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Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Should the elections be postponed?
Should elections be postponed?
The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming under increasing pressure not to hold any elections in May because of the ongoing foot-and-mouth crisis.

Local elections are due to be held on May 3, which has also been suggested as a possible general election date. But a recent opinion poll suggests that a majority of the population now want elections to be postponed.

The leader of the Conservatives, William Hague, said that it would not be right to call an election at a time of national crisis. But Margaret Beckett, the leader of the House of Commons, said postponing them would send the worst possible signal to the outside world.

Should elections take place during the foot-and-mouth crisis? HAVE YOUR SAY

The real question is whether the government should be concentrating on an election or spending their energies trying to clear the backlog of animals waiting to be slaughtered

Susan, UK
For me the quote of the week was Tony Blair when he told tourists to "go to the countryside, but stay away from farmland"! Do you think he has ever been to the countryside? The real question is not whether the farmers are "holding us to ransom" but whether the government should be concentrating on an election or spending their energies trying to clear the backlog of animals waiting to be slaughtered and destroyed. As long as it takes over a week for animals to be diagnosed and disposed of, the infection will continue to spread.
Susan, UK

This talk of cancelling the election is nonsense. We are not in the midst of the black death, we are not even in the midst of a frequent flu epidemic, it's a non-fatal disease and its prime effect is economic and then only on a tiny proportion of the country if left to run its natural course. If the government were to put an election on hold every time people lost their livelihoods we'd be waiting till judgment day. Call the election when you want Tony, because if you back down and make a special case out of this situation you'd better be prepared to do the same every time a factory closes or a meningitis outbreak occurs.
Martin, UK

As usual, the tabloid press has over simplified the issues involved here. The General Election had not been called. Local elections have to happen on May 3rd. To change that date will require emergency legislation in Parliament. This issue has been hijacked by the Tories, who are using this as a political football to try to recover some of their lost support. There are only a handful of local council candidates who are farmers - should we really suspend democracy just for them?
Jonathan, London, UK

Suddenly we're no longer hearing the daily number of new foot and mouth cases on the news. MAFF are apparently now releasing the figures later in the day. So it's impossible to receive an impression of whether the epidemic is declining or intensifying. News manipulation prior to an election?
Janet, Scotland

On my neighbour's farm, army marksmen have been shooting his sheep. This is no time to think of the ballot box

Fiona Sample, England
Mr. Blair must give his full attention to the eradication of FAM before an election. The mood in the affected areas is desperate, country folk feel they would be disenfranchised were an election to be held in May. On my neighbour's farm, army marksmen have been shooting his sheep. This is no time to think of the ballot box.
Fiona Sample, England

The need for Labour to rush for a general election lies not with the Foot & Mouth crisis but the underlying world financial crisis. Gordon Brown's budget promises are not going to be capable of being fulfilled. The longer the election is delayed, the more apparent this will become.
Derek Bush, England

To contemplate an election in May/June shows a total lack of empathy: It is like asking a distressed widow at the funeral when she intends to remarry.
Karen W R Hull, england

It used to be an expectation that leaders gave first priority to leading during times of crisis. Combining the impacts on farming and tourism, I would say you have a crisis. But instead of providing leadership, Blair has spent the last month preening and fretting about getting re-elected. His legacy is likely to be that of putting his ego and ambitions above the welfare of his country. You should hope that this is the biggest crisis he will ever have to handle.
Rich Vose, California, USA

What's the big deal if politicians don't get elected/re-elected for several months?

Jackie, US
Delay the darned elections. How, in God's name, can the politicians be so insensitive? Farmers' lives are being turned upside down - the travel industry is losing billions of pounds, the nation is in crisis. What's the big deal if politicians don't get elected/re-elected for several months? Why are animals not being vaccinated against this terrible disease? I remember growing up in Northumberland and spring was synonymous with little lambs jumping around in the fields. This is all so depressing. How many politicians are farmers affected by this tragedy?
Jackie, US

Yes they should, democracy is about the majority. The farmers while in their desperate plight constitute only a very small portion of the population. There will always be some section of the population who are under some form of pressure and no one has ever suggested elections should be held for any other minority reason. It would seem that the Conservatives will stoop to any depths such as the misery of even their own farming support to gain time to try and gain some electoral advantage. They should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
Tommy Donnelly, Scotland

