Friday 13 March 2020 / 3:31 PM Jennie Formby

Labour calls for suspension of May elections due to coronavirus

Labour is calling on the Government to suspend the local elections scheduled for 7 May because of the spread of the coronavirus.

The Party’s General Secretary Jennie Formby has today written to the Electoral Commission to support its call for a postponement, saying that Labour “always want democratic processes to continue as much as is practical and safe”, but in light of public health concerns the primary focus for council staff as we head towards the peak of the outbreak should be on providing essential public services.

The letter adds:

“We share your concerns about the ability of local authorities to deliver the elections in advance and on the day, at the same time as continuing to manage vital services that will have increased pressure on them due to the coronavirus.

“We also have serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of our staff and members who would be campaigning in the run up to 7 May. As such, we have today advised our Constituency Labour Parties to cancel all campaigning and meetings.”

Labour also notes that elections in 2001 were postponed because of the foot and mouth outbreak and that “this is a far more serious situation affecting human health”.

Ends

Full text of letter to Electoral Commission Chief Executive Bob Posner:

We were pleased to read your letter dated 12 March to Cabinet Ministers in which you raise concerns about the real risks to the successful delivery of the scheduled 7 May elections because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Of course we always want democratic processes to continue as much as is practical and safe, but we believe you are right to raise serious concerns.

The Labour Party takes our public health responsibilities seriously and, having discussed these concerns today, we have agreed to support your request to postpone the elections.

We share your concerns about the ability of local authorities to deliver the elections in advance and on the day, at the same time as continuing to manage vital services that will have increased pressure on them due to the coronavirus.

We also have serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of our staff and members who would be campaigning in the run up to 7 May. As such, we have today advised our Constituency Labour Parties to cancel all campaigning and meetings.

We agree that the direct and indirect effects of the coronavirus mean there is likely to be a significant numbers of registered electors who would not have the opportunity to vote, or feel inclined to vote – hampering the democratic process regardless.

As well as the public health considerations for the electorate, the primary focus for local council staff as we head towards the peak for the virus in the UK must be to ensure the continuation of critical public services like social care, home care and refuse collection. These frontline staff should not be diverted to administer local elections.

Local elections (and the General Election) in 2001 were postponed because of the foot and mouth outbreak. This is a far more serious situation affecting human health. So, as well as being led by the medical advice, we must also be guided by other official advice and therefore postpone these elections as you propose.

We will be copying our letter to you to the other political parties.

Yours sincerely,

Jennie Formby
Labour Party General Secretary