Letter to The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP from Councillor Howard Sykes MBE regarding local elections

There is democratic principle at stake here. If it is deemed not safe to campaign for an election, then it is not safe to hold those elections.


The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
3 February 2021

I am writing to you to express my deep concern following the release of the letter from your Constitution Minister Chloe Smith on Friday 22nd January to the Members of the Parliamentary Parties Panel regarding local elections.

This performed the interesting trick of both ruling the local elections can go ahead - but at the same time restricting the ability of potential candidates to campaign with the advice that volunteer deliverers should not deliver leaflets in order to reduce community transmission.

There is democratic principle at stake here. If it is deemed not safe to campaign for an election, then it is not safe to hold those elections.

The current Government advice is incredibly muddled, as it allows political parties to pay private firms to deliver leaflets but does not let volunteers, candidates and councillors do so. It is OK for pizza companies and estate agents to deliver leaflets door-to-door, but not political parties. Never mind Royal Mail, Amazon and the plethora of other online retailers.

The government’s stance on this matter is very confusing and contradictory.

Can you please publish the research which shows that delivering leaflets voluntarily carries a higher risk than those delivered commercially?
If parties aren’t allowed to campaign on a level playing field, then the elections should be postponed as I cannot see how this will then be a free and fair election. However, if the Government pushes ahead with May elections, then Government must cover all extra costs that councils incur in order to make sure they are safe for the public and those working in them.
How will postal voting, the gathering of candidate signatures, and the election count be safely delivered in a way which protects both staff and the public?

The logistical challenges are formidable without extra government support and there's a real risk that we effectively disenfranchise millions of people who do not feel safe going to the polls.

In the absence of any evidence that it will be safe, and considering the contradictory instructions, I am asking for a delay to this year’s polling day to ensure they can be held safely and fairly.

If you are determined to push ahead with voting on 6 May please allow candidates and citizens (with appropriate measures) to campaign in those elections just as we would expect in any other country less than 90 days before polling day.

Yours Sincerely,
Councillor Howard Sykes MBE
Leader, LGA Liberal Democrat Group