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Democracy - don't take it for granted, use your vote

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Column by Lee Steptoe, Labour member of South Kesteven District Council

In a few days there are elections across the UK for councils, mayors, police and crime commissioners, and in Scotland and Wales for their national parliaments.

Locally we are voting for Lincolnshire County Council and the Lincolnshire PCC.

Councillor Lee Steptoe, Labour (24894592)
Councillor Lee Steptoe, Labour (24894592)

The majority will probably shrug and not bother to vote (as about 70 per cent didn’t in 2017).

Before switching off and abstaining I hope people consider their right to vote and not take our precious democracy for granted.

There are millions all around the world that would love the ability to vote in free and fair elections, from Russia to China.

At heart democracy is about the fundamental right to be heard and to peacefully remove politicians from office.

I might disagree passionately with political opponents but its easy to forget that more unites us than divides us because we are all democrats.

As a veteran history teacher, the struggle for the ‘franchise’ as it was termed even 100 years ago has always fascinated me. Male franchise came slowly during the 19th Century sometimes after mass demonstrations in places in the industrial north, such a Manchester, which led to the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ of 1819.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 gave the vote to just one in six males, who owned property.

On the eve of the First World War there was still around 25 per cent of males that could not vote.

The slaughter of the trenches changed all that and the coalition government led by Lloyd George granted all males over 21 the vote in the 1918 general election.

The sacrifice of so many working class Tommies made it impossible to deny them.

What about the other half of the population?

Women had very few legal rights at the dawn of the 20th Century and none could vote in general elections (a minority could in local elections.)

Despite the often militant campaigning of the Suffragettes this was still the case in 1914.

Again, it was their service to the nation during the war effort that turned the tide.

However, the Representation of the People’s Act of 1918 that gave all men the vote showed how deeply ingrained sexism was; women had to be over 30 to vote as they were not deemed mature enough at 21.

Equality with the male franchise did not come for another 10 years.

Votes have come through the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors. I hope you use yours on May 6.

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