Conservative Government bans political leafletting – how should Lib Dems react?

Yesterday afternoon, a letter arrived in the inbox of our chief executive from Chloe Smith, the Cabinet Office Minister. It said in stark terms that the Government was banning volunteer delivery of political material in England. Parties who are rich enough can pay to have their stuff delivered. Some parties are so rich that they can afford to send the same leaflet to a house twice in a week, as the Scottish Tories did to me this week.

Last night, Lisa Smart, the Chair of the party’s Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee wrote to regional and local chairs saying:

This afternoon we received a letter from the Tory constitution minister, saying that the Government is changing the rules to make political leafleting no longer permissible.

This is a clear and brazen attempt by the Tories to stop our work to support local residents, and to fix the elections in their favour.

We know that the Tories will do best if campaigning is limited.

We should see that as a strong sign that elections will go ahead on 6 May.

Updated campaigning guidance will be on the website on Monday, following checks with our lawyers. In essence we expect this to say:

No further Liberal Democrat political literature should be given to volunteer activists, and party political materials must be delivered through paid routes.

Elected representatives and local teams may still deliver literature to residents, so long as this is focused on their non-political work of supporting local residents.

This is a vital activity at a time when millions of households do not have internet access and rules and support services are changing quickly.

We will be writing shortly to all members, asking them to support telephone canvassing and asking for donations for paid delivery.

Our national teams will be focused on bulk buy deals and helping organise telephone campaigning.
Let me reassure you. We won’t let Tory dirty tricks stop us from making a difference for our communities.

Our party’s decision to allow leafletting during lockdown in England was controversial both within and outside the party. Although we know that other parties were also distributing leaflets, the Conservatives snd Labour both complained about us. Ed Davey was tackled about this on Marr last Sunday. I wrote at the time:

There are some very strong views on both sides of this argument in the party. I tend to think that, while delivery is one of the safest things that we can do and we’re all having many deliveries to our homes at the moment, my inclination is that we have much more meaningful interaction with people if we phone them and talk to them. The difficulty with that is that the proportion of phone numbers we have is quite small. If you want to give out information to the widest possible number of people you need to do what David Penhaligon said – put it on a bit of paper and push it through their door. Even if it were allowed in Scotland, I wouldn’t choose to do it at this point in the pandemic, but if other Lib Dems feel it is appropriate in their communities, I’m not going to argue with them.

I do think it was a mistake to lead with a defence that was very legalistic and tenuous at best in its understanding of volunteer work. We should have limited our remarks to the importance of reaching those in the community who don’t have access to the internet with what is in many communities a trusted source of information.

I know that many party members are really concerned by the gung-ho tone of our response. They feel that the public health situation is so critical that we should not be trying to make political capital out of it. The lack of empathy towards those members who are at serious risk of the family, to those of us who have lost loved ones to this virus or who are experiencing the intense stress of working in the NHS or on the frontline in some other way infuriated them.

Every single day, I see several reports of friends who have tested positive and one report of someone I know being admitted to hospital. It’s really disturbing. We do need to acknowledge that. And we have to remember that our members, along with the rest of the country, are really struggling after ten months of restrictions. For some, it’s been one long lockdown. And even under the best of circumstances, when you are with people you love and your income is unaffected, that shrinking of your world is really tough and impacts on your mental health and wellbeing.  If you had told me on 8th March last year, the last time I was in a pub, that babies would be conceived and born and I would still be stuck at home, I would have been horrified, yet here we are. We need to be super-sensitive to what our members might be going through in all our communications.

The Conservatives may well be playing political games and trying to give themselves a huge advantage in the upcoming elections. They are allowing leaflets from, for example, your local pizza takeaway, gutter cleaning service or indeed political literature by paid routes. They as a party don’t have the army of volunteers that we have.  We would expect no more of them. But we should expect our response to reflect the dire public health situation as well as to offer strategies for us as a party to continue to serve our local communities.

And you have to wonder whether in the current climate it is safe to be thinking about holding elections at all. Should we be asking questions about risk assessments so that returning officers and staff, as well as activists, are not put at risk?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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101 Comments

  • I am confused, The BBC say that this is a reccomendation from The Government, not a ban.

    Which is it ?
    If its just a suggestion then we should carry on Leafletting, all the Evidence suggests that its safe.
    If it is a Legal Ban then I would suggest that we take The Rosa Parks route & ask for Volonteers to break The Law.
    We cant just let The Tories stitch us up like this.

  • I am really concerned at the notion of expecting our volunteers, many of whom are at risk from Covid, to break the law, to be honest.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jan '21 - 10:19am

    It was the late David Penhaligon, who was supposed to have said something about if your leaflet can’t get your message across in around eight seconds, you’re wasting your time. Now I know how much Lib Dems rely on their leafleting – after all, I’ve produced and delivered many thousands in my time – especially as the media often gives them short shrift. So, a ban on leafleting would do serious harm to the liberal cause, even if it were only a temporary measure. Quite frankly, I think that this year’s local elections should be postponed in any case. The Scottish Parliamentary elections are a different matter. I assume that all bone fide parties will be entitled to a free mail drop. So why not have all postal ballots as a one off as well?

  • Adrian England 23rd Jan '21 - 10:33am

    I will volunteer to break such a *law*. Clear that the elections should be postponed until a 3 month doorstep campaign is possible. As soon as the local hospital is coping.

  • Perhaps the government can explain why a volunteer deliverer can spread the virus, while a paid deliverer cannot?

    If it is not safe to go door-to-door then the election should be delayed. How are we going to collect nominations that require face-to-face contact by volunteers?

  • That is a good point, James. I keep forgetting you still have to do that in England. All noms in Scotland apart from Westminster are just self nomination.

  • @ Adrian England As someone shielding, and who for many years believed the Liberal/Lib Dem Party to be the sensible law abiding political party….. you may think you are a martyred hero – but you will be most unwelcome on my doorstep.

    A friend in the Scottish Green Party tells me (by phone) that his party has cancelled leaflet drops and will be canvassing by phone (even that could be classed as a ‘nuisance call’).

    John Marriott, as usual, talks robust common sense – something which seems to have disappeared into not so thin air in some sections of this party.

  • Conservative minister abuses power to ban what Lib Dems are good at in attempt to further undermine the party. That is a bad headline for the Nasty party.

    Conservative minister urges other parties not to campaign door to door “In order to reduce transmission.” That is a very clever headline for the Safety First Party.

    And that is what they have done. If we do deliver a lot of the public will condemn us for doing so and we will lose seats. If we don’t deliver, the Conservatives and Labour will out spend us online and through phone banks and we will lose seats.

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/955122/MCD_letter_to_members_of_the_Parliamentary_Parties_Panel.pdf

    Welcome to the world with a Conservative government which will do everything it can to destroy us, and to those on LDV who unthinkingly supported Nick with his naive approach to coalition for all those years and undermined those of us who wanted to do something about it while David Cameron undermined and destroyed us – Surprise, surprise and Thanks a bunch.

  • Given this announcement, we should be asking the government:
    1. Will May’s elections now be postponed until the Autumn, or when safe to hold elections.
    2. If not then all these elections should have a free Royal Mail delivery as per general elections.
    3. Where is the evidence that paid deliverers are more Covid safe than volunteers?
    4. The arrangements at all polling stations and counts will be guaranteed to be Covid safe, or at least as safe as paid deliverers.
    Failing satisfactory answers to these questions should this be taken to court, if that option is open to us?

  • Does anyone know what the precise legal status of what the Government are proposing? Are they intending to push new legislation through Parliament? If so, then our MPs and Lords must fight it tooth and claw – opposing something which is slowly moving Britain in the direction of China and other dictatorships. If, on the other hand. it is just a suggestion from a Minister, reflecting their personal views, does it carry any legal ‘clout’ whatsoever?

    ]

  • As so often throughout the last 10 months the Government approach is a shambolic set of contradictions.

    If putting a leaflet or letter through a letterbox is so dangerous why have Royal Mail and all the other commercial delivery companies continued to do so every day from last March onwards? Both the parcel companies and supermarkets of course have actually increased their deliveries as more people have bought and ordered online.

