Last week a statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Westminster, the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square. The week before I attended the funeral of Zola Zembe, Tynemouth resident and South African trades unionist who had shared a cell with Nelson Mandela. On the face of it the two, born a century apart, had little in common. Yet they shared a commitment to education as a means of improving the human condition and a deep commitment to politics and voting as a way of bringing about change.

On Thursday 3rd May we have important local elections. On Friday the votes will be counted. Apart from the difference in choice of candidate, each ballot paper looks much the same. You cannot tell the voters name, their age or the street in which they live. You cannot tell their gender, their ethnicity, their religion or their sexual orientation. You cannot tell their job or whether they have a family. What they have in common is that for a few minutes on a particular day they took part in the democratic process. They probably had their own reason for doing so but in their own way each backed a vision of what their community could be like. And in doing so they assert their right to be heard. It’s why elections are important and humbling and I hope everyone takes a few minutes to be part of it.

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