Intro

SOPHIE WALKER’S INAUGURAL PARTY CONFERENCE SPEECH

Thank you, thank you everyone.

Thank you Catherine Mayer, thank you Sandi Toksvig, for believing this was possible. Thank you to our volunteers and out activists for turning our anger into ideas, for turning our needs into policies, for turning our hopes into votes. Thank you to our Equality Activists who set up branches all over the country, and who steered this country from just an idea into a movement of 65,000 members and supporters. Thank you to the women’s sector, for the work you do every day, and for telling us where we fall short, and for showing us how we can do it better. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who voted for us on Election Day, who saw the power in their vote and chose to use that power. And thank you to the politicians and the business leaders, who broke rank just enough that we could hear it when they whispered “keep going”. Thank you.

On this great day in Manchester, birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst, home to the inaugural meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union, I am so honoured to address our first party conference. I am reminded of the extraordinary sacrifice made by those before us in the name of equality. Women such as princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Annie Kenney, who dedicated their lives to women’s advancement and who saw the freedom of some as the emancipation of none.

The suffragettes showed us what was possible when equality passed beyond the realm of advocacy, into the sphere of politics. They understood what few have since: that the movement needed to achieve equality is bigger than left or right, it is more colourful than red or blue.

But as we take inspiration from the continuity between their struggle and ours, we must push that struggle forward, inside an even broader church. One woman’s suffrage must not be built on the sufferance of another. And never has this truth been in greater jeopardy. Never before have we needed so much courage and determination to keep it alive, that equality is not, and never will be, a zero-sum game.

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