Political parties told not to leaflet during lockdown

Voting for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 15 November

The Government has advised political parties not to carry out leafleting or door to door campaigning during the current lockdown.

The issue was a point of discussion between councillors in Liverpool at the full council meeting on 20 January.

Constitutional minister Chloe Smith wrote to all political parties nationally on 22 January warning that the restrictions do not support the distribution of leaflets or canvassing in person, and that voters can get campaigning information remotely.

She also reveals that the Government is reviewing how elections due to take place in May can be delivered in a Covid secure way, and that there will be a “high bar for any further postponement”, noting that other countries have held elections recently.

Liverpool is due to have Mayoral and local elections on Thursday 6 May, together with wider Liverpool City Region polls for a Metro Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Doorstep campaigning during the national lockdown in England

As you will be aware, in recent weeks there have been media reports about political campaigning activity during the national lockdown in England. I am writing to provide some advice to political parties to reflect the UK Government’s position.

Current national lockdown restrictions in England, say: “You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary”. The Government’s view is that these restrictions do not support door to door campaigning or leafleting by individual political party activists. It is widely accepted that voters can continue to get campaigning information remotely. In order to reduce transmission of covid-19 infection, door to door campaigning at this point in time is therefore not considered essential or necessary activity.

I hope that you will all agree that it is essential that we reduce the infection rate, protect the NHS and save lives. I would ask that all parties follow this advice, and ensure that your supporters are aware of this position.

More broadly, as I have stated to Parliament, the Government is currently reviewing how May’s local elections can be successfully delivered in a covid-secure way. The Government is analysing the public health situation and continuing to support the necessary logistics to hold a covid-secure election, and will update Parliament in due course on our plans. The date of the elections is set in primary legislation, and will remain so unless Parliament determines otherwise. I recognise that there has been speculation about any change of date but there is rightly a high bar for any further postponement, considering that polls have been postponed for a year already, and that voters deserve to have their voices heard. I would observe that other countries have successfully held elections of late, and a number of countries are planning elections over the next few months. Elections can be run safely.

It is our intention to provide further guidance in due course, including more detailed advice on appropriate conduct in the run up and during an election period itself. This will include advice on the nominations process. We must ensure a level playing field for those standing for election, protect the integrity of our elections, and help voters to have confidence in these elections which are important civic events despite the challenging circumstances.

I am keen to continue to work with both political parties and election administrators on these matters, and the Cabinet Office will do so, alongside other partners including the Electoral Commission. We are also, of course, liaising with our counterparts in the devolved administrations.

I am placing this letter on gov.uk, so the Government’s position on campaigning during national lockdown is clearly accessible.

Yours ever,

Chloe Smith MP

Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution