Lib Dems call for May elections to be deferred

This is what an election count normally looks like. We would have to make major changes to the ways in which the Parties and the Council operate to make a May election safe..

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats have written to the Home Secretary asking for a two-month deferment of the elections due on 6 May to the first Thursday in July instead.

In my letter I said “to have the elections on the current date would make them unsafe and liable to fail to reflect the views of the population. Delaying them for 2 months, subject to any other problem that might arise in the medium term, will make them safe and with a good level of participation.

The problem will start in March when each Party will have to make more than 300 house calls to get necessary forms filled in. In some cases, people will be asked to fill in 4 sets of forms. This will inevitably mean close contact inside people’s homes”.

Liverpool Lib Dems have currently voluntarily stopped all external campaigning although there are some external things that we could clearly do under the Government’s regulations. Things would be allowed because we are a voluntary body and can take exercise in our locality which are two specific exemptions under the Government’s regulations. We choose not to do this at the current time because although some things would be safe, we would not be sending out a clear message about staying at home to the communities that we serve.

However, there is no way that we could contemplate the door to door conversations that we believe are a vital part of democracy. We wouldn’t want to do it and we certainly would not be well received. We believe that these elections are the most important local elections in Liverpool for many years. With 15 arrests in 4 years of people in or around the Council and Government Inspectors in and about to make mandatory recommendations we believe that politicians should be on the doorstep and in public meetings able to answer the many questions that we know people have. Such actions will eb totally impossible ina May election.

There will also be huge problems for the Council. The polling stations will clog up. Filling in four ballots with inevitable queries about which ballot to put where will slow down the process. Not all our current polling stations can be made Covid-secure and we are not clear how social distancing and regular cleansing would work between voters and between voters and staff. We know that the Council is undertaking a Covid based risk assessment of polling stations but some just cannot be made safe.

Many will choose to stay away and no matter what we do many voters and polling and counting staff would be put at risk. The turnout will be down at an election at which we need a huge turnout to accurately pronounce judgement on the politicians of our City.

What we are suggesting is not a political point but a health point. Politically we don’t want a delay because all the signs are that we will get an increased vote and more councillors elected. That will mean that we will be able to hold the Labour Party to account in a more comprehensive fashion. In the meantime, the Council can begin the process of carrying out the instructions that will come from the Government’s skilled inspectors.

We want an early election but it should only take place when it can also be a safe election. By July, unless things go badly wrong with vaccination controls, we should be able to have a proper election and the people of our City will be able to give a full response to the mess that their Council is in.

Letter to Priti Patel in full:

Rt Hon Priti Patel,

Home Secretary,

London

By email

18th January 2021

Dear Ms Patel,

Here in Liverpool the Liberal Democrats are very keen to see that the local and sub-regional elections deferred last May are held as soon as possible. Every voter in Liverpool will be able to vote 4 times for a councillor, a City Mayor, a Liverpool City Region Mayor and a Merseyside Elected Police Commissioner. We want to expand our team of Lib Dem Cllrs and are confident that we would have done so last year and will be able to do so this year.

However, we are also concerned that elections should be safe and accurately reflect the wishes of the electorate. We doubt that this can happen if the elections take place on May 6 as planned. Although the Country will be well on with the vaccination process by then the process starts much sooner.

Every Party in Liverpool will have to knock on 300+ doors to get our nomination and consent forms filled in. These are usually done inside the house because they are complicated and, in some cases, will be asking people to sign four forms. Given the number of candidates in Liverpool across all Parties and independents this means up to 1,500 house visits well before the vaccination has a full reach and especially a full reach with the second dose.

Liverpool Lib Dems have currently voluntarily stopped all external campaigning although there are some external things that we could clearly do under the Government’s regulations.

However, there is no way that we could contemplate the door to door conversations that we believe are a vital part of democracy. We wouldn’t want to do it and we certainly would not be well received.

The polling stations will clog up. Filling in four ballots with inevitable queries about which ballot to put where will slow down the process. Not all our polling stations can be made Covid-secure and we are not clear how social distancing and regular cleansing would work between voters and between voters and staff. Many will choose to stay away and no matter what we do would put voters and polling and counting staff would be put at risk.

We have a simple solution. Delay the elections for two months so that they take place on the first Thursday in July. This would mean that the vaccination programme would have reached into the vast majority of the adult community. Warm nights would enable us to deliver and door knock safely providing suitable protocols were put in place by the political parties.

To have the elections on the current date would make them unsafe and liable to fail to reflect the views of the population. Delaying them for 2 months, subject to any other problem that might arise in the medium term, will make them safe and with a good level of participation.

I realise that your probably don’t really care about in elections in Liverpool where the Tory Party just doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. However, we think that our call here for a deferment should happen because the impact that the virus will have on all elections in England.

My colleagues and I would be pleased to discuss this matter with your staff at any time.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kemp sig

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Lib Dem Leader,

Liverpool City Council

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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