Wakefield election candidates reluctant to campaign over personal safety fears

Some local election candidates are reluctant to campaign because of fears for their personal safety, a senior council officer has said.

Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 10:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 10:59 am
Candidates have said they believe they are "at risk" on the campaign trail.

Vince Macklam, who is looking at the potential impact of Brexit on Wakefield, said that some candidates "didn't want to go out" on the campaign trail because they believed they were at risk in the current political climate.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the "proliferation" of social media was partly to blame for the intimidation of people standing for election.

Wakefield Council has identified community tensions as its primary concern relating to the Brexit process.

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Local elections are being held in Wakefield on May 2.

At a meeting of scrutiny committee chairs on Monday, one local councillor standing for re-election said he'd been blamed for Brexit by constituents while out door-knocking.

Another said he'd been trolled on Twitter by someone mistaking him for his namesake in the government.

Mr Macklam, from the authority's emergency planning department, said: "One of things we have been most concerned about with regard to Brexit, is the community tensions.

"It’s partly to do with the length of time that it’s been going on and some of the decisions that have been made.

The council said that community tensions were its primary concern about Brexit.

"Something we were looking at was the feedback we were getting from yourselves as councillors in the run-up to the election, and asking, “What kind of impact is that having on your activities?"

"And I know from the point of view of some councillors, they’re not wanting to go out because of the risk they perceive to themselves because of that political element.

"So that's probably our biggest concern - community tensions and its impact on both the local elections and European elections after that."

Local election candidates across the UK have been allowed to withhold their home address from the public domain for the first time ever this year.

The LGA said that the "proliferation" of sites like Facebook was contributing to the intimidation displayed towards people in the public eye.

The move was made following a government study examining intimidation and harassment towards politicians and people in the public eye.

Of the 85 candidates standing for a seat on Wakefield Council next month, 35 have decided to withhold their address.

Asked if the issues raised by Mr Macklam had been reflected anywhere else, the LGA said in a statement: "Councillors and those standing for election can unfortunately be the subject of public intimidation at election time, which is partly due to the widespread use and proliferation of social media.

"This has given extra opportunities for people to get in touch with their local candidates, which is positive for democracy but can also be used to threaten and intimidate those who wish to represent their communities.

"People from all backgrounds and walks of life should continue to be encouraged to put themselves forward for election and participate in local democracy, in a free, safe and open environment.”

Local Democracy Reporting Service