From the February 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard
“After years of promise the Liberal Party have drawn up a Suffrage Reform Bill. With a long sham fight about ‘Home Rule’ and ‘Welsh Disestablishment’ before them, the measure seems to have had its last and first reading.”
“The suffrage for women, too, seems to have been left out of this Government measure in the hope that it will help to keep the fires of controversy burning—and perhaps to sufficient effect to cremate the Bill.”
So wrote we in our issue of July last upon the introduction of the now cremated Bill. We wrote the truth because we know the history of this party of cravens—of their contemptible cowardice in the past. We never expected them to do more than dress the political window to catch the eye of the voter in bye-elections.
It is the old, old story—ever new to the politically blind—the story of ’32, ’67, and ’92. Hypocrisy writ large over the actions and speeches of the “leaders of the People.” Just as King Edward conveniently died to prevent them “doing things” to the House of Lords, so now something turns up to help them out of the ditch.
“The Speaker” discovers that if Asquith keeps his promise and allows the Bill ‘‘to be widened in its scope,” it can’t go through. So Asquith pronounces its funeral oration.
They never dreamt of such s thing as the Speaker doing that! Oh, dear, no! Eminent lawyers, too, most of them! The very men, moreover, who make and maintain the laws of procedure in the House of Commons! What a sorry tale of bluff!
It was ever thus with them. They don’t want j to see a wider franchise. They fear its possibilities. They are afraid of political changes—they might lose their jobs. As the passing of a Franchise Bill is coincident with a General Election, they don’t like to take their chances. The story of the fight for the franchise is a story of Liberal and Tory betrayal of the working class. Both parties made use of the Chartist movement, and both helped to smash it. Persecution and broken promisee were the weapons then used, and they served their purpose well. After a generation had passed that grand old humbug, W. E. Gladstone, promised the workers the franchise, but, true to his kidney, he wobbled when the time came. So they went on. Parliament after Parliament voting down franchise Bills.
Yet to-day, relying upon the working class short memories, the lying Liberals boast of having given the toilers the vote.
So now, after years of promise, they deliver their still-born Bill. But just as Household Suffrage was inevitable, so now we believe that in the march of events Adult Suffrage is bound to come. But, true to their historic methods, the Liberals will try it in instalments. A small portion at a time in order to reap the kudos on many occasions. They will go warily, lest they alter the complexion of political life.
We, however, do not regret the death of this Bill. As we pointed out in July last, there was nothing democratic about it. But the way it has gone shows what a fund of ingenuity these cunning lawyer politicians can bring to tbs bluffing of the working class. And is it not significant that we were able to foretell this six months ago ?