In the lead-up to elections in the United Kingdom, you may have heard the term ‘purdah’ being used. But what does it actually mean?

In simple terms, ‘purdah’ is a period of time before an election when certain restrictions are placed on government and public bodies. The aim is to ensure that there is no bias or undue influence over the election by the current government or public bodies.

The term has its origins in the Arabic word ‘purdah’, meaning ‘curtain’ or ‘veil’. It was adopted by the British civil service in the early 20th century and has been used in the UK ever since.

During the purdah period, government and public bodies are restricted in their activities. They cannot make announcements or undertake activities that could be seen as promoting the interests of a particular political party or candidate. This means that civil servants, for example, cannot be seen to be giving preferential treatment to any particular party or candidate.

However, some argue that purdah is becoming less important in today’s changing media landscape, where social media plays a bigger role in election campaigns. With so many different sources of information available, it could be argued that the influence of government and public bodies is less significant than it used to be.

Despite this, many still believe that purdah is an important safeguard against undue influence during elections. It helps to ensure that elections are free and fair, and that the government and public bodies remain neutral and impartial. 

The good news is purdah does not affect your local newspaper, which can continue to report on election-related news and information without the same restrictions placed on government and public bodies.

In the build-up to this May’s polls, we will again provide a platform for political debate and highlight the key local issues likely to influence your vote – as well as giving the candidates space to say, in their own words, why they deserve your ‘X’.

We intend to print profiles of town council candidates in our Thursday, April 20 editions and borough/district candidates in our Thursday, April 27 editions. 

Candidates and agents will be contacted soon after the publication of statements of persons nominated at 4pm on Wednesday, April 5.

For more information on May's elections in Waverley and East Hampshire, see here.