The government are sending mixed messages on vaccines and elections

Delaying elections due in May doesn't add up with government messaging around the vaccine rollout. So which is it?

On Sunday’s Westminster Hour, Conservative MP Steve Brine said that the local elections in London and elsewhere would “Almost certainly” be delayed due to ongoing Covid measures and restrictions.

However, the government’s message is still one of upbeat sunlit uplands following their mass vaccination rollout, and measures being loosened from late February onwards. The elections are not due until May.

This government have a continuous habit of delaying bad news until it is too late – making sure the news is much worse than it needed to be. Every time they bring in measures at the last minute they damage the chance for people to prepare for compliance. Mentally and practically.

While few of us are emotionally attached to local elections (though I suspect Left Foot Forward readers would have a higher incidence of that than the average voter) we need to look at what the possibility of cancelled elections in May would mean for where we are expected to be in the pandemic by that point.

In his message announcing the new lockdown measures early this month, the Prime Minister said that if the vaccine rollout was successful, then we would start to see restrictions eased by the February half term – which runs from 15th to 19th of that month.

Elections are currently scheduled for 6th May. Nearly eleven weeks after the date the PM has suggested easing will begin. While no one expects a complete return to normal by then, it should be the case that some semblance of normal life should be able to return.

If it isn’t the case the public need to be prepared for that. If we keep stuttering into ongoing severe restrictions at the last minute these measures will continue to be ignored and fail as people’s fragile lives and jobs are not able to run in as last-minute fashion as the government.

Meanwhile, what of these local elections?

These have been delayed already from last year when they were meant to take place across England. Surely when that delay happened there should have been planning put in place for a more Covid-secure election? For example, an all postal ballot with socially distanced counting able to take place. These things are not beyond the wit of man, the Electoral Commission or even – given enough time – this government.

Once again, we are seeing the results of a government who refuse to recognise bad news until it is far too late. Once again we are seeing a government that offers only the worst of all world. In Johnson’s constant delaying of bad news, lives have been lost, normality delayed and democracy postponed.

Emma Burnell is a freelance journalist and consultant.

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