Whether an election should or should not be held is a red herring. This is not an election year! It is purely at the Government's whim that one is being held a year ahead of the statutory requirement. Therefore it can be cancelled without any repercussions. To go ahead would be extremely cynical in the least, and would prove beyond all reasonable doubt the Government is putting party before country.
Ken Rawlinson, England

It is now patently clear that the Blair Labour Government's actions in relation to the foot-and-mouth crisis have been almost exclusively determined by their manic determination to hold a general election on 3 May at all costs. Why, otherwise, would we have had the early playing down of the seriousness of the outbreak. The refusal to use the Army early enough to ensure speedy slaughter and burial of affected animals which was the only way to prevent birds picking over the rotting carcasses and so spreading the disease. The cull of healthy animals and talk of vaccinations have all the aura of desperate expedients to enable the election to go ahead on 3 May at all costs. The handling of the crisis is a fiasco compared even to the major errors made in the 1967 outbreak.
Alun A. Preece, Australia

What is the matter with everyone? Surely this is not the time to have a go at the farming community. Can't people see this disease is affecting not just the farmers, but our country's heritage. If all parties and their vocal supporters concentrated on trying to tackle the problem in hand instead of jumping on the bandwagon with political side issues, then maybe we may yet save the image of our green and pleasant land.
Valerie, UK

Going to the country now would be act of political expediency

Paul Jemetta, UK
The key point here is that Tony Blair doesn't have to call a general election for another year. Going to the country now would be act of political expediency. If it wasn't for the prospect of a General Election I suspect that there would be no problem in delaying the local election in those parts of the country worst affected by foot-and-mouth. An election now would confirm the suspicion of many that Tony Blair is more concerned with running for office than he is with running the country.
Paul Jemetta, UK

Whether the elections are held or not, the simple fact remains that this "crisis" was waiting to happen and proves that the farming population, whether in France, the UK etc still has an significant grip on politics. The decision that Mr Blair takes will represent a balance very finely tuned to the interests of various minorities. At the end of the day the important thing is that we as a nation take stock of what has happened and make sure that this never happens again.
David K, UK

I have yet to hear a comment from someone who wants the elections postponed AND is not a Conservative supporter. The news tells us that only about 1% of farms are affected by foot-and-mouth. Presumably it is only in those farms that people cannot go in or out. Other farms are on alert and have straw and disinfectant at the entrances. Therefore, what's the problem - canvassers can go around anyway. They don't need to walk through the fields - there are such things as roads. As well as canvassing in person, there are also mail shots, and most people make up their mind from the TV or radio anyway. I have voted in 4 or 5 elections and have never been interviewed by canvassers.
Paul, Scotland

We all know that once an election campaign starts, that will become the main focus of politicians' attention. That is surely not a good idea in the current situation, when the country needs strong leadership. And this is not giving in to farmers - the problem is also affecting the tourist industry and a large number of rural businesses. The County Council elections are scheduled for May 3rd. In some areas, farmers make up a significant proportion of candidates. When campaigning is either impractical or impossible for many of these people, how can pressing on be in the best interests of the democratic process?
Andrew, UK

The election date of May 3rd was being mooted long before the foot-and-mouth problem began. So to say the Government is running scared is nonsense. Farmers can't hold the country to ransom.
Paul, UK

It is time for elected members to put the UK first and not play party politics
Tom Martin, uk

Blair's only reason for proceeding is that it would panic the rest of the world. Does he think that they don't already know we have foot-and-mouth? My bet is he knows the economy is slowing down and therefore his chance of re-election reducing.
Sam Webster, England

Many millions of people have had to come to terms with the real world

Steve, UK
I'd like to ask Pat Smillie from Scotland whether she thinks the coal miners, steel workers, ship builders and millions of other people whose lives were ruined by the decimation of their industries (many of whom were never to work again) were also not heartbroken? Did Margaret Thatcher wait until they had re-built their lives before calling elections, or, more to the point, do you think she should have? I have every sympathy for you but this line of argument is really not on, particularly as it is also associated with the myth farmers are trying to peddle that no healthy animals are ever slaughtered and that many die natural deaths. Many millions of people have had to come to terms with the real world, and I think it is about time that farmers also did because a crisis that is affecting an industry which accounts for only 3% of our economy is not only being allowed to wreck far more valuable industries but is also attempting to dictate when elections can be called.
Steve, UK

