THE GREEN Party’s candidate for Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Councillor Steve Caudwell, has condemned Government guidance on distributing public information by volunteers during lockdown as ‘an attempt to buy local elections’.
Coun Caudwell, Leader of the Opposition on Solihull Council, said: “It is of course necessary to take all sensible precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus, particularly as we work through the mass vaccination roll-out that will make a huge difference to the safety of our loved ones and key workers.
“I am however shocked that the Conservatives want to hold local and regional elections in May, whilst at the same tying the hands of the other parties behind their backs.
“Stating that volunteers shouldn’t deliver political leaflets means parties without the financial wealth of the Conservatives will be prevented from campaigning effectively because we rely on our volunteer distributors, while incumbent Andy Street pays the Royal Mail.
“As an ethical, member-funded party we simply can’t afford to mail out all our leaflets – we don’t have the corporate backers that the Tories can call on to cover those costs.”
He added: “The World Health Organisation is clear that paper is not a meaningful vector for Covid transmission – only the Tories are making out that it is.
“The reality is that the Tories are petrified their mishandling of the Covid pandemic is going to see them hammered in May so now they want to tilt the playing field in favour of those with the deepest pockets.
“I’m calling on all the Mayoral candidates and Council Leaders in the West Midlands to let this Government know that if elections can’t be conducted in a free and fair manner in May, they need to be delayed until they can.”
The call from Chloe Smith MP, Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution, urged political parties to suspend all door-to-door campaigning, including leafleting, during the current Covid-19 lockdown.
The Government’s Cabinet Office said such campaigning was ‘neither essential nor necessary’ and was against the the spirit of ‘stay at home’ lockdown order.
However other political parties, like the Liberal Democrats, say there are exemptions for voluntary organisations under the law.