The Labour Party has suspended all campaigning for May’s local elections amid the coronavirus outbreak, as chiefs call on the government to postpone the polls.
Council and mayoral elections due to take place on May 7 have yet to be cancelled, but the government is under pressure from the Electoral Commission to delay them.
A statement sent out to the secretaries of local Labour parties reads: “Labour Party are now advising that CLPs [Constituency Labour Parties] cancel all meetings and suspend campaigning.
“We have today written to the Electoral Commission supporting its call for the local elections to be postponed due to the very many serious direct and indirect implications of the coronavirus.”
It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed 798 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Friday, up from 590 at the same point on Thursday. The number of fatalities due to the disease remains at 10.
A letter from Labour’s Jennie Formby to the Electoral Commission reads: “We share your concerns about the ability of local authorities to deliver the elections in advance and on the day, at the same time as continuing to manage vital services that will have increased pressure on them due to the coronavirus.
“We also have serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of our staff and members who would be campaigning in the run up to 7 May. As such, we have today advised our Constituency Labour Parties to cancel all campaigning and meetings.”
Labour also points out that elections in 2001 were postponed because of the foot and mouth outbreak and that “this is a far more serious situation affecting human health”.
Party members are currently voting to decide on Labour’s next leader. Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey or Lisa Nandy will be declared the winner on April 4, but a special leadership conference to announce the result has been cancelled due to coronavirus fears.