Will the Government not offer some recognition to the seriousness of the current crisis and postpone the election. The farmers and everyone else affected by the current situation will take the Government's refusal to change their mind as a cynical act aimed at maximising the Government's chances of securing a sizeable majority (and not to ensue democracy is not held to ransom by the crisis as they are currently spinning!). I sense a backlash if they don't reconsider. The chances of them losing are minimal anyway so why can't they concede this point it would be seen as a significant gesture.
Bryan Stears, England

I am not a radical, I do not have strong political views, I am not even a vegetarian. What I am is very upset. Upset that we as supposedly intelligent, compassionate beings can even contemplate the mass slaughter of millions of healthy animals when vaccines are available. And I am so ANGRY that time is being wasted by those pompous little people in Westminster, who are more worried about their future political careers than anything else.
Clive, Wales

It would be an affront to the heartbroken farmers and people of this country to hold an election on 3rd May. It must be delayed to make the elections fair and free and available to all, as some rural electors may not be able to get to the polls. This government must start listening to the people and not just their own selfish needs.
Pat Smillie, Scotland

Why don't we cull all the politicians and leave the animals to recover?

Ellen Harty, United Kingdom
I've got a good idea...why don't we cull ALL the politicians (all parties) and leave the animals to recover? That way we immediately get a much better world. If anyone needs help with this culling process perhaps they will e-mail me. The only GOOD thing to come out of this awful process is that the pathetic individual who is our Prime Minister seems, FINALLY, to have lost the permanent grin.
Ellen Harty, United Kingdom

Hague started this red herring about the elections being cancelled for purely party political reasons. If he was really concerned about the disease being spread through canvassing etc, why has he not called for the National Census to be suspended? No one has even mentioned that, but that will involve the collectors moving from farm to farm. But there's no political mileage to be gained from discussing the Census is there?
Greg, UK

If an election is called for early May, it is highly likely that there will be a serious amount of unfinished business with regard to the foot-and-mouth outbreak. The problems that substantial areas of the rural countryside are facing are not going to have gone away within the next six weeks. If the government isn't prepared to hold off and deal with this problem, and isn't prepared to be judged on its achievement in doing so, then it shows an incredible contempt for a substantial portion of the population.
Tim Dawe, UK

If the government is empowered to postpone local elections, then why should they not just do away with them? If this proposal were made in any other country, everyone here who is calling for the postponement would be crying out that democracy was being suppressed! And if we ARE to have local elections, then why not have a general election at the same time? Is local democracy less important to people than central government? Are these people saying that they would not bother voting in local elections, but would in a general election? If people cannot get out to vote, they can surely be given postal votes instead. This might actually mean more people will cast their vote than if they have to go out to a polling station!
Peter, England

I think foot-and-mouth should be everybody's main concern. The government are scared they are going to lose seats if they don't get on and have the election. I'm afraid it's too late, though. They have handled this all wrong and it's their fault this disease has escalated out of control.
Alex Green, Norfolk, England

It will make little or no difference when they are held

Mike Jones, UK
Has anyone other than the Press actually confirmed that the General Election will be in May? If not what is all the fuss about? Either way, next to no one votes in the local elections and only a few more in the general election, so it will make little or no difference when they are held.
Mike Jones, UK

The labour government knows there is a slowing in the world economy, and as a result has to call the election in May as more of the general public will not have the "feel good factor" later on in the year. Really Tony is rooting for the early bird catches the worm, and as a farmer I hope he is running scared!
Alastair Reid, England

The government needs to focus on getting the disease under control. How can it do that if it is fighting an election? Don't the farmers, slaughterers, hauliers and tourism industry deserve to concentrate on a general election too? They can't possibly give thought to it whilst dealing with this awful catastrophe. I can't even imagine half a million sheep let alone think what it must be like to be shooting and burying them. Imagine the big sheds at the Royal Show a thousand times over.
Susan Elmes, England

