Women voting? 100 years on

The Voice & Vote exhibition will be at the Great Hall in the Palace of Westminster until October
The Voice & Vote exhibition will be at the Great Hall in the Palace of Westminster until October

Constituents visiting the Great Hall in the Palace of Westminster will, until October, be able to see the Voice & Vote exhibition.

Can anyone now understand why women were for so long denied the vote? Can anyone imagine why they were banned from the public gallery?

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

Now ask what are the equivalent issues where common sense might break out? During my lifetime the prejudice about sexuality has been diminished. There is now a debate in France about whether the word racial might sensibly be retired: their President Macron says that origin may be of interest; he adds that genetically we are all so similar it is wrong to think we are significantly different from each other.

We are left with the task of identifying discriminatory prejudice, of unequal opportunity and most relevantly the obligation and the opportunities for fairness. Some MPs appear to be interested in equality of outcome, some in the extremes of liberty. I class myself as a justice politician – I ask if a situation or experience is fair, is it necessary and would a possible alternative work better?

Since the end of the Second World War, a growing number of countries have come to democracy. Sadly, some are now appearing to be under the lasting influence of leaders who define what they do by being against groups in their own countries. Too often, the ‘big man’ approach leads to a gang around the leader doing commercial deals and to personal enrichment at the price of lowered opportunities for the many.

Our former prime ministers are free to take their pensions, to write books and to give lectures.

Is this a long way from my community meetings in, for example, East Preston or Goring or in central Worthing? Yes, in some ways. No, not in others.

On Saturday, having been alerted to the plan to auction the shops in High Salvington, I had an informal meeting with the chair of the local residents and with Vino, before I called on the first resident to alert me to the concerns that a whole community could be cut off from their admired local shop and the barbers where I have had my hair trimmed. The perceived risk of replacement housing on the site is to be determined by the borough council, if there is an application.

Being able to offer my experience and advice, I had said that in my view, there is overwhelming cause to keep the site for retail. It is a long way to any alternative.

This week I attended the good gathering at Westminster for the Federation of Small Business. Large companies matter; smaller ones can grow and even as start-ups, they contribute so much. Public services and private enterprise go together for the benefit of us all.

Between the completion of this article and the newspaper hitting the newsagents and readers’ letter boxes, I shall have escorted Dame Sarah Mullally in the City of London from St Michael’s Church, Cornhill to the Drapers’ Livery Hall. Having served as the NHS’s Chief Nursing Officer, she is now the Bishop of London.

Today, Worthing nurse Aileen Coomber will play a central role in the Westminster Abbey service to mark 70 years of the NHS.

We can be proud of each and every nurse, together with all who work with them.

For more information about the Voice & Vote exhibition visit www.parliament.uk/get-involved/vote-100/voice-and-vote

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Worthing nurse chosen for key role at Abbey

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