Liberal Democrats in Cirencester have been ordered by Gloucestershire Police to stop delivering political leaflets – just days after the Liberal Democrat council leader begged local people to stay home and save lives.
Rebecca Halifax, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Cirencester Park was reported to police on 3 February for distributing leaflets door-to-door. Gloucestershire Police have subsequently confirmed that “we have contacted the organisation concerned, and following discussions the distribution will now cease”.
The leaflet featured both Ms Halifax and Council Leader Joe Harris, and includes a picture of the two, standing less than two metres apart, without masks.
Just a week earlier on the 27th January, Cllr Harris used a council-funded webcast to beg local residents “please, please, stay safe, stay at home, protect the NHS and together we will get through this a lot quicker.”
Cllr Harris had also previously committed to stop political leafleting during lockdown in a Facebook post on the 10th January, claiming to have “suspended the election campaign”. Despite this, the leaflets being distributed in his name included a national Liberal Democrat petition campaign, and sought to collect personal data for the Liberal Democrat party.
The news comes just days after a senior Gloucester Liberal Democrat was warned by police for distributing leaflets during lockdown.
Conservative councillors have tabled urgent questions to the Cotswold District Cabinet Meeting, scheduled for next week, calling on Cllr Harris to explain his actions, to apologise to people in Cirencester, and to commit to following the lockdown rules.
Cllr Richard Morgan, Leader of the opposition Conservative Group on Cotswold District Council said
“The Liberal Democrats have been caught breaking the rules. Cllr Harris said himself that people should stay at home and save lives – but less than a week later the police have to stop the Liberal Democrats breaking lockdown rules. Many people in Cirencester and across the Cotswolds who are playing their part and following the rules will find this very hard to stomach.”
“The Liberal Democrats must know that they are breaking the lockdown rules and that they are putting people at risk. This has happened only days after Gloucestershire Police had to warn one of Cllr Harris’ colleagues for breaking the same rules. The Liberal Democrats should be supporting our police force at this difficult time – not flagrantly ignoring them. It’s shameful”.