There is no national crisis, but the newspapers are trying to whip up hysteria

John Rampton, UK
I absolutely agree with Phil Jeremy's comments. There is no need to postpone any elections in the UK, there is no national crisis, but the newspapers, especially the Daily Mail with its own agenda, are trying to whip up hysteria on this issue. Farmers, dealers and livestock hauliers have to take the blame for this foot-and-mouth outbreak which has been brought about by shoddy, penny-pinching practices - just like BSE was. At least this Government did not try to brush the problem under the carpet.
John Rampton, UK

I really don't care whether the general election is held or not - if it is not, I will simply vote at the appropriate time. It appears, however, that everyone is missing one very simple point - no general election has been called, therefore there is nothing to postpone. The problem, as always, is the attention and hype given by the media and other parties, resulting in the illusion that an election has in fact been called for 3 May. As regards the local elections, again what is the fuss? Is there really a strong belief that potential visitors to the UK are waiting to see whether these elections are held?
David Lochhead, Scotland

To suggest the election should be postponed is garbage. Foot-and-mouth will not stop anyone from canvassing or voting. No villages are cut off either by road, foot or transmission, so this is the Tories last desperate stunt and only hope they possible can have of putting the inevitable off. Call the election now as why should 99% of the population have their elections called off because 1% are in a supposed difficulty?
Michael Lee, Oxon, UK

Very funny, either some of the commentators are being ironic or do not understand democracy. I'll quote one - "Get him out I say. No election." How does one get him out if there is no election? Elections continue during war, famine and pestilence, they continue regardless of opinion polls, they are the price of democracy. I would make one suggestion - wouldn't it be fun to have the election but to ban all canvassing as unfair?
Tim, Oxford

Every other country in Europe is taking this crisis seriously

David Curtis, England
Every other country in Europe is taking this crisis seriously - you just have to look at controls in place when you enter the countries. Bags are search and emptied - food being confiscated. If and when you arrive in this country there are no such controls. You and whatever you are carrying can just walk in. The rest of the world will not care whether or not we have an election if this disease spreads further afield. Ban all imports, put proper controls in place at all airports and clear up the existing mess by using the Army . This isn't a farming issue, its a national issue while we all drink milk and eat meat.
David Curtis, England

If the Tories were ahead in the polls they'd be clamouring for an election (like they were during the fuel crisis last September). Except for the Mail and the Telegraph all the major papers are telling Blair to go for it and so he should. It might be hard for the farmers but I personally am sick to death of them trying to hold the country to ransom and whinging on about the problems they and the Tories (BSE anyone?) created (and I'm a country lad and not some ignorant townie). Call the election and get it over with!
Neil Halliday, United Kingdom

I've just heard on the news that they shouldn't postpone the elections because it would send the "wrong signals". The biggest wrong signal is increasing numbers of carcasses being discovered, and piles of burning carcasses. When are they going to realise that this is a real problem which they can't just wave a spin-doctoring wand at to make everyone forget about? There's far too much emphasis on appearances rather than actually getting on and sorting things out in far too many situations.
Alex Monro, UK

As a rural resident I cannot remember the last time I was canvassed on the doorstep in any election! All election information comes by post and there is more than enough coverage on TV. Postal votes are available to those who are isolated on their farms - still a comparatively small number of electors. If I can go to work each day and the postmen, milkmen and all other deliveries are still being made can't we stop this hysteria about the elections?
L.Dover, United Kingdom

Why is Blair contemplating a May election at all? There's only one reason - because he hears the threatening sound of birds coming home to roost. Run in May and he'll win. Leave it a year and he'll be lucky if he scrapes back in. Above anything else, Tony Blair wants to be remembered as the first Labour PM to be elected for a second term. Does anyone but the most purblind 'New' Labour supporter believe he'd let a small matter like fair elections stand in the way of such a prize?
G.R. Cooper, England

Neither the general or local elections should go ahead until the epidemic is under control

Adam Bates, UK England
Neither the general or local elections should go ahead until the foot-and-mouth epidemic is under control. The government is keen, I'm sure, to prevent people in the countryside - who are unlikely to vote labour - from voting. The government is aware that they are doing reasonably well in the opinion polls and therefore want to hold the elections as early as possible. These, I believe, are the reasons that the government wants to hold the elections in May, not that it will send out a negative message to prospective tourists.
Adam Bates, UK England