    In the last two weeks alone my household have received 3 different NHS letters (not Covid related), an opticians letter, a letter from the Borough Council (sent to every single house and enclosing pre prepared Postal Vote application forms for everyone who does not already have a Postal Vote), some birthday cards, a glossy colour local advertising magazine and advertising flyers for gutter clearance, pizza takeaway, shrub pruning and Indian takeaway, plus assorted parcels from assorted companies and two supermarket food deliveries. How on earth is a single political leaflet in the same space of time a danger that must be banned? Although it would apparently be OK to pay large sums to have it instead delivered alongside the takeaway food and other advertising flyers or even larger sums to have Royal Mail deliver it.

    Then there are the Government’s ONS comments reported in the press yesterday and today. The March census will go ahead. They expect 75% to fill it in online but expect to have to visit about 6 Million people in person ‘althought’ they say ‘this will take no more than a few minutes in each case’. Yet putting a leaflet or letter through the same door, in a few seconds, is dangerous and to be banned – unless of course you have lots of money and can pay for it to be delivered in which case it is no longer dangerous!

  • Yesterday morning I was delivering enveloped letters and surveys in my Ward. I was getting the daily dose of healthy excercise in the fresh air which we are encouraged to do for our physical health and mental well being and which is allowed under Covid regulations. I came into close contact with no one, I put on a mask on the single occasion where someone cleaning their car asked me to pass it to them ‘to save me walking up the drive to the letterbox’. I was in far closer proximity to far more people when I called in (with mask) at a local shop to get some milk.

    I can understand why cash rich Cons/Lab Parties, who generally do little delivering in the years between elections, are keen to stop us voluntarily delivering leaflets rather than paying a fortune commercially. It does not seem to have anything much to do with Covid however.

  • I suspect this issue could be a bit like fair/proportional voting. If you can get people’s attention for long enough so they think about it, they agree that it’s not fair. But so long as they don’t think it’s going to disadvantage their own favourite party, they won’t want to do anything about it and excuses will be made for why it’s fine. The argument will be that the postal staff are already delivering on those routes, and that volunteers will be travelling away from home, and further than necessary in order to do so, spreading new strains of virus around the country as people stop for takeaway coffees.

    There’s a danger that we end up arguing about campaigning methods, and that deflects from the issues relevant to the campaign, and of course all of the backdrop of the failures of governments. In the meantime, I got a great big glossy leaflet for the Scottish Tories through my door yesterday with the pizza leaflet.

    It’s all very frustrating, but if circumstances allow, it might be worth having a think of whether or not you are saving money by not going out, and if so divert a portion of that to the local party for a postal campaign. If you want something more involved, if not exactly active, I know the Green LibDems have been asking for volunteers to help tidy up the transcriptions for videos from their conference. It’s a bit fiddly and time consuming, but it’s fun to do something a bit different. I expect there are a number of similar jobs that normally struggle to compete with the active nature of leafleting.

  • Ray, It’s a letter, not a law and that is why it is very clever (and devious). If you follow the link in my previous post, you can see the full letter.

  • Paul Holmes is absolutely right. As it happens I wear a mask whenever out of doors anyway. During this morning’s delivery stint on our toughest estate when I found people on the doorstep I said to one “Can I leave it on this bin for you to pick up?” and to another “If you could shut the door from the inside just for a moment I”ll shove it through.” They we’re both perfectly OK about it.

  • nigel hunter 23rd Jan '21 - 1:38pm

    I became a member in 2015 .Since then I have heard (from voters etc) that the coalition was a STABLE time of Govnt. The Tories were kept under control. Yes we allowed them to undermine us at any opportunity naively or otherwise with the help of the media moguls.Cameron won in 2015 and since then the country has been in turmoil under Tory Govnts and supporters from all sides. WE are a thorn in their side (and Labours) .They WILL do anything to get rid of us for we disturb their supremacy.This is one more tactic to control/get rid of us for them to reign supreme.

  • One of our volunteers is a postman. Apparently it would be safe for him to deliver a political leaflet when he is paid, but not when volunteering.

  • nigel hunter 23rd Jan '21 - 1:51pm

    The govnt info towards the end of the document mentions BOTH political parties NOT ALL parties.Is this a slip up or a way of stitching our campaigning up cos we are disturbing their campaigning. Just remember we are David to their Goliath,They fear us.

  • @ Nigel Hunter “Since then I have heard (from voters etc) that the coalition was a STABLE time of Govnt.”……….

    Yes, indeed, very STABLE unless you were transferring to Universal Credit, in receipt of disability benefits, subject to the bedroom tax, a student going to University, a public sector employee on a pay freeze, a member of a growing number of clients of a foodbank, or just buying a stamp, . To be fair, quite stable if you were a top rate taxpayer.

    And again to be fair, very stable indeed for the Bransons of this world

  • Lee_Thacker 23rd Jan '21 - 3:02pm

    Couldn’t sympathetic local non-members or neighbouring local parties deliver the leaflets. They could later send an invoice for £1. The leaflets would then have been delivered by independent local contractors. They could keep a copy of the invoice with them to prove their status to the police.

  • I am shielding and have been for most of the last 10 months. Everything that comes through the door is seen as a threat. All items, apart from food deliveries, are picked up with a litter-picker and either put straight into recycling or left in quarantine by the front door for 48 hours. Food deliveries are all disinfected before being put away – accompanied by lots of hand washing. I do not touch or read any fliers that came through my door. Many of our friends and family are doing exactly the same, whether or not they are shielding.
    That is the reality for millions of people in this country at the moment.
    I find it quite upsetting that many people commenting on this issue are completely forgetting what life is like for a large number of their residents/voters and how fearful many people are. Whether you meant it or not, your comments are coming over as callous.

  • No-one is ‘victimising’ this party; the ban applies to all. As for comparing ‘leaflet volunteers’ to Rosa Parks??? Words fail me..

  • Hannah Giovanna Daws 23rd Jan '21 - 3:33pm

    To ban volunteer campaigning but not paid leaflet drops is pretty brazen – if the former is not OK, neither should the other. But this is a political action to limit campaigning by smaller parties, not one related to public health.

  • Little Jackie Paper 23rd Jan '21 - 3:38pm

    To be honest I am delight by the prospect of no political leaflets.

    My life and that of my family has been destroyed but less politics would be a small consolation.

  • Paul Barker 23rd Jan '21 - 3:40pm

    To answer my own question, its now clear that this not Law, its advice from your friendly Tory Government.
    Can The LDV Team now change the wording of the Article & especially The Headline to make this clear ?

  • Galen Milne 23rd Jan '21 - 3:47pm

    Whilst I’ve not leafletted since March I have made donations to support the local council elections campaigns where we had a genuine chance of winning. I’d be prepared to make further donations for paid deliveries especially in the run up to the Scottish elections in May. I realise not everyone can do this but others are phone canvassing etc so it all adds to the mix of community campaigning.
    PS I reckon there’s still more danger of cross-infection from passing joggers who huff and puff their way past, often without adequate social distancing, than there is from leafletting.

  • We have close to 100,000 deaths and people here are complaining that they are being advised not to canvass on the door step or deliver leaflets. Unbelievable!

  • Surely the common sense approach is to not hold the elections.
    However the letter is that a letter, it is not the law and can be disregarded if that was thought the best route, frankly I do not know what is for the best in this unusual situation, other than to delay the elections themselves.
    Thoughts:-
    Could a deliverer not be paid £1 for doing the work, then they are not volunteers but paid agents?
    Any such deliverers should wear protective masks and gloves and carry the leaflets in a bag that has been sanitised.
    BUT as I say I think it is foolish to push ahead with the elections, I suspect most of the public would agree. Why not commission an opinion poll, if that is the result it produces then campaign on that and I am sure the P M will manage one of his last minute U turns!
    After all we ourselves may well be facing a major setback, if the opinion polls are correct. No elections would probably be a blessing in disguise.

  • paul holmes 23rd Jan '21 - 5:00pm

    Peter , I may have missed it but I can’t see a single complaint about doorstep canvassing anywhere.

    As for leaflets the point is that they are not banned at all as long you have lots of money to pay someone else to deliver them.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Jan '21 - 6:15pm

    I agree with David Raw.

