It was last week. Yes, I missed it too. If it weren’t for an email I received with a couple of suffragette posters, I wouldn’t have known about it at all.
This inaugural week to pay tribute to democracy in Britain ran from the 2nd to the 8th of July. The date was chosen to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act, which gave women the same voting rights as men. Women had gained the right to vote here ten years earlier, but that right was limited to women over the age of 30 who had property – in case you were wondering why we’ve been celebrating in recent months the centenary of women getting the right to vote.
I received my posters to celebrate democracy a few days before the start of the week. Vaguely curious, I put them aside, expecting to hear more about it through the media. But I saw nothing on it when I watched BBC or Channel 4. In the UK newspapers I typically read – The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Times, The New European – there were no reports or commentaries to do with National Democracy Week. Without some sort of reminder and with too many other things clambering for space in my head, I easily forgot about it.
I do wonder if the lack of fanfare or even interest in National Democracy Week had anything to do with what was going on last week. England winning a place in the World Cup semi-finals and the rescue operation for the Thai boys and their football coach trapped in a cave dominated our casual news talk – and they have nothing to do with democracy. In the middle of the week, democracy appeared in the form of freedom of speech when London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave permission to anti-Trump protesters to launch an angry baby Trump balloon during the US president’s visit. Whether such permission should be allowed is still being debated as I write. The week ended with our PM presenting her Brexit proposal to her cabinet ministers at a secluded day retreat at Chequers. This involved an elite group within a minority government agreeing to a proposal that they know will likely be rejected by the EU. To make this exercise in democracy even more futile, two days after agreeing to support the PM, two of the ministers resigned in disagreement.
Perhaps National Democracy Week decided it was best to keep a low profile.
Having realised that the celebrations had passed me by, I went to the government website to see what I missed. I clicked on ‘events’ and was sent to another webpage, where I could click on ‘events’ to find events in my area. That brought me back to the first page where I had clicked on ‘events.’ I was in a loop. What an appropriate analogy for our modern democracy. It appears I’ve participated after all.