Amanda Milling is co-Chairman of the Conservative Party and is MP for Cannock Chase.
Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy: they give you the opportunity to have your say on everything from your bin collections to the number of police on your streets.
However, last year saw our democracy delayed – as we took the decision to postpone Local, Mayoral, Police and Crime Commissioner elections in order to keep you safe as the country came together to fight the Coronavirus.
We paused democracy once, but we cannot and will not do it again. Elections will go ahead in May.
We have seen elections being held safely in other parts of the world and, since the postponement of last year’s elections, this government has been working with the Electoral Commission to ensure that they can happen in a Covid-secure way.
To assist councils with the safe delivery of elections, we have invested £92 million to support the smooth running of elections, £31 million of which will be used to help implement necessary public health and social distancing measures – such as making polling stations safe, and providing additional staffing to assist with extra precautions needed to protect everyone.
We have issued an elections delivery plan to help keep voters, council staff, candidates and campaigners safe. Our polling stations will be regularly cleaned and kitted out with hand sanitiser, screen dividers and many of the protective measures we have become accustomed to and you’ll be encouraged to bring your own pen or pencil.
In person voting will be available, but you will have to wear a mask for yours and others protection. Postal voting remains, but proxy voting rules will be changed, enabling anyone who needs to self-isolate the ability to request an emergency proxy vote at short notice – right up to 5pm on polling day itself.
For potential candidates standing for elected office, we are introducing measures to reduce the travel involved in completing their nomination forms.
With these additional measures everyone who can and feels comfortable going to a supermarket or a post office should also feel confident attending a polling station in May.
No doubt there will be some teething problems along the way, but I have absolute faith in the teams that run our world class electoral system that they will be able to deliver democracy in this Covid-secure way.
We’ve seen over the past year how our great country can adapt and overcome adversity, and I have no doubt they are up to the task. However, we are ready and willing to support where and when needed.
Be in no doubt: these elections will be a tough fight not just because of where we are in the electoral cycle, eleven years into government, but because of the temporary but necessary pause to doorstep campaigning. As we head towards May, I anticipate this pause will change, so we need to be ready.
As an avid campaigner and Co-Chairman of the Party, I never thought I’d be telling people not to go out campaigning but, while we have to stay at home, let’s use this time to rest our legs and focus on the campaigning we can do: telephone canvassing, local press, social media and by using Royal Mail deliveries to reach voters.
CCHQ is running its regular Connect Calling sessions virtually. I know that many of you are already doing this, as I spoke to some of our top callers last week, but we want more of you on board, so sign up to our telephone canvassing sessions to start the fight ahead of May.
Our campaigning efforts will have to be different for a short period, but these elections are as important as any other – they will decide how vital services in your local area are run, and importantly how much you will have to pay for them.
Up and down the country the choice is simple. You can elect Labour politicians who are more interested in playing political games than in dealing with the local issues that matter.
Or Liberal Democrats who bring yellow peril to local politics, and are flagrantly disregarding the necessary pause to campaigning for their own political gain.
Or local Conservatives who can be trusted to focus on people’s priorities as we build back better from the pandemic.
We know that it’s Conservative councils, Conservative Mayors, Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners up and down the country who have a proven record of managing people’s money wisely and providing good local services.
So let’s start banging the drum for the fantastic work elected Conservatives do day in and day out to make sure your bins are emptied, your potholes are filled, your streets are kept safe and new investment is brought to the places you live. And work to get even more Conservatives in charge of your local services.
The 2019 General Election showed how successful we can be when we come together as one strong team. So with a bumper crop of elections ahead it’s vital we lay the groundwork now so that, when we can get out delivering and door knocking, we’re ready and raring to go – and remember a campaign can be all the better for being short, sharp and cheerful.