    Nothing heroic about breaking a law or trashing a guidance, in a pandemic.

    I agree with Paul Holmes, it is all inconsistent and typically useless from this governt.

    I agree with David Evans on the Tories!

    I am inclined to rejoin Labour and they aren’t good enough, make them better, help them understand this decent but failing party, and get a govt that can govern!

  • Richard Coe 23rd Jan '21 - 8:33pm

    This could be our Reichstag Fire moment. I almost feel that unless hard scientific evidence is provided we should carry on until the law is clarified, at which point if there is no medical evidence we might need to contemplate breaking it.

  • Today a Conservative councillor was bragging on twitter that they could afford to pay for paid deliveries: https://twitter.com/GuyBenson96/status/1353021359417421827?s=20 and even suggested that those who could not “work hard” enough to pay for their own deliveries shouldn’t be councillors: https://twitter.com/GuyBenson96/status/1353080569102553089?s=20

    Make no mistake, this decision disproportionately benefits the Conservatives by adversely impacting smaller parties that can’t afford to post masses of literature to residents. Would they have made this decision if it was the other way around?

  • neil James sandison 23rd Jan '21 - 11:28pm

    This is an opinion of a Minister and is not supported by science if it was all paper and card deliveries would be restricted . Unless the Minister has evidence to support her statement it should either be ignored or challenged in the high court .

  • Little Jackie Paper 23rd Jan '21 - 11:48pm

    Richard Coe

    It has been intresting to watch liberals dance around the implications of the past year.

    De facto ID cards tied to essentially coerced vaccines are probably three months away. Mass house arrest has been normalised. The expertocracy, well….

    WW2 ended in 1945. The last conscript left the armycin 1963.

  • Phil Wainewright 24th Jan '21 - 12:31am

    Imagine a regime anywhere in the world using the COVID crisis as a pretext to bar volunteers from opposition parties from distributing political literature. Especially if it was known that the party in power had long suffered from dwindling volunteer support, but was still able to tap financial support to fund paid deliveries (which it has exempted from the ban).

    The fact that this is solely limited to volunteers distributing political leaflets tells you that it is an assault on democracy. Volunteers are still allowed to distribute non-political leaflets. Anyone can be paid to deliver anything you like. So the ban is directed specifically against political parties with active grassroots support.

    We have to tread carefully here, because many households quite rightfully mistrust anything that comes through the letterbox at the moment. But at a time when junk mail, pizza leaflets and estate agent circulars are still allowed, we have to call out this guidance for what it is – a calculated and blatant assault on freedom of political expression.

  • Cllr Fran Oborski 24th Jan '21 - 7:50am

    Our Constituency Chair is a Solicitor. He is in the process this weekend of setting up a paid for delivery company to which we will invite our volunteer deliverers to sign up. They will be provided with ID badges and required to wear PPE. ( As he also owns an Asian restaurant we may include fliers from them in some of our deliveries).We will also invite our local members to donate to allow us to communicate with Postal Voters by post.

  • John Marriott 24th Jan '21 - 8:01am

    @Little Jackie Paper
    Yes, you could argue that 2021 might just be morphing into ‘1984’ and all Liberals will soon be morphing into Magic Dragons and be joining Puff in Honnah Lee. After all, they reckon the song from which I have taken your evocative ‘nom de plume’ is all about drugs anyway.

    As for ID cards, I can’t wait! Yes, WW2 did end in 1945. Welcome to WW3; but, as Mr Spock might have said to Jim Kirk, “not as we know it!”

    PS For those of you who might be wondering what the hell I’m on about, look up the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary.

  • Robin Grayson 24th Jan '21 - 8:02am

    It is a letter of advice, but not the letter of the law.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '21 - 9:00am

    Does this mean that if I live in a target seat I can expect Lib Dem volunteers to drive into my area and push paper through my door calling for greener policies and criticising the government’s failure to control the spread of covid?

  • Matt Wardman 24th Jan '21 - 9:26am

    (Note: writing as a non-member who comes here to debate interesting ideas)

    I’m also shielding – just had my first anniversary due to a prior illness. A few bits of this look slightly off-beam, and I think LDs made the wrong call here.

    IME most flyers from local businesses etc are delivered by third parties, or the Post Office. I think hand deliveries do have a higher risk, as there has been an additional contact, and the PO are mainly mechanical and delivered by one individual.

    PO letters and leaflets have some time in transit, which means that COVID has had some time to deactivate, so these seem to be to be lower risk – in any case anything coming to me gets 2-3 days on the ‘plague bench’ to ensure it has deactivated.

    I first heard about this from a Chief Constable early last week, not a politician, so I am surmising that the Minister has weighed in as it did not get through.

    As has been pointed out, the Minister’s letter is on the Gov website, and explicitly is “further advice”, not Regulations. Strictly, it is voluntary, so it *could* be ignored if desired, and the Federal Commmittee Chair has made the same error as the entire media for the last 10 months in talking about “Rules”. AIUI there are Regulations (which are compulsory), and the Guidance (which is not, and is for us to make a risk assessment). Letter: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/955122/MCD_letter_to_members_of_the_Parliamentary_Parties_Panel.pdf

    Having said all that, I would not be surprised by an all-postal vote, or the Census being delayed. A census at a time when everyone is locked down does seem to be a unique opportunity.

    Around here in my part of the red wall, it is a little academic, as we had our local elections in 2019.

  • Matt (and others) – Royal Mail and other paid delivery services are also “hand delivery”. Lib Dem volunteers are generally doing limited delivery batches in their local area, whereas the Post Office, Amazon etc. are spending hours doing it and travelling larger distances, often coming from outside the local area.

    I think it’s not to hard to make the case that local volunteer deliveries are lower risk than the post or Amazon.

    By tacking deliveries into guidance about “doorstep campaigning” they are deliberately conflating two very different things with very different risks, and by issuing it as “advice” they are trying to avoid debating the issue properly. This is clearly politically motivated……

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Jan '21 - 10:22am

    @Matt Wardman
    “IME most flyers from local businesses etc are delivered by third parties, or the Post Office. I think hand deliveries do have a higher risk, as there has been an additional contact, and the PO are mainly mechanical and delivered by one individual.”

    What do we know about the working practices of 3rd party delivery organisations? Do we have the slightest idea about what precautions they might be taking?

    And Royal Mail has its own Covid problems eg:-
    https://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/post-delayed-due-to-covid-outbreak-at-delivery-office-239774/

    https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/covid-19-outbreak-royal-mail-19010658

    Whatever route is used – the bottom line is that the leaflet ends up in the hands of a human being deliverer who may or may not be carriying the virus.

    Given the concerns of the local authorities about holding these elections at all ( https://www.markpack.org.uk/166811/no-longer-possible-to-hold-safe-and-open-elections-in-may-says-lgiu/ ) I really can’t see it is practicable or safe to hold them in May.

  • We are at the high of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had the highest ever daily death rate last week, more people in hospital and more people on ventilators than at any earlier point since COVID-19 reached the UK. We shouldn’t be debating the unfairness that pizza takeaway leaflets can still be delivered, not that I’ve received any since the start of the lockdown. Nor spending effort on cunning ways to work around the guidance.

    The LGIU has concluded that it is “No longer possible to hold safe and open elections in May”, https://lgiu.org/press-release/61069-2/, we need to challenge the government to make a decision now on the May local elections, to urgently bring forward the primary legislation to delay Polling Day and to put in place detailed plans for COVID-19 safe arrangements for nominations, voting and election counts.

  • Matt Wardman 24th Jan '21 - 11:08am

    Thanks for your comments, both.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jan '21 - 11:17am

    On the paid vs volunteer question, if you pay your leafletters and they ‘volunteer’ to donate that same amount back to party funds are you legally covered?

    The Covid infection figures peaked about two weeks ago and are now about 2/3 of what they were. The death rate lags by about two weeks so we will soon see that start to fall too. If the vaccine, together with the continued lockdown, does its work we should see a sustained progress to the extent that normal electioneering will be possible from Easter (the beginning of April) onwards. That’s time enough to go ahead with May elections.

