The Member of Parliament for Eastleigh, Mims Davies, has marked exactly 100 hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent.
The Act gave the vote to virtually all men over the age of 21, and to women over the age of 30 who met a minimum property qualification, as well as to female university graduates, who could vote within their university constituency.
Commenting, Mims said:
“I consider every day that I serve my constituents as the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh as an honour and a privilege, but today I reflect particularly on the fact that I am the first woman to represent the Eastleigh constituency as only the 380th woman to be elected to Parliament in May 2015.”
“We have come a long way since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent, and I am proud that following last June’s General Election, our Parliament is the most diverse it has ever been. This has enabled MP’s like myself to highlight important issues facing women’s lives, such as the hormone pregnancy test Primodos, the continued use of Mesh Implants and the use of Valproate during pregnancy.”
“This being said, as the former Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in Parliament, and a former member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, I recognise that there is so much more that needs to be addressed.”
“Currently, of the 650 MP’s sitting on the green benches of the House of Commons, only 208 are women, and while it is true that this number has continued to rise in each election since 2001, it remains a far cry from true equality at 50% representation.”
Meanwhile, marking the event with a speech in Manchester, Britain’s second female Prime Minister and former Equalities Minister, Theresa May, celebrated the heroism of the suffrage movement which “transformed British democracy”.
The Prime Minister also warned that debate in modern politics is being coarsened by “bitterness and abuse”, calling upon individuals, governments and the media to accept responsibility in order to help sustain a genuinely pluralist public debate for the future.
Commenting on abuse over social media, the Prime Minister has said that social media can and should be a force for good in our democracy, but it is too often exploited and abused, with much of that abuse disproportionately targeted at political candidates who are female, black, minority ethnic or LGBT, damaging equal representation in politics.
In a bid to tackle abuse online, the Prime Minister has endorsed recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life earlier this year, which called for laws to shift the liability of illegal content towards social media firms and highlighted the need to speed up content takedowns.
Theresa May also tasked the Law Commission with reviewing legislation on offensive online communications to ensure it "is appropriate to meet the challenges posed by this new technology".
Commenting further, Mims said:
“Having twice been a parliamentary candidate, as well as previously a council candidate, and now serving as a Member of Parliament, I am all too aware of the level of abuse that is too often focused upon political candidates who are female, black, minority ethnic or LGBT.”
“As someone that is committed to increasing the diversity of the people that represent us in the House of Commons, as well as more widely, I warmly welcome both the sentiment and the actions that the Prime Minister has highlighted within her speech today, and look forward to working alongside this Government to deliver them.”