“The reasons why women should have the vote are obvious to every fair-minded person” stated Bell from her step-ladder in the centre of town as she read aloud the 1908 speech of suffragette Christabel Pankhurst.
“[Yet] women have not been able to bring pressure to bear upon the government and government moves only in response to pressure … Men got the vote, not by persuading but by alarming the legislators. Similar vigorous measures must be adopted by women,” Bell stated to applause from gathered on-lookers.
With Newbury’s high street soaked in sunshine, Bell called out to passers-by to remember the hard-won rights of women and how hard the struggle for votes had been.
Finishing off Pankhurst’s speech Bell stated: “The present government is approaching the end of its career” with an appreciative crowd showing their support.
The Labour Party stall, from which Bell delivered her political oratory, was also host to a giant card celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS – and dozens of Newbury townsfolk added their names. “It was the LabourParty that set up the NHS in 1948,” said Alan Rivers – Secretary of the Newbury Labour Party. “It was opposed at the time by two groups – the BMA, who have since become one of the NHS’ biggest supporters, and it was opposed by the Tories whose cutbacks and privatisation plans show that they still oppose our amazing NHS.”
Newbury Labour continue to challenge the local Conservatives at Council and Parliamentary level on the health of the NHS. The restructure of the NHS by the Conservative government has lead to the formation of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STP), with West Berkshire being a pilot area for the Integrated Care Services (ICS) programme, which allows West Berkshire Council to bundle all NHS and Social Care services into one contract to be tendered to the private sector. The rumoured closure of West Berkshire Community Hospital as part of the original STP documents was raised at the recent West Berkshire Healthwatch Board Meeting by Newbury CLP Campaign Coordinator, Moz Bulbeck Reynolds. This was strenuously denied by Dr Abid Irfan, of the Berskhire West Clinical Commissioning Group, presenting on behalf of the ICS team to the Healthwatch Board.