  • Is there any evidence, one way or another, about the transmission of Covid or for that matter and other vital disease, through a bit of paper which has been pushed through a door being picked up by someone? The evidence I have seen is that the transmission is through sharing air. The app uses the criterion of 15 minutes close contact with an infected person.
    I would be very grateful if anyone could give me a reference if any such evidence exists.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '21 - 11:43am

    @Nick Baird”I think it’s not to hard to make the case that local volunteer deliveries are lower risk than the post or Amazon.”
    If I receive a mail-order or supermarket or newspaper or milk delivery then I have requested it. My postman is generally delivering things addressed explicitly to me so I am willing to receive them. A stranger going door to door delivering flyers or leaflets is a different matter, more comparable to a local tradesman shoving advertising material through my letterbox, and not particularly welcome. It risks generating damaging bad publicity: a volunteer seen coughing while out or testing positive shortly after a delivery round, the recipient of a leaflet making a fuss or a political opponent making a bit of mischief. Even Lib Dems themselves appear to be in two minds about this (despite the level of paranoia and hysteria in this thread) so there would be no sympathy if it backfired in any way.

  • Ronald Murray 24th Jan '21 - 11:57am

    I remember during an election over 10 years ago meeting a canvasser from the Tories who was not a party member. She had been given a contract by a market research company. She was not a Tory.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jan '21 - 12:01pm

    @Tom Harney “The evidence I have seen is that the transmission is through sharing air.”
    https://www.twosides.info/uk/covid-19-and-paper seems pretty good about the relatively low risk of transmission on paper (though might have been superseded).
    But the problem here is not so much the paper but the people delivering it. Will volunteers be instructed to hold their breath once within a few metres of a front door, touch no door furniture or gates, sanitise in between each home, etc.? 😉 And what about blocks of flats? Not everyone lives in detached houses in the leafy suburbs.

  • David Franks 24th Jan '21 - 12:14pm

    I have absolutely no intention of stopping delivering my Focus newsletters. If I end up in prison will somebody please send me a cake with a file in it?

  • David Franks 24th Jan '21 - 12:16pm

    I have no intention of stopping delivering my Focus newsletters. If I end up in prison will somebody please send me a cake with a file in it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jan '21 - 1:03pm

    The party is a disgrace spending effort on trivia!

    Michael Meadowcroft, if the party did as you say it would be awful!

    Read those few here who are correct.

    There is a pandemic and this party fears for pubs and paper, not being as usual!

    A joke.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Jan '21 - 1:32pm

    A “Reichstag” fire moment? Eh? We are not delivering samizdat in a totalitarian regime here. Stay at home. Save lives.

  • Andy Boddington 24th Jan '21 - 2:11pm

    I find the Lib Dem obsession with leaflets foolish at the best of times. It is totally wrong now. People are scared. It doesn’t matter whether they are right to be so. They are.
    An activist pushing a leaflet through a letterbox with advice on Covid safety is missing the point. There is a whole wide world online. That’s your constituents or potential constituents, everyone near your ward , across the district and across the country. Leaflets are always out of date. Especially now with Covid.

    It doesn’t matter whether this memo from the government is an edict or an advisory. It is a wakeup call for those that believe the only way to communicate is by paper pushed through doors. That belief is holding our party back.

    And before anyone says older people aren’t online. They are. The average age of my readership is in the 70s (older ward). Younger people tell their parents. “Andy has said this morning that your vax round is starting Thursday and they are just trying to sort out transport because it’s miles away.” That’s what some has just relayed to me.
    The info on vax will be out of date by the time we could write a leaflet and get it delivered. We will update tonight or tomorrow morning. There are planned updates Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday and no doubt more.

    The Lib Dems have never understood social networking. It is not just about being online. It is about using online to push the message out person to person and through your local media. It is about receiving comments and questions. You can bind a community together online. It is a two way conversation. Leaflets are just one way.

    They are outdated. And they are at this moment unwelcome.

  • @ David Franks “If I end up in prison will somebody please send me a cake with a file in it”. Maybe a fruitcake ?

    Well, Mr Franks, as deaths will probably exceed 100,000 this week, it’s more likely you – or sadly the recipients of your written wisdom – may end up in ICU rather than in a prison.

    It’s bad enough living under the incompetent administration of Johnson A.B. de P, but I shudder to think how competent a Lib Dem one (??????) might be should they follow your advice.

    As to causes, it’s time the party stirred itself to take a good look at the correlation between covid deaths and multiple levels of deprivation….. which have multiplied since 2010.

    Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) | CDRC Datadata.cdrc.ac.uk › dataset › index-multiple-deprivation-i…
    20 Oct 2020 — The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) data packs are copies of several files from multiple … English IMD 2010 mapped onto 2011 LSOAscsv.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jan '21 - 2:46pm

    Andy Boddington

    The best I have read on this, thanks for it!!!

  • David Evans 24th Jan '21 - 4:34pm

    The Conservatives have considered and planned their move very carefully. They have easy counter arguments to every comment here that is in favour of continuing delivery. They have a massively better media presence than we have. The occasional one liner about Liberals being willing to risk other people’s lives in a ministerial interview will outweigh any possible benefit we may get from delivering.

    Even if you can make an case that locally it would be better for you to deliver in your patch, the national impact will be massively negative.

    So it comes down to being a team player – Team Lib Dem not team Me; Team UK not Team Local and Team Concerned Vulnerable, not Team No Risk.

    Andy Bodders is right because ultimately, it’s what the people out there think and worry about, with their fears and concerns, not just what you or I think with our logic and analysis.

  • Well the locals are not until May, what’s the harm in holding off from leafleting now and reviewing the situation nearer the time. The locals may even be pushed back to a later date.

  • The issue is not health and safety (directly), but compliance with the Regulations. These state that you can only leave your home for certain specified reasons. One of these is for work, especially for essential services such as Royal Mail. Other paid work is permitted if it cannot be done from home – which is certainly the case for delivering leaflets as work.

    There is a legitimate concern among health experts and behavioural scientists that seeing people ‘flex’ the rules will reduce the level of compliance – with the Dominic Cummings affair and even Boris Johnson taking a cycle ride at the Olympic Park having a significant effect in opinion polls on willingness to comply.

    The Lib Dem advice on delivering leaflets was based on the assertion that this falls within the exemption of “delivering a voluntary service”. This term is not defined anywhere in law, but I believe that it is clear that this goes beyond what was intended of this exemption – i.e. it is at the least ‘flexing’ the rules (to use a phrase coined by Matt Hancock). My personal view is that it falls outside the exemption – which is what the letter from Chloe Smith said, and the contrived legal advice provided by the Lib Dem lawyers does not persuade me otherwise.

    Many people have commented that this letter does not have the force of law. However, it does provide clarity that will be applied in enforcement of the law – i.e. the Police are more likely to issue a fixed penalty notice.

    I am disappointed by the comments that some members will ignore (or attempt to circumvent) the advice given by Government Ministers on measures to counter the Covid pandemic. If everybody in the country took the same approach to other Government advice, then the pandemic would continue unchecked and the Government would be forced to introduce even more stringent legal lockdown measures – with more serious harm to everybody.

    Of course, it is possible (even likely) that the Minister was aware of the implications of her letter to different political parties, but that does not invalidate it being justified on public health grounds.

  • I think that it is wise for local parties to be sensitive to the views of local people (although sometimes we are oversensitive!) and we don’t want to be accused of acting against government advice or spreading the virus. And especially in London but elsewhere too there is a very very high prevalence of covid and even if that can be perhaps very, very slightly reduced then that is helpful.

    I have been shocked about how lax the supermarkets have been in enforcing mask wearing among staff. One supermarket I went to had six members of staff (without an exemption) not wearing a mask and another had a security guard standing next to the door not wearing a mask and when I asked him to wear his mask he refused and when I asked the manager to enforce it, she said its wasn’t her responsibility and it was the police’s!!! When I phone the police on the 101 non emergency number they confirmed it was the manager’s (as I thought) and the manager refused to take the call although I tried to pass the phone over to her!!!!!

