should lose its State funding. The latest from the Ministry for Feeling Good about Yourself is something about no snap or rush decision, which is most unfortunate as it means that Oxfam will continue to receive nearly half of its 'donations' from the taxpayer as it does today. Now I'm sure that the lateral thinkers amongst us will recognise two key points, namely 1) an organisation that receives taxpayers' money is not a charity and 2) there must be a reason for government part-nationalising 'the third sector' in the way they have.
That reason, as far as I can see, is to neuter those charities while creating a new 'crony capitalist' class amongst their upper echelons, creaming off taxpayers' money while continuing to trouser the voluntary donations of well-meaning people who haven't clocked that outfits like Oxfam are basically now an arm of the State. A strong independent charity will criticise government, sometimes loudly and rather robustly, whether that's to tell it to do more or just get out of the way. They have a key role in our democracy, highlighting the issues that arise in the course of their work. In contrast, a charity that has been 'bought off' knows not to bite the hand that feeds them and acts accordingly.
This also puts the political bullshit Oxfam come out with in a whole new light.
Checking the true 'charitable status' of any charity before you hand over your hard-earned to them might be a smart move. Just a suggestion, feel free to take it or leave it.
As promised I've kept that to less than 1,000 words so please feel free to suggest the topic of discussion on Friday. We could go into the mad world of non-binary, the minefield that is mental illness or you can hear my musings on the Monarchy.
Anyway, seeing as we mentioned the Suffragettes I'll leave you with a Mick Ronson-inspired David Bowie. Thanks for reading and see you next time.