OVER the Christmas holidays I spent a fun couple of hours with my two young daughters watching the classic 1964 movie Mary Poppins.

It’s one of Disney’s best and I remembered it fondly from my own childhood. But I had forgotten one key element of the storyline about the mother Mrs Winifred Banks and the reason the family needed a nanny.

Mary Poppins arrived in the Banks’ household – on a gust of wind you may recall - because Mrs Banks had devoted her life to the cause of campaigning for votes for women. She was a suffragette.

I explained to my daughters what the suffragette cause was about and how not so very long ago girls like them could not, by law, do a number of things that boys did when they grew up to be adults.

While the slightly dizzy Winifred Banks might not be considered the ideal feminist role model today, our family’s enjoyment of the film proved to be very topical as this year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act – the landmark piece of legislation that gave some women (over 30 and property owners) the right to vote for the first time.

It took another 10 years for all women over the age of 21, property owners or not, to be granted the right to vote but the 1918 Act was a huge step forward for women.

It also set in a train a raft of social reform which included, a year later, legislation which decreed that nobody could be disqualified from performing a public function, or from holding a civil or judicial office or post, because of their gender.

The anniversary of the 1918 Act becoming law was last week and this year will see a series of events to mark the occasion and also to further promote the cause of women in Parliament and in our Town Halls where they remain disproportionately under-represented. Last year, a Local Government Commission report said that we need to attract 12,000 women councillors to redress the current gender imbalance.

Those events include Pankhurst Parties in July which I am delighted to say our own Fleur Butler – a former leader of Richmondshire District Council – is helping to organise. Held all over the country, the parties will be organised to mark the birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette Movement.

All women will be invited to share tea and cake, to hear women in public life speak about their experiences, and to receive information about the #askhertostand campaign which aims to get more women into local government and positions of power.

We have some great examples locally, like Fleur and the redoubtable June Imeson who led Hambleton District Council with distinction for many years, but we need many more women like them to come forward.

IN Westminster last week, I was delighted to welcome a party of very bright sixth form students from Richmond School who after a tour of Parliament subjected me to a tough question and answer session.

They brought up some really interesting issues, including, rather surprisingly, grouse shooting!

It was great to see young people so engaged in politics and I hope the visit will encourage them to continue following all that goes on in Westminster.