    It seems though that paid delivery is allowed and as the comment above says I can see nothing that says the party can pay a deliverer and the deliverers (or indeed someone else) just happens to donate the money back. But presumably this is a bit obvious if it is a councilor, well known activist or candidate etc. I think though that the Tories are gunning for us a bit on this one – probably for the reasons outlined – and there was a pointed comment by Steve Brine, Tory MP on the Westminster Hour two weeks ago that there was one party in his constituency delivering leaflets (with the inference that it wasn’t good covid way) and presumably he didn’t mean the Tories and it is unlikely to be Labour in Winchester! It was well parried by the Layla Moran who said in her constituency parties were acting within the government guidelines

    There was a report in the Times that stated “Newspapers should be fine because the ink kills the virus.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-coronavirus-affects-the-body-spreads-and-kills-zp9w96pxm

    All the newspaper are screaming from their front pages every day how you can get free home delivery (you pay for the newspaper). But I’d put on Focus at the moment a blob saying how we are obeying the guidelines, how ink is safe, we are santising etc. etc.

    And as has been pointed out there’s still the Royal Mail and a lot of commercial (non political) leaflets coming through my letterbox at least still

  • Continued
    (sorry!)
    I would also make a point of providing sanitizer to deliverers and making sure they use it very, very regularly.

    It might be a good way of getting emails which are gold dust – phoning people to say we like to deliver leaflets over the next few weeks to keep them in touch with local events but can they give their email address instead but you need to think exactly how you word it and make sure you have a good system for not delivering to those that opt for “email delivery” even if you deliver to others.

    But people should be sensitive to perceptions and also do everything in the next say 2-3 weeks and also to do everything to reduce death

    It’s worth reading the Times article referenced above as it outlines that in a covid ward perhaps not surprisingly the virus lands and stays on surfaces, ipads, mobile phones etc.

    And I would therefore urge everyone here to sanitise their hands on entering a shop – in my experience only about 10% do (up from near 0%) AND on exiting a shop (still near 0%). I sanitise my hands before and after using a self service checkout which I wipe down with an anti-viral spray before and after my use as it is highly likely that someone (unawares) with covid has come and used it that day. I think in this period I will also wipe down packaging when I get it – washing my hands before and after doing so.

    I also as recommended santise my hands before and after putting on and taking off my mask and wipe down baskets/trollies as it was shown that a lot of bacteria at least stay on them.

    We don’t know fully how it is spread but if you think that 1 in 50 or even more have the virus that’s a lot of people entering the average supermarket that have it – hundreds if not thousands must enter a supermarket in a day – and that’s a lot with the virus and a lot of people spreading it asymptomatically.

    I now ask all supermarket staff not wearing a mask politely if they don’t have an exemption can they wear a mask and raise it with the manager if they are rude to me or without an exemption won’t wear a mask. I

    I know ll this may seem excessive but it takes only a few seconds actually and is better and quicker than me or someone else I unknowingly infect spending agonizing days in ICU, with long covid or dying or else effectively we have blood on our hands.

    And I’d urge others here to do the same.

  • The Observer is reporting that more than 2/3rds of “senior council officials” are backing elections back to the autumn

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/24/english-council-chiefs-back-postponement-of-may-local-elections

    To be honest I think that this makes sense. We don’t know at the moment but the whole population (virtually) should be vaccinated by then and with two doses and you need work two months back from the election date for some campaigning, door knocking etc. And there’s no good reason not to postpone the election for a few (more in some cases) months given it is likely with the vaccines to see such a marked improvement (here’s hoping!) but actually not much by April.

    We all know nothing happens in councils between May and October any way! Mind you it might scupper the one productive month – April !!!!!

    If the Tories have any political sense they will try and schedule them as late as possible and when some relief and return to normal has set in and hope that memory of their bungling has faded at least a tiny bit.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jan '21 - 5:57pm

    The excellent comments from Davids Raw and Evans, with Michael’s analysis here too, make strong thoughts needed.

    This party better connect with reality.

    It is on derisory poll ratings.

    It has a leader who is not making impact on any media.

    It has a Labour party trying to detoxify well.

    It had itself better demystify.

    That is, it had so many chances to do good things and threw them down the drain not through intention or meanness or even incompetence.

    Through that which goes with small party status. Inability to connect with other than hobbyists , as far as people, or minority versions of its creed, as far as its stance.

    Now is the era of big tent, of all in it together, of mass movements that unite, not divide.

    Brexit divides. Covid unites.

    Unite around not the govt, but the decent, the sensible, the imaginative, questions asked, ideas supplied.

    Not pubs, or paper!

  • @Matt Wardman

    Firstly I wish you all the best as you shield, hope you get the vaccine soon if you haven’t already and thanks a lot for stopping by LDV.


    I am genuinely confused by:

    “IME most flyers from local businesses etc are delivered by third parties, or the Post Office. I think hand deliveries do have a higher risk, as there has been an additional contact, and the PO are mainly mechanical and delivered by one individual…

    I am not sure how the deliveries you outline differ from lib dem voluntary deliveries – except that one is paid and one is not. And I am not sure how the PO is “mechanical”. And the RM does every door delivery of leaflets (at vast expense). Lib Dem deliverers will normally – virtually always – be working on their own and if several go out together (which I guess is not likely at the moment) – they would do one side of the street each. In my experience it is commercial deliveries that are more likely to go in gangs.

    I think it is highly sensible to have a “quarantine bench” even if the risk is miniscule. I am struggling despite my concern above to see delivery as even really a miniscule threat. We don’t know how the virus is spread definitively because it’s not ethical to do such experiments but it is likely that outdoors the virus gets massively diluted and except for blocks of flats delivery is outside

    As I say there is some evidence that ink is hostile to the virus and that on paper it probably only survives for 3 hours. And you can organise it so that at least 3 hours is left between each stage – getting them from the printers, dividing them into rounds etc.

    Of course we shouldn’t go blundering around insensitive to people’s views and we should be particularly sensitive to people shielding such as you and Mary – even if we don’t think there’s a risk we should be aware that people think that there might be. Nothing is absolutely 100% safe by definition but personally I would say leaflet delivery is one of the safest things – and if the Royal Mail and others can do it – why not Lib Dems? But it may be that I am biased because I favour Lib Dem delivery. And I would venture in my opinion if not everyone’s Lib Dems not winning is a greater risk to the health and well being of local communities

  • Peter James 24th Jan '21 - 7:58pm

    Pay each deliverer a penny a day and they will be paid deliverers.

  • Tony Greaves 24th Jan '21 - 9:05pm

    Just one or two points. (1) A lot of places have not been delivering leaflets since they think it would not be supported locally. (Pendle is one of those though we had been planning to start before the latest lock-down). (2) LDs who have been delivering leaflets and indeed doing some talking to people report there has been little or no objection from residents and indeed people have been pleased to get stuff. (3) The headline on this thread is wrong. The Conservative government have not “banned political leafletting”. As Chris Rennard has pointed out. I am sorry that LDV is spreading misinformation. (4) Saying we can deliver “political leaflets” via paid deliverers but not ourselves is ridiculous. Saying that as Councillors we can deliver “information leaflets” but not “political leaflets” is equally ridiculous. Focus lives!

  • Tony Greaves 24th Jan '21 - 9:09pm

    I look forward to the local police trying to issue me with a fixed penalty notice for delivering a Focus leaflet!

  • Ruth Bright 24th Jan '21 - 9:57pm

    Lord Greaves, I look forward to the day when a young person I know with health problems can visit her favourite place and her favourite people again. Against her own interests she stays at home, isolated, in order to help keep others safe.

    As usual, with one or two honourable exceptions like Michael 1, there is little mention of inner-city campaigning (in places like my old ward in Southwark) where most deliveries are indoors in long corridors of tower blocks, in areas of high Covid and where many deliverers might not feel safe delivering alone.

  • To those of you who say that you will ignore the Regulations, what you are suggesting is no different in kind to tax avoidance. To those of you who say that you will find ways to circumvent the Regulations, what you are suggesting is no different in kind to aggressive tax avoidance.

