It's purdah time
Policy Officer Catherine blogs about purdah… and how the world keeps turning…
Have you been wondering how much solar energy will strike the earth today? In a recent trawl of the internet, I found a great website – Worldometer It shows key global statistics, like the number of births and deaths in the world as if they were happening in real time. It shows the gradual decrease in undernourishment and increase in access to clean water. It gives a snapshot of the number of the daily spending on healthcare and education by governments across the world, hectares of forest lost and, somewhat forebodingly, days until the end of coal.
This pleasing website of numbers also shows the number of mobile phones sold, the number of emails sent and newspapers sold today. It is amazing how much happens in 24 hours!
It has been a busy 24 hours here too – local elections were held in Hampshire yesterday. They say a week is a long time in politics and there are five weeks until the general election. And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, we are in purdah before the general election on 8 June.
‘Purdah’ is the period between parliament dissolving and the announcement of the election results. Parliament was dissolved on 30 March and the government cannot announce any new initiatives until the election is over.
Charities and staff need to be especially careful about what they say during purdah as we are restricted by the Lobbying Act. However, this is a restriction, not a blanket ban on speaking out.
Charities cannot endorse a political party or a particular candidate. However, organisations can support a specific policy and seek to influence candidates, providing it is in support of their charitable purposes.
Some third sector organisations have stopped sending out newsletters until after the election, but now it is more important than ever to use this opportunity to ask candidates about issues that affect the people you work with. Other infrastructure organisations also share this view.
Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, last week called for charities to campaign with confidence in this election period and NCVO has good advice on how to campaign within the rules, including a recording of a webinar held this week. ACEVO has urged charities campaign boldly during the general election, with the publication of a new report called Speaking frankly, acting boldly The report explains different types of campaigning and it achievements.
If you’re looking for a good example, take a look at this blog from The King’s Fund on assessing health and social care promises in manifestos. It continues the charities campaigning objectives and gives their supporters key points to look out for when choosing where to cast their vote.
If you are in any doubt about whether your activity is legal, consult the Charity Commission guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities
My point is this: the world keeps on turning and charities need to keep going too. The counters on that website will keep flicking over. Nothing truly comes to a standstill because an election has been called. The people who need your services today will still need them tomorrow. The candidates wanting to represent your constituency may listen most keenly while asking for your vote. Ask them what they think about the issues you work on, tell them about what you do and why they should remember you when they get to Westminster.