Campaigning has started for the local elections on 6 May, which in one form or another cover almost every area, since they combine polls due in 2021 with those postponed from May 2020. Official rules already allow canvassing as long as we abide by the 2-metre distancing rule.
From 29 March, when people will be allowed to gather socially in groups of six or two households outdoors, the same rules will apply to political campaigning. Campaign literature must be collected or dropped off, however, without people meeting indoors, and planning meetings must be virtual.
A first thing to talk about is the series of online meetings, poplar100.com, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Labour council in Poplar, east London, defying the government over social spending and winning.
The National Audit Office reports that 94% of councils are cutting services in 2021-2, and two dozen or so are in or near financial meltdown like Croydon council. Despite huge government spending on items like private-sector Test and Trace, central government funding will not cover councils’ extra spending and reduced income in the pandemic.
Some local campaigns are developing against particular cuts, like the one against the closure of John Carroll Leisure Centre in Nottingham. Often, however, cuts budgets and poor local Labour manifestos have gone through over the heads of local Labour Parties. Even in Leeds, with some left-wing local Labour Parties and big cuts by the Labour council, a general alternative to cuts and an adequate Labour democracy remain to be fought for.
Dozens of local Labour Party officers, across the country, were suspended in and around December for allowing debate on issues like the removal of the Labour whip from Jeremy Corbyn. A few have been reinstated, but most are still in limbo. According to LabourList their cases will be heard by NEC panels by the end of March.