    And, if you are planning to circumvent the Regulations, you should be aware the exemption in the Regulations is “for the purposes of work”. The arrangements that you make with your deliverers will need to comply with the legal requirements for ‘work’, including:
    they have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (your contract doesn’t have to be written)
    -their reward is for money or a benefit in kind, for example the promise of a contract or future work
    they only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work (subcontract)
    they have to turn up for work even if they don’t want to

  • Jayne mansfield 24th Jan '21 - 11:05pm

    @ Ruth Bright,
    I commend the young person you mention. For her sake and that of others, we need to fight on their behalf.

    It is interesting , but not surprising anymore, that as you note, there is little mention of the sort of areas like the your old ward, especially as it is now known , but politically too sensitive to mention, that one population that suffers disproportionately from covid, does so because of jobs that put them at higher risk. They may have to put themselves at higher risk because they cannot afford not to, if they want to feed themselves and their family, but why add to their already heightened concerns.

    But why fight poverty, hunger, the need for food banks, zero hours contracts etc., when one can focus on whether paper is considered to be safe as far as transmission of covid is concerned. (apparently safe).

    On current evidence, what an awful self -absorbed, me, me me, it’s my right, cult your party has become. Please don’t deliver a leaflet through my door.

  • This is absolutely the wrong debate to be having right now, we should be calling on the government to make it easier for people to comply with the lockdown restrictions not encouraging each other to circumvent them in the style of Dominic Cummings.

    If the government hits its target of vaccinating everyone over 70 with a first dose by mid-February those people should have a decent level of protection from early March and deaths should significantly decline because these are the groups most at risk of dying. But the average age of ICU patients is 60, most of this age group won’t get a first dose until after Easter. And it’s this group that’s overwhelming the NHS right now and for weeks to come.

    As for the local elections themselves; we should be calling for the government to delay them to enable COVID-19 safe campaigning, COVID-19 nominations, COVID-19 safe voting and COVID-19 safe election counts. Call on the Prime Minister to enable the primary legislation to make that happen now rather than dithering and delaying. That’s a message that not only makes sense on health grounds but one which will chime with the public.

  • During these difficult times, wouldn’t the party be better placed thinking outside the box on how to reach out and engage communities without focus leaflets?

    For me personally ( though I admit I am extremely paranoid with covid) if something comes through my letter box that does not need touching or opening, then it goes straight into the bin. It is certainly not something that I am going to spend time reading, or putting down on a clean surface and coming back to later.

    I open all mail that is relevant in an addressed envelope to me, I read it immediately and put it where it needs to go and then wash my hands, Any other junk mail or flyers goes straight in the bin.

    I have no idea if my Post lady has covid, or if she picks up the virus from a neighbours letterbox, after all she is touching untold gates and letterboxes through the course of her rounds, so it is something that I am conscience of.

    I have actually told off charity fund raisers who have come to my door (without masks) even though I answer the door with a mask 🙂 I have been shielding since the start of all this and quite frankly I do not want anyone, or anything coming near my front door that is not absolutely necessary.

    I understand that life must go on and politics is important.

    Maybe the party should look at something a bit more substantial than a Focus Leaflet

    Like starting up a Signpost Brochure run by the local parties, it could contain the important Liberal Democrat information that they party wants to get across to its community and the rest of the pages are sold to local businesses for advertisements that are offering important delivery services or support services. Important local information, local trivia ( something akin to village news letters) The revenue from advertisement could help to pay towards production and delivery costs.

    I know the above probably sounds contradictory, considering what I have said at the start of this post, beings I am so paranoid and cautious about unsolicited items coming through my door right now lol, but I would be more inclined to read and keep a booklet with lots of information in for a later date, then I would a leaflet.

  • Jayne mansfield 25th Jan '21 - 12:11am

    @ Matt,
    All your previous posts have been spot on, absolutely in line with mainstream science.

    I am at high risk, am carer for a partner who is at the highest level of high risk, and I don’t think you are paranoid. You have spent a lot of time looking at the research and it is frightening given the ineptitude and incompetence of our government. Your critiques of certain epidemiologists et al. are now shown to be correct.

    May I suggest you have your food delivered and that you continue to take the sensible precautions that I am sure you already take.

    I wish you well, stay safe. We are all ‘paranoid’ in the general usage of the term given this government’s incompetence and dishonesty , but we are not paranoid in the medical mental disorder sense. Rest assured.

  • Matt Wardman 25th Jan '21 - 8:23am

    @Michael 1, @nonconformistradical

    Thanks or your reply.

    I am referring to the multiplication of contacts – I typically get a number of letters at once, and several even from commercial deliverers.

    (To be fair, our elections were last year and as it is the heart of the East Midlands’ Red Wall, LD Councillors were wiped out across a radius of about 12-13 miles from here – so I think I have only seen one Focus in the last 18 months.)

  • Just a thought. Are those of who are councillors on principal local authorities – and who receive an allowance for our political duties – classed as professional deliverers when delivering our Focus newsletters? I certainly regard my delivery of Focus as being part of my duty as a councillor, someone pledged to communicate with my residents to inform them what I am doing on their behalf.

  • @Jayne mansfield

    Thank you Jayne

    Yes we are still continuing to do all those things.

    After the state my 2 sisters are now in from having covid, one of which ended up in hospital on Saturday 🙁 it reinforces for me the need for people to exercise extreme caution if they are clinically vulnerable. My sister has no underlying conditions is 55 years old and yet she has still developed severe covid symptoms and now has infection on her lungs.
    My other sister is not getting any better either after 2 weeks, it is really worrying.

    So that only leaves me and my partner trying to look after ourselves and my elderly parents one of which has dementia and the other COPD, it’s hard going, but at least they have now had their first….

    Stay safe yourself to you and your loved ones

  • @ Matt Thinking about you, Matt. Very best wishes to you and hoping all goes well for your sisters and parents.

  • We should follow the regulations. If Govt introduces a ban on political leaflets being delivered then we should follow that. My understanding is that they haven’t.

    I’ve an issue with people not wearing a mask because & saying “I don’t agree with the science & I won’t be dictated to.” Fine – have your opinion & protest but follow the rules laid down by a (almost) democratically elected government.

    But the regulations permit voluntary work & they permit delivery of leaflets.

    Beyond the regulations – everyone I believe has a personal responsibility to minimise the spread of the virus. I’ve outlined my massive cleaning regime going to a supermarket which probably may have no effect but if millions did would.

    I’m a bit inconsistent in my views (!) saying that beyond the regulations we should do anything to prevent the spread of the infection – even if minute.

    But I’m struggling to see that delivering leaflets – where ink & paper is hostile for the virus in the open air (blocks may be different) which massive dilutes the virus is in any way dangerous.

    That said – Lib Dem activists should think what has most effect in their campaigning. It may be that a friendly “non political” call from their friendly Lib Dem councillor/activist seeing if they’re OK, is there anything they need etc. may be a very good use of activist time at the moment. And walking around their area and finding all the broken pavements and grot spots that their Labservative council is not dealing with and getting them sorted & so providing a lot of good Focus material.

    It also proves the value of working “all year round” as you never know what may pop up. And getting email addresses – over a 1/3 will give them to do when asked – and phone numbers (esp. now people increasingly only have mobiles).

    (I do think it quite likely that the Government will postpone the elections. The only reasons not to is that it is the sensible thing to do and they never do that & they’ve been ultra-keen to say things are returning to normal!

    Democracy is important but it’s not an essential and if you prevent some deaths and infection by delaying the few months until the vaccines have got this thing under control that makes sense! And door-knocking a) is mixing with people and b) brings people who wouldn’t be in touch with each other otherwise into contact but it is important to the democratic process.

    Good luck everyone in their campaigning & staying safe!

  • @Matt Wardman

    Thanks for your reply. Good luck staying safe.

    It’s obviously very sensible if you are at substantial risk if you were to get covid.

    As I outline I think the risks of lib dem delivery are very, very miniscule! I’d also venture that Lib Dem delivery is safer than the others as they are only delivering one type of leaflet & as I say commercial deliverers are more likely to go out in gangs & as a massive generalisation probably overall to be people (may be younger etc.) who are more cavalier generally about the risk. Lib Dems who do deliver should also hand sanitise every so many (say 50 – 100) houses. Also it was mentioned using a tool to push open letterboxes & leaflets through. I am pretty sure that I got from a reliable source that the virus doesn’t like copper so a copper rod of some sort?