The government's priorities are well illustrated by the fact that it is currently undertaking market research to test the wind, presumably for a May general election. In Powys, where there are now several cases of foot-and-mouth and the new period of quarantine has begun, there has been doorstep canvassing this week. However, in the urban area of Essex in which I live, the research is being largely conducted by telephone. I feel we would all, whatever our political views, have rather more confidence in a government that was concentrating its energies on dealing with the crisis and putting its own political interests very firmly second.
Pat Morris, UK

You know what - hold the elections. Don't worry about spreading the disease any further - after all for the majority of you it's not your livelihoods at risk. However count me out of campaigning for better deals for the elderly and for immigrants because they are minorities like people in the countryside - but their issues get dealt with a lot better than ours.
Rachel Napper, England

To allow national life to be disrupted by a disease affecting farm animals seems ludicrous

D Meyer, UK
I do not agree with all this talk about delaying elections. The UK is a modern, sophisticated and predominately urban country. To allow national life to be disrupted by a disease affecting farm animals seems ludicrous. All this talk about movement in the countryside having to be suppressed is also wrong. All that is happening is that life is being disrupted and the disease is not being contained in the worst hit areas. Those Cumbrian farmers who went to heckle the Prime Minister did not seem to be too concerned about their actions spreading the disease. The government should urgently introduce a programme of mass inoculation to bring the disease under control so normal life can be resumed and elections held as usual.
D Meyer, UK

When I was growing up in the North East of England, thousands of people lost their jobs in heavy industry. Entire communities were destroyed and livelihoods decimated. There was no call for postponement of elections. Farmers took their taxpayers' subsidy and continued to vote Conservative. If my house collapses into a hole I have to pay - or I get insurance - so why should my taxes pay farmers?
David Prendergast, UK

Why postpone the elections because of the foot and mouth "crisis" (which as we've been told is "now under control")? It seems the NHS has been in crisis for years now, and the public transport systems are in a permanent state of crisis, so what's so special about the farmers?
Steve Wehrle, UK

Of course the elections should be postponed. How can a fair and democratic election take place when many local MPs cannot canvas to a large proportion of their voters? We live in an area heavily affected in Worcestershire and although, at the present time we are fortunate not to have the disease, we will not allow anyone to enter or leave the farm to prevent infection. People criticise the Conservatives for arguing against the election. What are they supposed to do, sit back and let the Labour party hold a general election and get in through the back door? Let's hope one good thing comes out of this crisis and Tony Blair is voted out of No 10.
Jo Amos, England

It's absolutely outrageous to say that local and general elections should be called off and I question that this outbreak of foot and mouth is a national disaster. It's a disaster for the farming industry (who have only themselves to blame, especially those who bed and breakfast sheep and move them illegally) and for some sectors of the tourism industry. It isn't affecting most of us at all. I have limited sympathy for the farmers affected but where were these people when the miners and steelworkers were losing their jobs. Nothing stopped for that. As for the politicians, of course Labour want to press ahead, they have a lot they still want to do and of course the Tories want it stopped, they are desperate.
Irene Long, UK

Don't hold it in the middle of the biggest crisis to hit rural Britain in a generation

Clive Speaks, Herefordshire, UK
Living as I do in a livestock rearing area, I feel that the elections should be postponed. The whole economy of the county rests on agriculture. We do not have the luxury of other industries to fall back on, so this is affecting the whole population one way or another. If voters are to feel any involvement in the election process, then don't hold it in the middle of the biggest crisis to hit rural Britain in a generation. Electing another bunch of self-serving politicians is the last thing people in our area have on their minds. At the moment they are concentrating on the rather more fundamental question of survival.
Clive Speaks, Herefordshire, UK

