Visit requests by politicians ahead of June’s snap election
Prime Minister, Theresa May called an unexpected snap general election this week for Thursday 8 June which means that Saturday (22 April) marked the start of Purdah. Purdah is the period between an announced general election as well as local elections and the final election results.
Purdah prevents central and local government departments from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives which could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election.
With this in mind, we’d like to remind you of the guidance about what to do should a politician request to visit you or your place of work for the RNLI.
What is this guidance about?
This guide is designed to help you should you be approached by a local or national politician looking to visit or work with the RNLI ahead of the 2017 General Election.
Why is this important?
The RNLI is bound by charitable and election law. We must be, and be seen to be, independent from party politics.
The pre-election period (sometimes referred to as ‘purdah’) is a regulated period before the date the election is held. Activities that could be seen to influence how people vote at the election are scrutinised and restricted during this time.
Breaking these rules could lead to a financial penalty or criminal prosecution against the RNLI.
What should I do if a politician contacts me?
In the run-up to an election a local or national politician (i.e. a local councillor, London Assembly Member, Welsh Assembly Member, Member of Scottish Parliament, MP or MEP) or candidate may ask to visit a lifeboat station or lifeguard unit or fundraising event and to speak with volunteers and staff, as part of their campaign. This might be to show their support for the RNLI or to learn more about the station/lifeguards/fundraising.
During election campaigns, requests from political parties to visit stations are to be treated with caution and should be routed through the Lifesaving Manager or Area Lifesaving Manager and the Public Relations Manager or RNLI Press Office (01202 336 789).
If the visit is approved, it is on the undertaking that the politician’s visit is not to be used as a platform for promoting an individual’s or party’s electoral manifesto. Politicians may not hold press conferences, conduct interviews or photo calls on RNLI property in the run up to an election.
The station/unit/branch in question shouldn’t actively promote the visit, for instance through a station website, social media channels or press release.
During the regulated period, volunteers and staff acting in an RNLI capacity should not proactively contact politicians or candidates or undertake any activity which could be perceived as lobbying, without first checking this with the RNLI Press Office.
Volunteers and staff acting in an RNLI capacity should not comment on any political activity to the media, at an event, on a website or through social media.
Who can I contact for advice and support?
Please call the RNLI Press Office, who operate a 24 hour on call system, on 01202 336 789. Or you can contact Strategic Public Affairs Manager, Jenny Gowen who is starting with the RNLI the week commencing 1 May.
Here are some specific things that our volunteers and staff members need to follow and be mindful of:
- Posters or promotional material being displayed on or at any RNLI premises
- Giving a reference for a candidate
- Political content in social media including re-publishing content of others containing political material
- Prominent RNLI staff or volunteers advocating for or becoming associated with support for political parties or candidates
- The RNLI becoming associated with candidates who are involved with them or by letting any of our facilities or venues to political parties
- Support of events which cross over from furthering the RNLI’s work and into election politics
- Comments on which party has policies most supportive of our work and the RNLI’s goals.