On Friday night, the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution sent out a letter stating the government’s opposition to political parties delivering leaflets via volunteers.
Although not from a health minister or health expert, it gives health concerns over coronavirus as the reason. Both health and democracy are important, and when there’s a possible tension between the two, it’s understandable that tensions can run high. I encourage all my colleagues to reflect that in the way we go about discussing this.What is very strange, to put it mildly, about the Ministerial letter is that the position it sets out is that delivery of pizza leaflets is fine, Conservative MPs paying others to deliver leaflets is fine, but volunteers delivering leaflets paid for by a political party with community information is wrong… unless they are doing it on behalf of someone who won the last election in that area. (The letter talks about councillors doing their job and keeping in touch being ok.)
There have been, and no doubt will be again, debates over how safe or not it is to deliver leaflets. But a leaflet is a leaflet. It’s either a health risk or it isn’t. Yet the government is now saying that someone volunteering to walk down the road leafleting is a health risk, while paying someone to walk down the road leafleting is fine.
The government’s position is that whether or not it is safe to deliver a leaflet to someone depends on whether the person doing it is doing it for love or money. That’s a really weird contortion.
So we shouldn’t be naïve about the impact of this: it is a move by the government that will hobble the ability of others to hold them to account – and which is being done at the same time as the government is insisting on pushing ahead with the May elections.
If the government really believes what it claims, it shouldn’t be giving an opt out to pizza leaflets and MPs with money to spend, and instead it should be looking at delaying the May elections.
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