Peterborough Lib Dems defend campaigning on weekend after Prince Philip’s death

The Liberal Democrats have defended their decision to campaign in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire on the weekend after Prince Philip’s death following criticism from other parties which abstained.

By Ben Hatton and Joel Lamy
Thursday, 15th April 2021, 4:55 am

The party’s deputy group leader on Peterborough City Council said campaigning was suspended on Friday before recommencing last weekend “in a low key way”.

Cllr Christian Hogg also insisted that the Lib Dems had received no complaints and he hit out at the Conservatives for “weaponising the sad passing of a much-loved member of the Royal Family for party political purposes”.

Deputy leader of the Conservative-controlled council, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, had described the decision to campaign over the weekend “disgraceful” and said Lib Dem party leader Ed Davey should be “ashamed”.

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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Presentation Reception for The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award holders in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in 2017. Picture: Jane Barlow/AFP via Getty Images

Cllr Hogg said: “Following the sad announcement of the passing of Duke of Edinburgh, Peterborough Liberal Democrats suspended campaigning on Friday in line with the cross-party agreement reached nationally.

“It was noted that other activities, such as the Grand National and other sporting activities, continued throughout the weekend. Shops remained open.

“No other activity other than the television scheduling seemed to have been affected, so it was decided to recommence in a low key way on Saturday, mainly by way of delivery of leaflets.

“Full campaigning returned on Monday morning. We have received no complaints from members of the public about our activities.

“What we have seen, however, is some Conservative councillors and candidates on Twitter and Facebook, in some cases using swear words and aggressive language. Our Royal Family is usually seen as above party politics and a unifying force for the nation, so seeing Conservatives weaponising the sad passing of a much-loved member of the Royal Family for party political purposes in this way is very regrettable.”

Cllr Hogg added: “It seems that after 20 years in power they have run out of things to say about their plans for the future of Peterborough and are instead attacking other parties for working hard to reach out and engage with our residents.”

Party campaigner Beki Sellick also stated: “People I’ve spoken to want to know about how more Lib Dem councillors - and a Lib Dem mayor for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire - would make our city fairer, greener and more caring. Residents want to tell me their priorities for better services, stopping climate change and the differences they want to see in our communities.”

The issue over campaigning also became a talking point across Cambridgeshire.

The Green Party, which is contesting every seat in Cambridge in May, also campaigned over the weekend. Both parties said the response from residents was “overwhelmingly positive”.

The Cambridge Labour group tweeted on Saturday to say: “Extremely disappointing to see other parties – including Lib Dem councillors – out canvassing and leafleting in Cambridge this weekend, in light of national events. Out of respect, we will not be campaigning this weekend.”

The leader of Conservative group on South Cambridgeshire District Council, Heather Williams, said the Conservatives suspended campaigning until Tuesday. She said: “I am saddened but not surprised that the Liberal Democrats have chosen to continue campaigning.

“The Lib Dems may not think that a pause is necessary, but to carry on with the knowledge that other parties are not shows an exploitation of the situation as opposed to pause and thereby ensuring a level playing field.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrats on the county council, Lucy Nethsingha, said: “As agreed with other parties at a national level we paused campaigning on Friday to mark the death of Prince Philip. There was no agreement nationally to pause local campaigning in England after Friday.

“Our local campaigning over the weekend has been low-key and respectful. The reception from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The residents of Cambridgeshire are keen to discuss how our area can be improved. They have been welcoming the opportunity to talk about the very serious issues that affect people’s lives, from potholes to affordable housing and the environment.”

A spokesperson for the Cambridge Green Party, county council candidate Jeremy Caddick, said that his party did campaign over the weekend and that the response from residents was “overwhelmingly positive”.