The party’s latest advice for campaigners in the pandemic

Mike Dixon, the Chief Executive Officer of the Liberal Democrats, has recently written to activists about campaigning in the pandemic, as follows:

In the last few days, anger has been growing about the Tories’ brazen attempt to skew the May elections and stop elected councillors and volunteers doing their jobs by safely delivering literature. Independent councillors and other parties have now joined us.

We have spoken with the Electoral Commission and National Police Chief’s Council at the highest level. In some circumstances it is legal and permissible for volunteers to deliver leaflets.

We have therefore issued updated guidance to local parties about how to make decisions locally about campaigning, in line with the police’s internal legal advice. We have also been in contact with all police forces to offer our help in dealing with vexatious complaints.

As ever, we’re doing work to contact people safely and in line with public health guidance, and your local party will be in touch with more detail about opportunities to help.

Also – I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who joined our virtual phone banks last weekend. We spoke to thousands of people and will be putting their concerns at the heart of our work over the coming weeks.

It’s clear people are finding this lockdown much harder than previous ones, and that parents are really struggling with home-schooling, for example.

If you’ve never done a phone bank before, I’d really encourage you to. It’s an incredibly rewarding way to spend a few hours.

Here you can read Mike Dixon’s letter to Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, who is the Commander of Operation Talla, which was set up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council to manage the police response to the pandemic.

On the Liberal Democrat party website, there is a page about campaigning in the pandemic, which is regularly updated with the latest information.

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This entry was posted in LDV campaigns and Party policy and internal matters.
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15 Comments

  • Once again a display of ignorance of inner-city campaigning where most delivery is indoors.

  • David Evershed 16th Feb '21 - 12:29pm

    As mobile telephone usage has grown, very many people have discontinued their landline telephone which had the numbers publicly listed.

    If we are relying on telephone banking for canvassing, what proportion of mobile telephone numbers are available via CONNECT or other legal sources?

  • nigel hunter 16th Feb '21 - 12:30pm

    Ruth are you talking about inner city (and other) blocks of flats where space is limited to keep your safe distance?
    If so the powers that be at HQ should be informed. T hey do cause problems.

  • Ruth Bright 16th Feb '21 - 4:36pm

    Hi Nigel. Yes the ward I represented in London had a FOCUS run of 6000 close on 5000 of that delivery inside in blocks. I would not ask any deliverer to deliver those flats in current circumstances.

  • nigel hunter 16th Feb '21 - 11:07pm

    Ruth.And others.Just a thought but how about recruiting a ground floor tenant to the party where even meetings could be held who could do the leafleting in good times.They may also know what is going on in their locality.A good source of info.

  • The party’s guidance does specifically warn against unsafe delivery in flats: “avoid any small enclosed spaces, such as within some blocks of flats” to quote from https://www.libdemvoice.org/the-partys-latest-advice-for-campaigners-in-the-pandemic-67000.html

    So I’m not quite sure what’s missing from the advice that you’d like to see in there Ruth?

  • William Wallace 17th Feb '21 - 2:31pm

    Hush, don’t tell anyone: a leaflet with orange and black printing just came through our door…

  • Ruth Bright 17th Feb '21 - 4:31pm

    Mark – the tone of the party’s statements is far too gun-ho and out of kilter with people’s fears and the general mood of the times. I would prefer there to be a clear outright instruction not to deliver leaflets.

    The party’s duty of care of care to its activists has never been its strong point. The party is always fearful of establishing any kind of professional relationship with its volunteers. That was always an interesting excuse I was given for the party not giving PPCs maternity leave ie that we were merely volunteers and that such leave would turn us into pseudo employees with actual rights!

  • David Evans 18th Feb '21 - 2:11am

    Indeed Ruth, I fear this just hasn’t been thought through. The public in general and the voting public in particular are still very Covid concerned and next to none of them will regard leaflet delivery as anything other than an unacceptable risk being imposed on them by the Lib Dems.

    None of
    – It’s legal,
    – It’s permissible,
    – The World Health Organisation has concluded
    – Those complaining are vexatious,
    – lockdown guidance and legislation has an exception
    – independent legal advice
    will carry any weight with 99% of them.

    The Conservatives will simply feed a steady drip of one liners in interviews “I think the Lib Dems are putting their own self interest …” etc etc. and the effect will be corrosive. We all know they are doing it deliberately to stuff us, but that won’t save us.