    But for you – even if the risks were 1 in 10 million – why not leave everything for 72 hours & the scientific advice is that the virus doesn’t survive more than that – although as I say it’s believed paper & ink is not good for the virus.

    I hope that you are also taking Vitamin D & I think that those that are shielding are getting a free NHS supply but personally I think one should take more than the NHS says. I have put on another thread my views on that so see that. But the NHS recommends 400 IUs – personally I am taking 2000 IUs a day & I’d definitely do that if I was shielding.

    But don’t take medical advice from an internet comment! Look into it & consult your doctor. It won’t protect you from Covid but it might just slightly tilt the odds in one’s favour if one gets it.

    Of course we (almost) all need to get fitter & lose weight. I appreciate the difficulty of that – getting 6 kg below my obese BMI in the early autumn, I’m now well above it! Unfortunately we have about 10 different mechanisms which makes us put on the weight again – but its worth keeping at it.

    Probably after covid we need a massive national conversation about health & risk. We could cut cancer quite a bit if we had very speedy test turnarounds etc. We need to make our towns much more bicycle friendly. Should we fortify flour & milk with Vit D? etc. etc. We often have 20,000 “excess deaths” from flu – actually the amount of hand washing that’s gone on has cut flu spread significantly – will we continue hand washing after covid?

    All the best to everyone in staying safe & healthy – & particularly to @Matt & @Jayne Mansfield etc.

  • @David & Michael

    Thank you all for your kind words.

    Obviously the warm wishes are reciprocated to all.

  • Tony Greaves 26th Jan '21 - 4:22pm

    Two days later let’s just pause for thought. There are no regulations I can find There is a letter from a junior government minister. There is an over-reaction by some LD functionary purporting to instruct members of the party without the authority to do so. Just what is going on? Is this a democracy any more?

  • Tony Greaves 26th Jan '21 - 4:23pm

    And of course I have already today read the mail that came through the door, and the daily newspaper. I am not dead yet.

  • @Tony Greaves
    “And of course I have already today read the mail that came through the door, and the daily newspaper. I am not dead yet”

    That seems a rather insensitive comment considering what is going on out there.

    Nobody can say with 100% certainty that you are unable to contract the virus from collecting mail or newspaper delivery.

    It is up to individuals to make their own risk assessments, however, I do not think it is really appropriate to be so dismissive of peoples concerns and your comment could come across as quite crass to some people

  • Martine Dejeans 26th Jan '21 - 6:30pm

    It seems to be a matter of awareness and of personal conscience.
    Party members and the electorate are all divided on the issue. Perhaps as Lib Dems should lead by example and play safe. It is not just delivering leaflets with a mask on and a bottle of disinfectant gel, there is also that something may happen, like a fall on an icy patch or an unlevelled pavement, that may cause us to need to call on the NHS and the medical profession to held us. It is not the time to risk increasing the burden on public services. Please STAY AT HOME for your own sake and others’. Thank you for saving lives by doing so.

  • @matt

    I appreciate your points but it is rather odd situation.

    The following deliveries are allowed:
    1. Commercial deliveries of political and non-political leaflets
    2. Voluntary deliveries of non-political leaflets
    3. Voluntary or commercial deliveries of “political” material by councillors in pursuance of their role as a councillor
    4. Voluntary or commercial deliveries of leaflets of a non-political nature by political parties/activists
    5. Voluntary or commercial deliveries of leaflets of a political nature by groups other than political parties (for example a local pressure group)

    We have ONLY
    Voluntary deliveries of political leaflets by political parties that is NOT allowed

    Now the Government is more than entitled to come to the conclusion that delivery of leaflets/newspapers etc. is a danger to the population. If it has come to such a conclusion then it is NEGLIGENT in not clamping down further on other form of leaflet etc. delivery. Frankly I can do without a leaflet from my local estate agent and pizza delivery company for a few weeks if that is the case and it will save lives.

    But this is a bit like the Government concluding that mask wearing will save lives but only enforcing it if you happen to be a political activist!

    Now I think that the Government should have enforced mask wearing among shop workers at the same time as it did among shop customers.

    And of course – although the ways of the Government are more than a little baffling to me on this, we should follow the Government rules.

    If for some reason voluntary delivery by political activists of political leaflets poses a greater threat than other delivery – tough though it is to follow their logic – I will follow their rules.

    I looked at the evidence on masks which was a muddle and agreed with the Government. I look at the evidence on leaflets – paper and ink are hostile to the virus – and disagree with them. But I still follow the regs.

  • @Michael

    I agree that the rules do not seem consistent.

    I am just stating my personal opinion of what I do and don’t want coming though my door right now.

    I do not have a problem with the post lady bringing my daily post (and junk) and I treat it as I said previously in other comment.
    But I personally do not want multiple and
    unnecessary people coming to my front door, using my gate and shoving things through my letter box, be it from takeaways or charities or whatever.

    I accept that there might be “little risk” to having things shoved through my letter box, but I have been working my backside off for the last year trying to keep myself safe as I am vulnerable, but also because I am the only one who is able to take care of vulnerable parents.

    Am I developing OCD and paranoia with this virus? more than likely, its exhausting remembering to sanitize everything that comes into the door, or every time I open the gate, or get the bin in. I had a melt down for 5 days after having to have a plumber come out and do an emergency repair in the bathroom, my house stank of bleach for days after and I was still paranoid to use the bathroom and would only go in there with a mask.
    For some people who are vulnerable to this virus themselves, or primary carers to elderly vulnerable parents who has nobody else for support, this has been an exhausting marathon…I just hope these vaccines bring us the way out we all hope…

    I do sympathise with the points you are making, I am just trying to give a voice to those on the other side, who do not see leafleting as being necessary right now.

    I am a proud new member of the Liberal Democrats and want to see the party do well locally, so we can recover nationally, but right now I am for the locals being delayed until it is safer to do them, so everyone can be engaged and feel they have their voices heard

  • @Matt

    Good points – TVM! It’s a worry for those that are shielding and/or vulnerable.

    You might consider putting up a sign saying “I’m shielding/vulnerable please do not deliver unnecessary leaflets to me”

    These are tough decisions to make for all of us to make. I need some non-urgent work doing to my home & I’ve postponed it but am I being too cautious?

    There’s also an argument & I hadn’t thought of this so it’s a useful discussion to have -that someone’s home is their inner sanctum & if they go out then they are making the conscious personal decision but if they don’t why should their sanctuary be invaded.

    There’s a benefit to getting important correspondence. Less to getting pizza leaflets & I’m sure most would say none to political “rubbish”!

    I’d contend the opposite – that if the council becomes run by those good Lib Dems & there are safer roads & streets – that may prevent harm to you when covid is over & you do go out!

    The evidence is that the virus may be only survives for 3 hours on paper – but there’s a range from that to up to 5 days. The Guardian noted “in some cases researchers may extract the virus from materials, such as fabric and paper, that is trapped within layers, “arguably meaning it is not released to the hand during contact when people report just hours survival”.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/27/how-long-does-coronavirus-survive-on-different-surfaces

    The Govt has to decide what it is permitted for us to do and not do. And it doesn’t believe that delivery is so harmful that it should be banned. It may think that political leaflets (and for some reason only voluntary delivered ones) have zero benefit so a little risk is higher.

    I’m really struggling myself to evaluate risks on whether to go shopping or not. I keep changing my mind!

    I am trying also not to be too fixated on the risk from covid – the risk I run from being obese is far greater – and as I say I became non-obese but am back to being obese.

    So I would gently say to people do also think of all the other risks you run and mitigate those. Exercise, eat healthily, enjoy life (which helps survival!) and take the Vit D etc! And finally – while I appreciate one wants to survive especially if one has loved ones to look after – remember life is a fatal disease with no known cure – and it may be better to live life to the full rather than eke out a few more years.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '21 - 11:04am

    @Michael 1 “the Government is more than entitled to come to the conclusion that delivery of leaflets/newspapers etc. is a danger to the population.”
    I don’t think it has come to that conclusion: it seems to have concluded that when the lockdown rules state, “You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary”, then “door to door campaigning or leafleting by individual political party activists” is not “necessary”. Perhaps, if Lib Dems want to deliver leaflets then they simply need to justify why it is a “necessary” activity.

