Tag Archives: leaflet ban

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.

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