Election 2017: Campaign near Ravenswood primary in Ipswich leads to complaint from parent

Bill Knowles with Ipswich Labour candidate Sandy Martin. Picture: Paul Geater.

Bill Knowles with Ipswich Labour candidate Sandy Martin. Picture: Paul Geater. - Credit: Archant

A veteran Labour councillor who upset a parent by handing out leaflets near the entrance to an Ipswich school has defended his party’s campaign.

The General Election took place on June 8

The General Election took place on June 8

Bill Knowles – who led the borough council back in the early 1970s – was joined by other party volunteers handing out leaflets to parents outside the gates at Ravenswood Primary School.

He said it was something his party has been doing across the town – and campaigners for other parties also visit school gates to speak to parents and carers taking children to school.

However local parent Stuart Reeder felt they were obstructing the entrance to the school and lodged a complaint with Ipswich Council chief executive Russell Williams who is acting returning officer for the election.

Mr Reeder said he felt it was wrong to lobby parents within 100 metres of a school entrance and it was not clear from those handing out leaflets that they were from the Labour Party.

He said: “People had to walk around them to get into the school gate, and people thought they were something to do with the school. When I contacted the headteacher she said they were not. I don’t think this is right.”

He was still awaiting a response from Mr Williams.

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Mr Knowles, who is 74 years old, said: “We weren’t causing a problem to anyone. It is something all parties tend to do at election time. None of us were causing any problems.”

They were on public land – no one had gone on to school property and it was normal practice for political parties to highlight their policies, especially education policies, near schools.

A film crew from a regional television programme was also in the area doing a report on the campaign in Ipswich and were showing a typical canvassing session.

A spokesman for Ipswich Council said Mr Williams was not available but officials were aware of the e-mail from Mr Reeder. On the face of it there did not appear to be any breach of political law.

Schools often feature in election campaigns – but are always careful to be seen as not favouring one party.

Sometimes they will host visits by politicians – but almost always try to balance visits to avoid being seen as giving support to one political party.

Activists too are keen to avoid the appearance of lobbying children during campaigns.