MPs warn over easing purdah rules for EU referendum

Posted: July 22, 2015 by oldbrew in Politics

Level playing field needed  [image credit: Martin Rose/Getty Images]

Level playing field needed
[image credit: Martin Rose/Getty Images]

Any chance of pre-vote fair play in the run-up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership? Not much it seems, unless the rules change.

Plans to loosen rules restricting Government activity in the run up to the EU referendum have been condemned by MPs, who warned that it would “cast a shadow of doubt” over the poll. [Guernsey Press reports]

An in/out vote on the UK’s membership of the EU has been promised by the end of 2017.

The Government has claimed that ministers could be hampered in summits with European counterparts unless the purdah rules are eased in the weeks ahead of the in/out vote on membership of the EU promised by the end of 2017.

But a Commons select committee which looked at the issue concluded that the plan would make it appear as though the Government was “seeking to circumvent proper processes”.

The controversial plan has left eurosceptics furious because they fear it will allow Whitehall to support a campaign to stay in the EU, if that is what Prime Minister David Cameron recommends.

Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said the Government had to “conduct itself properly, fairly and impartially” during the purdah period.

Full report: MPs warn over easing purdah rules for EU referendum « Guernsey Press.

More: Senior Tory Mr Jenkin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the current plan “stacks it incredibly in favour of the Government” because ministers would be able to rely on the support of thousands of press officers and scores of special advisers.

“They are all going to be spin doctoring,” he said. “In purdah during a general election, during the Scottish referendum, they had to go offline in the last 28 days and that makes it just a little bit fairer.

“It’s likely that the Yes vote will vastly outspend the No campaigns anyway, but this just tilts the playing field even more in favour of the Government’s view.”

H/T Tim Channon

  1. “Purdah: [Hindu ‘parda’, lit. screen, veil; fr. Persian] a practice inaugurated by Muslims and later adopted by various Hindus and found esp. in India that involves the seclusion of women from public observation by means of concealing clothing including the veil and by the use of high-walled inclosures, screens and curtains within the home.” — Webster’s Third New International Dictionary

    It is a low-class (i.e., inappropriate, careless and naive) misuse of the term to refer to rules against biased governmental politicking before an election or referendum vote as “purdah” rules, primarily because it gives legitimacy (unintentionally or not) to the defining practice (“the seclusion of women”)–which accepts and marks women as second-class human beings–and encourages increasingly vocal and aggressive Islamists in general. You are not secluding the government, you are enforcing fair conduct, or impartiality (which, despite any Islamic claims to the contrary, “purdah” does not do; it only hides the religiously-supposed “corrupting influence” of women from public view — so using it in the present situation confuses the very real, corrupting influence of biased governmental politicking–which is basically just lying to the public–with the false, obsolete religious idea of women as just a corrupting influence).

  2. tchannon says:

    Here we are Harry, I’ve quickly knocked up a reference page for you. Have fun with the references, oldbrew is correct.

    [Thanks oldbrew for posting, I’m overloaded with other things –Tim]

  3. oldbrew says:

    I copied the Press report headline, no changes. Below is from UK Parliament’s own website.
    ”Purdah’ before elections and referendums
    Published 16 July 2015
    Specific restrictions on the use of public resources are in place during the ‘purdah’ period before elections and referendums. The Cabinet Office issues guidance for civil servants on their conduct during this period.

    Jump to full report >>
    The term “purdah” is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The term ‘pre-election period’ is also used.

    The purdah before referendums is regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The purdah before general elections is not regulated by statute, but governed by conventions based largely on the Civil Service Code.

    The Cabinet Office issues guidance for civil servants in UK departments on their role and conduct during election and referendum campaigns. This is available on the Cabinet office website.[1]

    For general elections in the past the purdah period commenced with the announcement of the election by the Prime Minister. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, elections now take place every five years, unless an early election is triggered. The Act provided that the 2015 general election would be held on 7 May 2015 and Parliament had to be dissolved on 30 March 2015.’

  4. wayne says:

    Here’s a New World Order… whatever some government says for you to believe or to do… you better give deep consideration that the most likely correct move is to believe or to do the opposite. Politically incorrect = correct.

    Welcome citizens to the Express Eightyfour Plus Bozo Bus Lines departure terminal, get your tickets to the left and for your safety stay in line and in step at all times. Senior citizens, exit down the corridor to the right for special processing.

    Feel like being stuck in a Firesign Theatre’s Groundhog Day?

  5. tchannon says:

    Another facet is how this has turned up immediately before the political summer holiday, no possibility of questions being asked in either House. Lets hope it turns up later.