The government proposal not to apply restrictions on government activity in the campaign period before the EU referendum has been met with vociferous complaints. One side argues that no purdah restrictions would allow the use of government resources and public money in a way that would unfairly benefit the side which the Government sought to support. The Government say they would respect the constraints on campaigning and it is merely a practical solution. But at the heart of the issue is a conflation of purdah guidance and rules on electoral campaigns. So it is worth going over what purdah consists of, the principles which lie behind it, and what historical precedents might help explain the current situation. What is purdah? Purdah, meaning a veil on government, is an old term in UK government history that has gradually evolved into something more formal. Now it is shorthand for the pre-election campaign period, outlining restrictions on how governments may act, how the Civil Service behaves and the use of government resources during that time. But purdah varies depending on the type of election or referendum. Before a general election, while public services and essential business continue, there are restrictions on new policy […]

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