A political row has broken out over the distribution of political leaflets and newsletters during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown with Warrington Tories urging Lib Dems and Greens to “down tools” for everyone’s health.
Warrington Conservatives say they have received a number of complaints from concerned residents in Appleton and Stockton Heath. The comments came when a letter purporting to be from ‘Appleton Ward Liberal Democrats’ started to land through doors at the weekend and a leaflet from the Green Party was delivered in Stockton Heath.
The Lib Dem letter is from Cllrs Brian Axcell, Sharon Harris, Judith Wheeler, Mark Browne & Peter Lewenz.
Chair of Warrington Conservatives Wendy Maisey OBE (pictured above) said: “Our members and campaigners are raring to get out onto the campaign trail. I have asked all of our members not to campaign at this time because although it is imperative we have elections in May 2021 and the people of Warrington are given the opportunity to decide if change is required at Warrington Borough Council, it is also vital we stop the spread of Covid 19, keep residents safe and protect our NHS.”
Speaking on the BBC’s ‘Marr’ programme on Sunday, the Lib Dem Leader Sir Ed Davey MP appeared to be giving activists the green light to leaflet. When asked if activists should be leafleting he said “yes.”
“Yes, as long as it is compliant with the guidance absolutely, the guidance is clear.”
Andrew Marr then challenged Sir Ed by saying that the guidance says stay at home unless absolutely necessary, Sir Ed added: “The guidance says there is an exemption for volunteer organisations, we’ve taken legal advice and the advice we’ve given to all our Councillors and volunteers is they need to wear a mask, they need to socially distance, need to sanitise their hands we were taking all the precautions that Amazon take and Royal Mail take.”
Ms Maisey added: “I work tirelessly as a volunteer to deliver food to people who are shielding – that is volunteering. Councillors are paid by the Council and political volunteers are not volunteers in the sense that Sir Ed is trying to suggest they are.”
Sir Ed’s comments were described as “disingenuous and arrogant” by one individual on social media “he should be apologising not trying to defend the indefensible.”
Warrington Liberal Democrats confirmed just three days ago that they would be “refraining” from delivering leaflets because they don’t want to “put volunteers or residents at risk.”
Appleton resident and Conservative campaigner Kenneth Critchley said: “We will not be delivering any leaflets until Covid restrictions have been eased and it is safe to do so. I would urge other parties to do exactly the same.”
One Stockton Heath resident said on Twitter: “So Green Party are delivering leaflets to every house in my Village, so how is that “following covid secure guidelines” that’s not an essential delivery #GreenParty.”
Cllr Ryan Bate, Chair of the Warrington Liberal Democrats and Cllr Bob Barr Leader of their group on Warrington Borough Council said:
“It is typical of Warrington Conservatives to politicise the current Coronavirus crisis, by criticising others.
“Perhaps they should accept that all political parties in Warrington are committed to protecting residents and getting them to follow both the letter and the spirit of national guidance.
“The Conservatives resent the regular Liberal Democrat FOCUS newsletters, because they know how much they are appreciated by the community and how they appear several times each year, not just when elections are pending. By contrast Conservative activity is ramped up before elections and is sufficiently well-funded to finance paid-for delivery.
“We think the Conservatives protest too much, driven by what they consider to be to their political advantage.”
Lyndsay McAteer, Leader Warrington and Halton Green Party said: “The Green Party in Warrington are following the regulations and guidelines which have been provided by our National Office. We are in agreement with the Liberal Democrat’s here. Delivering leaflets is no more of a Covid risk than delivering letters. Nevertheless, Covid safety measures such as wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and social distancing are obviously treated very seriously, and followed.”