A decision to postpone May’s elections for London Mayor and the London Assembly could be made very soon due to the UK’s elections authority recommending they be postponed until the autumn due to the growing impacts of coronavirus.
In a letter to Chloe Smith, the minister for the constitution and devolution, Bob Posner, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, says “it has already become clear that the risks are so significant as to raise serious concerns about the polls continuing to their current timetable” and that “a decision now needs to be taken, by government and as appropriate by parliament, whether to proceed with the scheduled 7 May polls.”
The Commission is an independent body which oversees elections in the UK and works to promote public confidence in the democratic process. Posner’s letter says, “The risks to delivery that have been identified are such that we cannot be confident that voters will be able to participate in the polls safely and confidently, nor that campaigners and parties will be able to put their case to the electorate.”
Boris Johnson and government medical experts this afternoon set out measures for a new “delay” phase in their response to the spread of the virus, with 590 cases confirmed across the UK including 136 in London, but with the true total infected likely to be as high as 10,000. The Prime Minister said that people suffering with high temperatures or persistent dry coughs should stay at home in isolation for one week. He warned that “many more people will lose loved ones”, with elderly people and those already in poor health in the greatest danger.
Responding to the Electoral Decision letter, London Mayor Khan, who is seeking a second term in the job, said: “As with all issues relating to Coronavirus, it’s crucial we follow the expert advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England. I await official advice from the Government who, with Parliament, will take the final decision on whether to delay the May elections.”
London Elects, the City Hall department responsible for the Mayor and Assembly polls, said it will continue with its preparations for 7 May while it awaits the government’s decision.
Khan’s fellow candidate, Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita, said she was sure the Commission’s decision “hasn’t been taken lightly” and that she too is awaiting the government’s response. A spokesman for Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey said his campaign will follow any guidance about the elections issued by the government and medical experts and added: “Shaun believes it is crucial we listen to experts and refer to updates provided by Public Health England.”
Independent candidate Rory Stewart, who has been calling for swifter and more drastic action from both the Mayor and the PM, announced that he has “cancelled all public meetings, all canvassing and all door-knocking” and is urging “all candidates and politicians to do the same”.
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