In-person campaigning for the upcoming GLA and London Mayor elections can resume under the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, but what can you expect to see over the next two months?
Last month, the Government confirmed that there were no plans to further postpone local elections in England, leading to confusion about how campaigning would take place under lockdown rules.
Back in January, independent London Mayor candidate Brian Rose was fined £200 by police for breaching lockdown rules while filming promotional material for his campaign. At the time, Mr Rose said it was “incredibly worrying that democracy is being eroded in this way”.
Several campaigners for Liberal Democrat candidates standing in local council elections were also accused of breaking the law by delivering leaflets during lockdown.
The Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats said it was “an assault on our democracy” when the Government announced that campaign leaflets could only be sent by paid delivery and that volunteers were not exempt from lockdown rules.
But as of March 8, anyone campaigning on behalf of a candidate in the upcoming elections can begin delivering leaflets once again provided they do it in a Covid-safe manner.
Campaigners are also allowed to begin canvassing voters on their doorsteps, though they will not be allowed to enter anyone’s home and must maintain social distancing at all times.
The current rules allow for two months of outdoor campaigning ahead of the elections on May 6, and events such as public meetings, hustings and debates must take place virtually.
The Government’s official advice says: “It is essential that campaigning be allowed in the run up to the polls on 6 May. An informed electorate is vital to ensure that voters can make a reasoned choice for whom to vote. The UK Government proposes to allow for two months of outdoor campaigning in the run up to May’s polls, to support free and fair elections.
“There must also be equality – a ‘level-playing field’ – for how people can campaign. This means avoiding having different rules within or between electoral areas as this would mean that electors could be treated differently in different areas, or even within an electoral area for polls such as for a Police & Crime Commissioner or in a Combined Authority area. We have therefore developed a clear and consistent approach to be applied across England for all campaigning.”
Despite the change in the rules, it is likely that many candidates will continue to connect with voters through virtual campaigning.
Brian Rose, who recently live-streamed himself visiting every London borough in a “Covid-secure battle bus”, said that “digital communication is what voters expect now more than ever”.
Similarly, Lib Dem London Mayor candidate Luisa Porritt said that the pandemic has provided an opportunity to “think of new creative ways to reach and engage with Londoners during this strange time” such as Facebook and Instagram live events.
Both the London Assembly and London Mayoral elections will go ahead on May 6 with Covid-secure measures in place at polling stations.