It is nearly two weeks since Parliament closed down to enable its workforce, or perhaps I should describe it as our workforce, to clear their desks and return to constituents to promote themselves and their parties to those of us entitled to vote. Inevitably a number of candidates had already been lined up in various locations before Parliament closed down, but since then the number has grown significantly but we have now passed the deadline for candidates to be listed to represent us. One of my friends who stood as a very credible Independent candidate in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton in 2017 chose not to stand this time, for a number of reasons including the lack of notice and cost of such a process. Whilst no political party will ever be concerned by such a matter, his challenge is understandable to people who have stood as Independent candidates. If Parliament was more honest and had a bit more integrity, it would treat their policies with more consideration. Of course they are entitled to call elections with enough votes to do so, but to hold 3 General Elections in less than five years, given the law they established back in 2011 to avoid such a flurry of activity and cost to you and I should make them feel embarrassed. However I have not yet spotted any signs of such an emotion amongst any of the current ex-MPs and only 20 of them voted to oppose this election at the end of last month, although to their credit Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle were two of the 20 people who voted against it.
The decision to hold our next General Election on 12th of December was endorsed by all of the other MPs in Sussex and most across Kent and Surrey and led to Parliament closing down its operations, a minute past midnight on the 6th November. This also meant that our nation or at least most parts of the public sector entered into a pre-election period known as Purdah which the Local Government website describes as “The time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on communications activity are in place. The term ‘heightened sensitivity’ is also used…. developing new policies and holding of events – including some meetings – featuring elected officials should all be carefully considered during a period of heightened sensitivity. ” It is fascinating how such a period can impact many of us in different ways. I was due to attend a public meeting with some officers and a Councillor from two Sussex Councils at 8am on Wednesday 6th November to discuss how they could improve their procurement processes for the construction industry. This event had been planned for many weeks and over 150 people from a range of businesses were due to attend. However on the Monday beforehand we all received news that the event was being postponed until 2020. No doubt there is other examples that people in our communities will be aware of that involve similar levels of disruption and frustration. Yet listening to two political advisers on the radio a few days ago it was clear that many people are uninterested in the election at the moment and both Labour and Tory parties expect our attention to their campaigns only to begin seriously around the middle of next week. That said some people already seem very frustrated that they are being asked to vote for a third time in 43 months but with this in mind one wonders if such long Purdah periods are necessary or helpful? Such analysis also questions if visits by senior politicians across the nation over such a long period will achieve a great deal. The planned visit by Johnson to a bakery in Glastonbury led to a large turn out of protesters including at least one ex-Brightonian! So the Police called off the visit and instead he went to one of the bakers other shops in Wells to serve some customers. One wonders if the public cost of that visit was worthwhile for anyone apart from the man himself?
What seems strange however given the Purdah arrangements and the need to cancel meetings, and indeed Johnsons own claim to the EU that because of Purdah he cannot propose an EU Commissioner is why the NATO Summit that is due to take place on 3rd – 4th December in the UK is still happening? According to the Daily Mail the meeting is taking place in London and they then explain that the venue is the Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire which questions if they have any geographic grasp. However the presence of Donald Trump and other International Leaders meeting with Johnson here in the UK a week before our General Election is surely counter to all of the Purdah rules?