    Since volunteering is allowed and leaflets are delivered by volunteers, I get the impression that originally the party, somewhat sneakily, tried to justify it on that basis, but the party’s current advice is (my emphasis):

    The current lockdown guidance and legislation expressly permit people to leave their home to provide voluntary services that cannot reasonably be undertaken from home.
    You should not deliver political election leaflets as a volunteer activist.
    You may support a local councillor and/or provide printed literature that is not political in nature (e.g. information on food bank availability).

    I would not be surprised if the next wave of bad publicity is because of the delivery of leaflets that purport to be non-political but aren’t really.
    While I understand that it is frustrating for activists to look at the types of delivery that are allowed, there is still the issue that more deliveries and more people going door-to-door or in and out of a block of flats increases the risk further.

  • I am intrigued at two rather strange ideas:

    (a) that the Conservative government’s ‘advice’ about leaflet delivering (as opposed to legislation) carries any weight at all. The Conservatives are quite desperate to have as little communication as possible between the people and local councillors and (eventually) candidates because they want people to simply re-vote their most recent vote pattern where, if yo remember, Tories scored rather big.

    (b) that the Liberal Democrats (or any other party) should attempt to control how individuals with responsibilities respond to Tory ‘advice’ (bullying) about this or anything. Local Councillors have a duty (it is a form of employment) to communicate with their residents about local affairs including, most importantly, the local response to COVID. How they do this, safely and responsibly, is their responsibility. We have been informed by the government, no less, that there is NO RISK AT ALL to anyone of spreading COVID by paper leaflet – or indeed addressed letters/surveys, newspapers and pizzas!

    Although I assert the above, I would NOT be suggesting to many ‘normal’ volunteer deliverers that they go out delivering right now as, despite this being a quite reasonable form of permitted exercise, they are likely to be vulnerable to anxiety and bullying. But Councillors and ‘core team members’ should not be intimidated by those whose blatant indifference and incompetence have combined to grossly inflate the British COVID death rate.

  • Andrew Hogg 28th Jan '21 - 3:00pm

    I would suggest an alternative option.

    Pay labour to deliver your leaflets.

    Charge labour to deliver theirs.

    and during the general election have an agreement not to put forward a candidate in an area with low votes for the party and endorse theirs and have them reciprocate the agreement where there is a strong vote for the party.

    Turning this in to a 2 party race we may win.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jan '21 - 4:18pm

    @ Andrew Hogg,

    “during the general election have an agreement…”

    So what’s the deal? Labour stand down for the LibDems when the Lib Dems have more votes? That would work for the Lib Dems. Few Labour voters will vote Tory as a second choice. But Lib Dems stand down for Labour? And most Lib Dems then vote Tory as a second choice?

    No thank you. It’s better you don’t stand down.

    So it’s No Deal I’m afraid.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '21 - 4:24pm

    @Tony Dawson “despite this being a quite reasonable form of permitted exercise”
    I don’t think there’s any way that going door-to-door can be treated as “permitted exercise”: how would you feel if walkers and joggers decided to walk up to and touch every letterbox they passed?! Anybody attempting to justify leafleting with that excuse would rightly deserve a fine.
    Every suggestion on these threads about weasel ways to circumvent lockdown rules undermines the party’s criticism of the Government’s handling of lockdown and demonstrates a complete lack of empathy with those who describe the hardship of shielding.
    Political rivals need only quote some of the comments here, perhaps in the letters pages of those local newspapers that have already run stories about this, to risk damaging the party’s support further.

  • Alex Macfie 28th Jan '21 - 4:43pm

    “Labour stand down for the LibDems when the Lib Dems have more votes? That would work for the Lib Dems.”

    No it wouldn’t, because it would put Con~LibDem waverers off voting for us. Advocates of formal pacts so often don’t get this aspect of it. Any formal pact with Labour wouild drive many potential Lib Dem voters to the Tories. That’s why it has to be about informal agreements not to park tanks on each other’s Tory-facing battlegrounds; still stand candidates but don’t seriously campaign (as in 1997).

  • @Peter Watson

    OK. Let’s be clear there are two different things here. There are the regulations and there is the more recent guidance from a Government minister.

    So let’s start with the regulations:

    —–

    “Leaving Home

    You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
    go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home”

    —-

    I don’t think it’s “sneaky” – clearly the delivery of leaflets is a voluntary activity and it cannot reasonably be done from home.

    You then have to ask yourself does it breach any of the rules – such as gathering with people inside etc. and it does not.

    So clearly voluntary delivery of leaflets is within the regulations.

    —-

    While we have to follow the regulations whether we agree with them or not – it is worth having personal responsibility and thinking is this a dangerous activity – personally I do not think it is as I have said the risk of the virus on leaflets is minuscule and being outside on your own dilutes the virus. I am not delivering leaflets at the moment but if I was I would wear a mask and would sanitise my hands every 50 houses etc.

    As I also said when I go to the supermarket I sanitise my hands about ten times on each visit and wipe down surfaces such as self service checkouts with an anti-viral spray.

    —-

    You also have to weigh the benefit. And I appreciate that people will say there’s no benefit to political rubbish. But if we have political activism – pavements mended to stop trips and falls and street lights working to stop crime that’s a big benefit IMHO

    Now the SECOND point is ADDING to the regulations with GUIDANCE. the minister has written to political parties – saying that the guidance is that voluntary delivery of leaflets should not be undertaken.

    In that the minister is saying that the delivery of leaflets is dangerous. I am not sure that this is backed up the science.

    Furthermore somewhat inconsistently they are saying that activist A can deliver leaflets and activist B can’t – they only difference between the two is that one is a councillor.

    This is, I think you might concede a little odd!

    Now that said the guidance is the guidance and beyond that we should be sensitive to the feelings of residents as expressed here and there are as I outlined different things activists can do.

  • Peter Watson 30th Jan '21 - 10:17am

    @Michael 1 “I don’t think it’s “sneaky” – clearly the delivery of leaflets is a voluntary activity and it cannot reasonably be done from home.”
    There’s a world of difference between a voluntary activity that directly benefits the home being visited and one that is for the benefit of the deliverer.
    To me it does seem sneaky to conflate unpaid door-to-door advertising of a political party with e.g. “shop for food and medicine (online, or in person), deliver food and medicine, help with food banks and homeless services, work on a telephone support helpline” (https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/coronavirus-volunteering) or “support a local councillor and/or provide printed literature that is not political in nature (e.g. information on food bank availability)” (https://www.libdems.org.uk/covid19).
    And when people start contemplating justification of door-to-door delivery as their permitted daily exercise, then it looks even sneakier.

    I also think that, sadly, the fact that most references seem to be about delivery to houses reflects an implicit assumption of the type of home that Lib Dems are imagining when they talk about how safe it can be to deliver their leaflets.

  • @Peter Watson

    Thanks for your further comment. Of course as I said if you view Focus leaflets as “political advertising” of no benefit then anything that has the minutest extra risk outweighs that.

    But frankly personally I would prefer to have a leaflet from my hardworking Lib Dem Focus Team – getting street lights and potholes mended and making my life safer than from my Labservative councillor saying how honoured he has been to serve on the allotments committee

    It seems as I say odd that paid delivery of political leaflets, voluntary delivery of political leaflets, and voluntary delivery of political leaflets by councillors etc. is allowed but voluntary delivery of political leaflets by party political activists is not. Come on that is not really justifiable is it?

    But rules are rules!

  • Neil Cutland 3rd Feb '21 - 1:37am

    This is utterly shocking if true. I’d like to study it from a legal perspective. Would you please provide a copy of the letter from the Cabinet Office Minister?

  • Peter Watson 3rd Feb '21 - 6:13pm

    @Neil Cutland “Would you please provide a copy of the letter from the Cabinet Office Minister?”
    There is a link to the letter in the thread above: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/955122/MCD_letter_to_members_of_the_Parliamentary_Parties_Panel.pdf

    The key section of the text is probably:

    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.

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