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Hundreds of objections to Emmeline Pankhurst statue move plan

Councillor says timing 'extremely misjudged' given centenary celebrations

24 August, 2018 — By Tom Foot

The statue next to the House of Commons (pic Wikipedia)

PRIME minister Stanley Baldwin, a former opponent of the women’s suffrage movement, and perhaps with gritted teeth, unveiled the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in the centre of Victoria Tower Gardens on March 6 1930.

Two years earlier, the suffragette had claimed a sensational victory in heading up the campaign that ensured women got the vote in 1928.

The statue unveiling was part of a day of major celebration for women across the country that saw music by female composers played by the Metropolitan police band as a choir led hymns and prayers.

Now, almost nine decades later, the bronze statue is at the centre of a major controversy, with more than 500 objections to a plan by its custodian to move it away from the historic seat of democracy to Regent University, in the lesser-travelled Inner Circle of Regent’s Park.

The application, from the Emmeline Pankhurst Trust Ltd, said: “While the existing Pankhurst memorial has clear resonances with the world heritage site, it is largely hidden by planting and is at best glimpsed during the winter months.”

The application says the statue was moved from a central spot in the gardens to a “peripheral location” in 1958, when the area was landscaped.

The trust now want to move it away from parliament altogether, but the timing of the move has baffled women’s rights campaigners who celebrated earlier this year after Parliament Square’s first ever female statue was unveiled. The statue of the moderate, Millicent Fawcett, was unveiled by schoolchildren from Millbank Primary School, with the prime minister Theresa May and Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken among other dignitaries.

The Pankhurst application stresses that, “Emmeline’s tactics contrasted with those of the ‘suffragist’ Millicent Fawcett… who believed that the militancy of the SPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) was damaging the campaign for female suffrage. Fawcett and the suffragists pursued the campaign according to peaceful and constitutional means aiming at predominantly middle-class women.”

Some historians of the women’s movement argue that Emmeline was also a moderate activist compared with her radical younger sister, Sylvia, who refused to accept the WSPU’s decision to suspend campaigning during the First World War.

Westminster Labour group has objected to the statue moving and its shadow cabinet member for “community”, Cllr Andrea Mann said: “After the statue was moved in 1958 the British public were assured that it would not be moved again. So, to support this relocation at any time, but especially in 2018 the centenary of women’s suffrage, is, at best, extremely misjudged.

“The popularity of the recently installed Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square has thrown a spotlight on the need to honour more great women across our capital.

“We can begin by respecting the few statues to women that already exist, and by not moving them to less visible, less prominent, locations.”

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