Over the past 8 months, the country has faced crisis after crisis. At present such situations appear to have had only a limited and short-lived effect on the Government's popularity. A large proportion of the electorate may feel that Blair's government are `hell bent` on resisting their concerns and opinions. The foot-and-mouth crisis may prove to be the final straw. Tony needs to listen to the views of those that put him into power. As Britain's city areas seem to grow by the year, it is becoming increasingly easy for city dwellers to forget the contribution that our farmers make, both to rural areas and the British economy as a whole. Although rural residents only make up 10%-20% of the entire voting public, in the current climate such a percentage could change the face of the Commons and the colour of the governing party.
Andy T, Kent

The idea that any election should be postponed is silly. There may be difficulties for a very small number of people (against the possible 25 million voters), but there will always be difficulties for a very small number. I had to go on a business trip at very short notice before the last election, and as I had not registered for a postal or proxy vote, could not vote on the day. I didn't scream and shout about it - it's one of those things. Minor inconvenience for a small group of loud-mouthed people must not be allowed to disrupt the business of government.
Neil, UK

I am not a supporter of the government and my personal opinion is that the scheduled local elections should go ahead, I don't see any insurmountable problems with running them, but there is no need for a general election. I am not impressed one bit by all the anti-election hysteria, for we all know that, if the Tories were ahead in the polls, they would be screaming for an election as soon as possible. However the point that needs to be made is that Britain is a filthy place that needs cleaning up. In the past few years we have given the world BSE, foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever. We also have a heavily polluted coastline, high rat infestation levels, high food poisoning levels, and high hospital infection rates.
Prof. Peter Higgins, Britain

People are venting their anger at the Government because they don't have anything else to do with it

Chris Williams, England
Why is there all this hysteria and hatred here? It just sounds like people are venting their anger at the Government because they don't have anything else to do with it. Get this straight. The date for a General Election has not yet been announced. Everything written here about that is speculation. Probably Hague's bully boys putting in a bit of overtime.
Chris Williams, England

I am fascinated by those who condemn any criticism of the Government by the Conservative Party as "cynical", "opportunist" and grubbing for votes. All political parties necessarily seek support. Tony Blair certainly did so in the 1990's. What these critics really mean is that they do not want a vigorous democratic opposition which is prepared to scrutinise and criticise the Government without fear or favour and there is certainly plenty to criticise. For the record, I think that the election should not be postponed even though the Government is inflicting even more ruin and havoc on the countryside than it has already managed in the last four years.
Michael McGowan, England

Farmers did not import vast quantities of meat from countries with known foot-and-mouth infections. Government policy and the supermarkets desire for cheap product, regardless of origin or animal welfare standards, did that. Farmers did not close down this country's network of small, local slaughterhouses, resulting in the need to transport livestock long distances. Government policy and the effect of the supermarkets on the independent butcher did that.

British farmers are suffering a terrible, terrible fate that is not of their making. The Government should concentrate all of its efforts on containing this heartbreaking situation, before their complacency, their political manoeuvring and their belief in the power of spin allow this situation to ruin many more lives in this country and abroad.
Neil Johnson, UK

I think that any national elections should be postponed until the foot-and-mouth "crisis" has been dealt with. I also believe that a General Election should not be held until this Government has fulfilled its manifesto promises. Listening to a discussion on proportional representation on Radio 4 this morning, I was struck by the amount of contempt that the Government has for the Liberal Democrats, in that the manifesto commitment on PR had been completely ignored during their period in office. I was also struck by the contempt that the Government has for the electorate, in that the spokesman for the Government was Lord Falconer, who is, of course, un-elected.
Richard Daish, UK

Tony Blair or the Government did not cause the current outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. It was caused by farming practices as was BSE. The Conservatives did not cancel elections when people were dying from that, the current should not postpone the elections because minority interests are inconvenienced. Looking at some of the comments so far its seems we are also suffering a rabies epidemic.
Sandie, UK

I think it is a shame that the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats are using the foot-and-mouth crisis to score political points off the Labour Party. I'm afraid the election has already begun, and no one is going to stop it.
Jeff Scholey, UK

The foot-and-mouth crisis is being used by those parties who would rather not face an election at all. No one will be disenfranchised on May 3. No one seriously resents the loss of the democratic right to be canvassed! (Very few are canvassed during a general election, anyway: just no time or enough helpers.)
Malcolm James, UK

My my how the Tories in the shires are bleating. I didn't hear any calls for an election to be postponed when thousands of men and women were getting thrown on the economic scrap heap under the previous administration.
Gerry, Scotland

Who knows when the crisis will end?

