EU referendum: Row erupts on International Women's Day after employment minister Priti Patel likens eurosceptics to suffragettes

Lauren Fedor
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Priti Patel (centre) joined other Cabinet ministers in backing the Vote Leave campaign (Source: Getty)

Comments by employment minister Priti Patel likening eurosceptics to suffragettes have sparked a row on International Women's Day.

At a launch event for Women For Britain, a women's group campaigning to leave the EU, this morning, Patel cited suffragette movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst, saying: "As a suffragette, Pankhurst fought for the rights of women to have a vote, a voice and a say in how their society is governed and who governs it.

"In many ways, Women for Britain are fighting for the same cause."

"The suffragettes fought for our democratic freedom," Patel added. "Now we are the ones who must fight to protect it."

Helen Pankhurst, a descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst, quickly rejected Patel's comments, saying it was "unacceptable" for the minister to invoke her great-grandmother in the EU debate.

"My great-grandmother fought tirelessly for women's rights and dedicated her life to making sure women could live their lives free from discrimination," the younger Pankurst said. "It is unacceptable to use her achievements to argue for something that is so out of line with the spirit of international solidarity that defined the suffragette movement.

"To the contrary, I believe that my great grandmother would have been the first to champion what the EU has meant for women, including equal pay and anti discrimination laws," she added.

Polls suggest women are twice as likely to be undecided as men in the run-up to the EU referendum on 23 June.

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