The Purdah. Or, What did the British Empire ever do for us?
And what did the British empire ever do for us? It gave us the PURDAH, for one thing … Puuuurrrr-daaaaah. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? No, it’s not the name of another British military atrocity in India, like that of Amritsar, being remembered this month. One dictionary defines purdah as “The practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain. (The curtain bit is important.) ” The Glossary at Parliament.UK defines it as “The term used to describe the period between the announcement of an election and the date the election is held.” For the Civil Service it has the most relevance, regarding how Government business is continued in the “interregnum” between the dissolution of the old Parliament and the introduction of the new. That is, perhaps, where the word first came into use and, no doubt, while the Empire was still extant.
For the foot soldier it means a curtailment of scheduled party meetings from the 1st of May until May the thirtieth. In my constituency of Hackney North the May meeting of the ward/branch has been cancelled and the important monthly meeting of ward delegates has been pushed back to May 30th. The latter is conditional on us delegates not conducting any business, beyond discussion of motions. The main purpose of Purdah, at local level, as far as I can see, is to disaggregate election expenses from those of other activities and events. But, it also means party members can focus their time on electioneering during the period of Purdah.
Here, in London, there are no local elections at this time, only (only!!!) the European Parliament elections. However “Hackney on Tour,” volunteering activists, travel out to marginal constituencies, to fight the good fight. Some of our readers will appreciate why I’d like to see these groups of volunteers re-named “Flying Columns.” Something else the British Empire gave us: the Irish part of it anyway. But we’ll draw a curtain over that: a Purdah, if you will.