Democracy in the pandemic
By Nick Stuart
Last year, elections were postponed across England with the first devastating wave of the coronavirus.
The current pandemic infection rate, hospitalisations and deaths are even more stark and tragic, especially here on the Island where infection rates have gone through the roof. The medical and scientific evidence shows that even if we hit the Government's most optimistic vaccination targets, the real threat to public health will be with us for many months.
Democratic elections depend on campaigning - voters need to know what the candidates stand for - and even more so on turnout of electors. It's vital the public feel safe to engage with candidates and then go to vote.
We cannot ask our people to knock on doors or deliver leaflets and we cannot ask the public to vote, until the threat is massively reduced.
Polling stations will need people to staff them for many hours, bringing them close to hundreds of people each going into a polling booth to mark their ballot paper.
Even postal voting provides more chances for social interaction and therefore an increased threat of infections.
We all will want the elections to take place. They're our chance to hold our elected representatives to account. On the Island, residents will want to give their verdict on the Conservative administration - on the cuts they've made to vital services, on their management of issues such as the Floating Bridge, and on the way they've spent taxpayers' money such as the £6 million St Mary's junction.
But in the end, they must be elections that are safe for all to take part in.
So the simple message to Government, as part of a sensible Covid recovery plan is:
- Postpone elections in England for local councils and Police and Crime Commissioners
- Set out criteria for going ahead such as a vast majority of the population vaccinated, hospital admissions massively reduced, and NHS and other vital services not an emergency footing
- Guarantee extra funding to councils so that they can put in place any extra measures still necessary to protect the public, candidates, and election workers