A number of protesters against fracking for gas who are using civil disobedience in Balcombe to try to halt the legal activities of a company which is drilling for oil using techniques which do not include fracking, have compared themselves to the suffragettes.
An apparently rather ignorant man called Jamie Kelsey-Fry, whose views on fracking do not deserve special attention if he is as badly informed about that subject as he is about history, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there was "absolutely no difference" between civil disobedience by the suffragettes and the anti-fracking protesters, and that
"It was exactly these kinds of actions hundreds of years ago
which gave women the vote."
Apart from the fact that it was less than a hundred years ago that women actually got the vote in this country, most historians think that the more extreme actions of the suffragettes were actually counter-productive. I have heard it suggested that there might have been a natural majority for enfranchising women in the House of Commons from about 1905 but that a significant proportion of potential supporters were unwilling to appear to respond to the suffragettes' tactics.
You could find reputable historians who think that is overstating the case, but what is common to every serious historical analysis I have read on the issue is that the decisive factor in gaining the vote for women was not the suffragettes' campaign of civil disobedience but the enormous contribution made by women to Britain's economy and war effort during the Great War (WW1) which made it embarrassingly obvious that all the arguments for denying women the vote were ludicrous.
However, the suffragettes in Britain, like other disenfranchised groups such as the ANC in South Africa, had one massive justification for using extra-parliamentary tactics which the "No dash for gas" group simply do not have.
The whole point about the suffragettes is that they didn't have the vote.
The "No dash for gas" group do.
There is no urgency about stopping Cuadrilla's current activities before the next election if the real aim is to stop fracking. If Cuadrilla did at some future time decide they wanted to frack at Balcombe it would be several years down the line and would require a new planning application after a fresh environmental impact assessment.
Opponents of fracking have every opportunity to campaign against the policy using lawful, peaceful protest. If the majority of the electorate agree with them, they will win. Only those who fear that the majority of the British people do NOT support them need to use illegal tactics.
Where the suffragettes could legitimately argue that they were pursuing civil disobedience so that their daughters and grand-daughters could use the ballot box to express their views, the anti-fracking protesters do have the ballot box available to them, and that's what they should be using.
To compare the suffragettes, who tried to use civil disobedience to get the right to vote, with people who already have the right to vote and are using civil disobedience to try to get more influence than they could get through the ballot box alone, is frankly, an insult to the suffragette movement.