Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 7th, 2020

Non-Election Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 7th May, 2020

Election 2020Today was the day that voters in London, Scotland, Wales and many local authorities across the United Kingdom would have been going to the polls, but democracy has had to be put on hold as a result of COVID-19. The elections will take place on the first Thursday of May next year instead. Already the independent candidate for London Mayor, former Tory MP Rory Stewart, has dropped out. Without a party machine to back him he may have realised he couldn’t keep up the pace for another 12 months, or maybe he has a new job lined up. Good luck to him if he has. But for the rest of us, “politics as usual” is also suspended to a large degree. So far there has been a lot of cross-party unity in handling the coronavirus situation, for example with regard to social distancing and the need to support the NHS, but the government is likely soon to find itself the subject of increasingly searching questions and indeed open criticism. Why has Britain had more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other European countries? Why were care home staff not properly provisioned? But whereas in the past, Liberal Democrats in particular would get their messages across by putting it on a leaflet and sticking it through people’s letter-boxes (to paraphrase the late Cornish MP, David Penhaligon), that sort of activity has ceased. One wouldn’t want to run the risk of inadvertently infecting anyone via contaminated paper. Similarly, door-to-door campaigning has become an impossibility, at least for a while. So politics has increasingly moved online. Meetings, coffee mornings and even “pizza and politics” now mainly take place courtesy of Zoom and we get our news through our tablets and SmartPhones or computers as much if not more than via the television and the Press. So even if the elections do take place next May as planned, the nature of politics will have changed. The way the Houses of Parliament run will probably have to as well. Why not move to electronic voting, for example? So as we live through what we all hope will be the final weeks of lockdown, let us use the time constructively to consider what should be the “new normal” in politics as well as in our lives.

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