Election ‘purdah’ or the pre-election period - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 29 April 2014 | Standard notes SN05262

Authors: Isobel White

Topic: Civil Service, Elections, General elections

The period of time from when an election is announced until after the election is held has been known as ‘purdah’ but is now more often referred to as the pre-election period.

Guidance is issued to civil servants on the principles that they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the run-up to forthcoming elections. On 9 April 2014 guidance was issued to civil servants for the period before the European Parliamentary elections and elections to local authorities in England and Northern Ireland, and for five directly elected mayors on 22 May 2014. The period of sensitivity preceding these elections is not fixed to any particular date, but the general convention is that particular care should be taken in the three weeks preceding the elections, this year from 2 May 2014.

The Note also gives details of the guidance issued before the general election in 2010 and the guidance issued by the devolved executives in 2011.

There is statutory guidance for local authorities about publicity during the period just before local elections. The pre-election period is defined as beginning with the last date for the publication of notice of the election; this year this was 14 April 2014. The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity is issued under section 4 of the Local Government Act 1986.

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