Following a question asked by Jon Payne (our County Council election candidate for North Walsham West & Erpingham) at tonight's North Norfolk District Council meeting, the Liberal Democrats have finally agreed to follow the Covid rules.
Nationally, the Conservative and Labour parties have committed to keeping members of the public - particularly the vulnerable and self-isolating - safe by avoiding traditional doorstep campaigning (knocking on doors and hand-delivering leaflets) until lockdown restrictions are eased.
North Norfolk Conservatives are conducting their campaigning online for the time being, and using reputable national delivery companies (with Covid-secure processes in operation) for all leaflet deliveries.
However, the Liberal Democrats have advised their activists that campaigning activities fall under the category of 'volunteer work' - whilst failing to mention that such volunteer work must be deemed 'essential' to be permitted. On 8th February, Chloe Smith MP, Constitution Minister, in a written statement to Parliament, made it clear that political parties are expected to ensure that:
they are providing information to voters in a safe way
A number of police Chief Constables across England have raised questions over the Liberal Democrat stance, with at least two confirming their officers would issue fines to those engaging in doorstep campaigning at the present time.
This evening, Jon Payne asked NNDC's Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr Eric Seward:
Will he take this opportunity to disavow his party's stance, and to affirm here tonight that all candidates and activists from all parties in North Norfolk have a duty and a responsibility to follow the rules, follow police advice, and protect the public?
Cllr Seward responded:
I can assure Mr Payne that the North Norfolk Liberal Democrats, in terms of their campaigning activities, abide by Covid regulations and the requirements of the law.
This is particularly welcome given the advice given to Lib Dem activists just a few days ago by Cllr Howard Sykes, Chairman of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group, to "crack on!' and "get delivering!"