    They have laid their trap and it’s a question of choosing the least worst option. What odds “The lib Dems delivered their leaflet to my gran and …” coming up on the doorstep for decades to come (and in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, What’s App etc etc.

    The only chance we had to fight it was when Andrew Marr asked Ed about it a month ago. A well-rehearsed, “Well we all know the Conservatives will do anything to stop us doing what Lib Dems do best: keeping in contact with people and finding out what is affecting them, while they just rely on an endless stream of Facebook Ads so they don’t need to talk to people …” would have been a start. Then the battle lines would have been clearly drawn with “Lib Dems accusing Conservatives of shutting down debate, democracy, whatever to cheat their way to victory in Local Elections”

    Instead we had a thoroughly well practiced, unilateral declaration of “We are not a Rejoin party” as a cheap shot to demonstrate power over the party activists coupled with abject failure to take his one opportunity to take the battle to our enemies.

    No plan. No strategy. No idea.

  • John Marriott 18th Feb '21 - 8:05am

    I’m all for postponing elections in May. There is only one way they could be conducted safely and that is by having all postal voting, which apparently the Royal Mail says it can’t deliver that (no pun intended). As for canvassing and leafleting, the latter may be feasible; but I would steer clear of the former, not that this seems to occur much, at least on the doorstep, these days.

    Clearly, if leafleting were banned, then probably only the Tories would to likely to have the wherewithal to fund a postal campaign. In any case, in Lincolnshire, where I live, they might as well just give the victory to them in any case. In all its 47 year history, the Tories have always been the largest single party in terms of seats won in the County Council elections and I see nothing on the horizon which is likely to change that situation.

    Of course, such minor problems as pubic safety or voter apathy are in likely to deter the ‘activists’ positively straining at the leash to get to do what they love best. The problem is that, around here at least, you haven’t got a prayer, unless you are a Tory, if you don’t do the groundwork, which doesn’t just happen five or six weeks before Election Day. That doesn’t seem to bother many activists, who get their jollies from the campaign in the fairly certain knowledge that they will go down to noble defeat; but with their beliefs and principles intact.

    Mind you, given that COVID by May might be fighting a strenuous rearguard action against the vaccines, a message of hope might be the least thing that activists might be spreading as they go from door to door or, for that matter, those fearless enough to make their way to the Polling Station to exercise their Democratic right.

  • John Marriott 18th Feb '21 - 8:07am

    Sorry about the typos – one in particular. It is rather early in the morning!

  • The Lib Dems are so establishment they are behind the Tories.

    Just deliver the leaflets (I have every week commercially delivered pizza leaflets etc). It’s about democracy.

    What’s the worst that can happen? People complain that you are delivering leaflets after which armed with expert views on Covid and paper, you can discuss democracy, unfairness and your own local issues.

  • James, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Possibly people complain about Lib Dems behind your back and mention to their friends on Facebook all across the country that the Lib Dems are risking people’s health just to deliver their leaflets. Tory Ministers just drop small one liners about it in passing on TV. Lib Dems reputation nationally falls as a result. I sit worth it? Your decision may depend on whether you are more a team player or an individualist.

  • @David Evans

    I appreciate the point – but overall I think that local parties tend to be a little over-scared on upsetting people. You have to break eggs to make an omelette. Far too often I have heard the cry in unsuccessful campaigns – we deliver too many leaflets (normally 1!) it puts people off – whereas if you are saying something relevant there is a strong correlation between delivering more leaflets and successful campaigns.

    There are important points:

    1. Follow the party guidance – and I gather from the website that there’s a flow chart for local parties to follow.

    2. Put a big blob on the front explaining how we are following police and national guidance and voluntary work can continue and paper and ink is hostile to covid, point out newspapers are still being delivered and we are sanitising our hand regularly etc. (I’d also put a bit on – let us know if you are sheltering at this time and would prefer for us not to deliver leaflets to you or if you would prefer to have Focus by email during the covid crisis – but you need to keep very good records of this.) Of course you may also want to form the “local residents improving blogsville” action committee

    3. May be dial down the “political” content a notch. The Government has decided that the work of councils and indeed national government on non-covid matters should continue – and on such matters as planning applications and residents have a right to be informed about such matters. Unsafe pavements may still cause injury during covid – indeed we want to minimise the number going to hospital with falls at this time. And street lights not working promote crime and fear of crime etc. etc. All essential work – covid or no-covid and arguably more essential during covid.

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