ANGRY campaigners are calling for claims that they bent lockdown by delivering leaflets to be retracted.
In our issue of January 28, Conservative candidate Jackie Rance accused the Liberal Democrats of using volunteers to deliver campaigning material ahead of May’s local elections, despite the stay-at-home restrictions being in place.
“With all these Lib Dems traipsing the streets it is very clear they are prepared to ‘risk’ spreading a ‘little risk’ rather than ensuring no risk,” she wrote.
However, the party said that they have been using a company that is paid to deliver leaflets, which was within the law.
Last week, Wokingham Conservative chairman David Edmonds said that his party was “100% committed” to respecting this lockdown to protect residents and the NHS. This includes a pledge not to undertake any campaigning activities that will increase the risk from the pandemic until the Government advice changes.
“We do not want anyone to be worried or put at risk any more than is absolutely necessary,” he said.
Since then, national Conservative co-chairman Amanda Milling MP wrote to Conservative chairman to tell them that candidates can undertake campaigning using mediums such as social media, email campaigns and “Super Saturday calling days”, with prizes on offer for a Battle of the Callers, where activists are encouraged to call potential voters.
The letter also said that “commercial direct mail can be used to reach voters with surveys and campaign literature” in target wards, including a drive to use postal votes and parties should be ready for “any outdoor campaigning to resume”.
Wokingham Liberal Democrats have been angered by this and learning that Wokingham Conservatives have themselves been using similar delivery schemes for its own leaflets, saying it was hypocritical of them.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, the party’s leader, said: “To have somebody say, ‘Oh, you’re doing this, you were doing that and the other’ and then to find they’re doing it two weeks later… it’s just absolutely disgraceful, it’s mudslinging of the worst degree and hypocrisy of the first order.
“I just think that when someone gets to that low level of campaigning and do that sort of thing, and then be hypocritical as that by doing leaflets themselves, they are not fit for being in power.
“I hate hypocrites. That’s what they’ve done.”
But Mr Edmonds said that the letter from Ms Rance had been written in a personal capacity and that the party had always followed advice from Conservatives’ central office, known as CCHQ.
“The statement I made was correct with the advice at the time,” he said. “We did get a letter from CCHQ a few days ago, and they had revised their position. That change came in after my statement, which was accurate when I made it, and we will continue to follow whatever guidance we are given.”
He added: “Conservatives are committed to the safety of our residents, it’s of the paramount importance”.