Ahead of the centenary of women over 30 achieving the right to vote on Tuesday, Labour’s female shadow cabinet members give their thoughts on what women’s suffrage means to them.
The Labour Party is proud to have a gender-balanced shadow cabinet and to have more women MPs than all other parties put together.
Commenting on the centenary, female Labour shadow cabinet members said:
“Getting the vote was a crucial step forward for the empowerment of women. Personally I will never forget the day that I cast my first vote. Nor will I forget watching my first election count and seeing thousands of ballot papers with X against my name.”
Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary
“The 1918 Representation of the People Act deliberately excluded working-class women from the vote. So feminism without socialism will not be for the many but the few. Even these restricted rights were hard won not by asking nicely, but by feminists imprisoned and tortured by successive right-wing Governments.”
Shami Chakrabarti, Shadow Attorney General
“Votes for women put us at the heart of our democracy, but we still face inequality. This is a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come and to renew our efforts on where we go next, not just here, but for our sisters across the globe still denied the right to vote.”
Lesley Laird, Shadow Scottish Secretary
“The suffragettes and suffragists won the right for us to vote and take our place in democracy; we take up their torch as we continue to fight for women’s right to economic and social equality, the right to be heard and the right to be anything we want to be.”
Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
“In 2009, the fascist BNP were standing in the European elections. On polling day I ended up in hospital waiting to give birth, but I knew I had to use that right to vote. To everyone’s surprise, I insisted on getting out to the polling station to vote Labour.”
Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary
“It is poignant to realise that I might have been voiceless in a Salford workhouse in 1918 rather than in Parliament. I thank those brave women and those who followed for the chances we now have but with gender inequality a ‘ferocious’ issue, we still have a long way to go.”
Rebecca Long Bailey, Shadow Business Secretary
“In marking the centenary of universal suffrage I remember the life of Annie Kenney, a cotton mill worker, from Springhead in my constituency who was the only working class woman to hold a senior position in the Women’s Social and Political Union. It is thanks to the many sacrifices made by her and fellow suffragettes, that I have the opportunity to serve.”
Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary
“I still remember the excitement of my first vote over 40 years ago. I never imagined then I would become an MP – the 216th woman elected to the Commons. Or leading for Labour in the Lords – our party’s 5th female leader here.”
Angela Smith, Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
“It’s a century since women won the vote in the UK, but the struggle for gender equality is far from over here or around the world. Change only happens when women organise together – and the UK must stand shoulder to shoulder with today’s international suffrage movement.”
Kate Osamor, Shadow International Development Secretary
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be prevented from voting. Not to be a part of the democratic process. I’ve voted at every election but have never taken it for granted. I will be forever indebted to the brave women who fought to give me my chance to shape our future.”
Christina Rees, Shadow Welsh Secretary
“I am proud to have been elected as an MP in Salford, which was for many years home to the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst. It was a bitter struggle to win the vote for women and it is an honour to follow in the footsteps of the women who fought that fight, as only the 288th woman ever elected.”
Barbara Keeley, Shadow Minister for Social Care
“On the centenary of property-owning women over 30 winning the right to vote, I’m reminded the fight for suffrage and equality is a journey and this was just the first step for women. We still have some way to go to see a truly equal politics in the UK.”
Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs
“It’s important to recognise the anniversary of women’s suffrage, and the major milestones in women’s rights over the last century. Without women’s suffrage, none of these would have been possible. Personally, I am incredibly proud to have been the first woman to have been elected to represent a parliamentary constituency in Cumbria.”
Sue Hayman, Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary
“This centenary is an important landmark for women it highlights the importance of inclusion and equality. It opened doors for some women to vote and be elected to Parliament. But it wasn’t totally inclusive. It illustrates that every battle is worth the fight as it takes us a step closer to equality but we must never stop fighting”
Dawn Butler, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities
“When women gained the vote, we gained the power to make change happen ourselves, not just ask men for it and hope. And when we think what the Suffragettes sacrificed to win us that power, we owe it to them to make the most of it, and never stop fighting for change.”
Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary
“For me this centenary is like passing an early milestone on a long journey. Just as suffragettes wanted the right to vote not just for itself, but so that they could right the injustices they saw women suffer, so the challenge now is not to let up in that fight.”
Nia Griffith, Shadow Defence Secretary
Facts & Figures
There is more gender equality than ever before in Parliament after a record 208 women were elected in 2017.
Nearly 100 years after the law was changed to allow women to become MPs, they now make up 32% of the Commons.
The number of women MPs has increased by almost 9% since the 2015 election, when 191 were voted into Parliament.
Labour has the most women with 119, while the Tories have 67, the SNP 12 and the Lib Dems 4.
The general election of 1987 saw the first ever black MPs voted into the House of Commons.
Fast forward 30 years and the 2017 result has seen 52 ethnic minority MPs elected, says think tank British Future.
Of those, 32 are Labour, 19 Conservatives and one Lib Dem.
It is an increase from 41 in 2015 and the highest number ever.