Parties argue over election leaflets in Alcester
A SPAT has broken out between the Tories and Lib Dems over the delivery of political leaflets in the run-up to May’s local elections.
Earlier this month the Herald was contacted by a Conservative county councillor suggesting the Liberal Democrat group had breached Covid-19 regulations by delivering their newsletter to residents in Alcester. The matter was also highlighted on social media by some Conservative members.
The Cabinet Office says that leafleting and door-to-door knocking by party activists is not acceptable during the current national lockdown, however leaflets can be delivered by commercial delivery services that are already operating. The Lib Dem group has hit back, demanding an apology from the Conservatives, explaining that a paid-for delivery service was used in line with the government’s guidelines.
Richard Vos, from the Stratford and South Warwickshire Liberal Democrats, said: “I’m surprised and disappointed that the Conservatives didn’t bother to check the facts before claiming that the Lib Dems were breaking the law and risking the spread of Covid.
“All it needed was a phone call but apparently they couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone before making these disgraceful claims.
“I hope they will now admit that they’ve got this completely wrong and that they will retract their comments and apologise.”
Cllr Susan Juned, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Stratford District Council, added: “It’s very clear that we are operating within the government guidance, this material was delivered by a professional firm, a paid-for delivery, which is not in breach of the rules.
“It was also distributed at the same time as other material such as takeaway menus as part of a bundle, it was not done in a separate trip.”
Cllr Juned added that the Liberal Democrats had presented evidence that the deliveries in Alcester were paid for to the Conservative group.
George Cowcher, Liberal Democrat organiser for Stour and Vale, said: “In my view this is just Tory censorship, I get plenty of magazines and leaflets through my door, but it is only political material that they are putting guidelines against.
“If people don’t know who their candidates are or what they stand for quite frankly what is the point of an election.”
Despite the protests from the Lib Dems, the Conservative group appears unconvinced.
Conservative county councillor Mark Cargill said: “I’ve been told to check my facts on this one, but the facts as I see it are that we are in the middle of a national lockdown, I had election material hand delivered to my address with no evidence about how it was delivered.
“I don’t understand how this can be considered essential in the middle of a pandemic when people are dying. Social media campaigning is absolutely fine but as far as I know the Conservatives are not doing paid-for deliveries of election material at this time.”
On this occasion the Labour group at Warwickshire County Council seem to be in agreement with the Conservatives over leaflet deliveries, confirming that they are not planning to deliver election material during the lockdown, either through volunteers or paid-for services.
Cllr Helen Adkins, leader of the Labour group, said: “It does hinder the campaign but we’ve got to do what’s right, we’ve got to minimise contact at this time to keep our residents safe.”
On a national level there is concern that the current guidelines may put smaller parties and independent candidates at a disadvantage as they may not be able to afford to pay for delivery of election material.