Tharg, UK
John Wells says that farmers are guardians of our rural environment. Rubbish! If they were the hedgerows wouldn't be ripped out, the birds wouldn't be reducing in numbers and they wouldn't pour chemicals all over the land. It might seem prudent to delay the election because of F&M, but who knows when the crisis will end?
Tharg, UK

Surely if the farming community is so unhappy with the way this Government is handling the FMD crisis, an election to get them out sooner rather than later is in their best interests. Or are they concerned that once the country gets the opportunity to have their say, they will find that many people still support the Government despite the continual whinging and threats of this special interest group?

To have the elections in May when farmers are trying to stop the spread of the disease every way they can, is just another kick in the teeth for them. It all comes back down to money and forget about what the farmers are going through.
Sue Brachet-Smith, England

How are farmers who are quarantined on their farms supposed to go to a post-box to post their votes? How will ballot boxes from infected areas be able to travel to counting stations without adding to the risk of spreading the disease? For these and many other reasons it is simply not practical for rural dwellers to vote until movement restrictions are lifted.
Giles Allison, England

How can you dissolve Parliament when there is such a crisis going on?

Renee Marshall, Milton Keynes, England
Tony Blair and his puppets are far more interested in the image other countries will get if the elections are postponed. He is so arrogant and obviously does not care one jot about us citizens. How can you dissolve Parliament when there is such a crisis going on? Who will be able to deal with any required legislation if they are all out and about canvassing? Also, it would not be a fair election if a large majority cannot get to vote - but maybe that's what he wants!!
Renee Marshall, Milton Keynes, England

It is a question that should not even need asking! The Government should put every effort into help and support for the farmers and allied industries and forget their overweening power complex! They may gain some belated respect for such an action.
E. Baker, England

I cannot believe the Government's apparent ignorance of the foot-and-mouth situation in the UK. The trauma, isolation and ruin that farmers throughout the UK are facing is horrendous to contemplate together with tourism, but the long term gain if they take more action now and declare a state of emergency is clear. Does Mr Blair think we are all stupid! There is an emergency! I fear that if the Government does not take this situation more seriously and take more immediate action (such as the Army) as in Ireland, France and Holland (who have all taken Draconian steps to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth to no avail) the UK will be the parasite of Europe. I personally feel embarrassed to be deemed to be English.
Mary Brew, Isle of Man

Our MPs are gripped by "election fever". Should we have a three-mile exclusion zone around Westminster in order to prevent this spreading further?
Mac, Dundee

I cannot believe that the farmers seriously expect to hold the country to ransom

AM, Isle of Man
I'm a country boy, now in the city and I cannot believe that the farmers seriously expect to hold the country to ransom, while they deal with their problems. We should hold the elections, we are not at war and we should start to remember that the only reason that the Conservatives support the farmers is that most of their members are landowners. Disenfranchised? I don't think so.
AM, Isle of Man

The Government does not need a mandate from the electorate in May. It can continue without it for up to another year. We are in the middle of a national crisis affecting us all. Everyone's primary focus should be on taking every possible step to eradicate the disease, regardless of any political impact. In this context, insisting on an election in May is deplorably self-interested and ignorant.
Tim Cooper, England

The UK is doing little or nothing to help prevent the spread of this disease. Now thanks to the inaction of your government, Ireland now has its first case. Thanks a million!.
Joe Mc Govern, Ireland

The elections should not be held. In this case the views of the outside world are the last thing we should worry about. Let us look to our own, aim to get this crisis resolved and forget the cost. We should not kill healthy animals unless they develop foot-and-mouth. Get the troops in! After all we sent them to the Falklands with no thought of cost. The present situation is a real crisis, the Falklands war was really just for vested interest!
Martyn Hunt, England

Guardians of the countryside? A special case? Give me a break! It's not townies who are going round ripping up the hedgerows and feeding animal products to herbivores. Farmers are no special case - they just know how to whinge loudest.
David E Flavell, England

I hope there is a protest vote against their sheer incompetence and lack of understanding

Nigel, UK
I saw Mr Blair on TV last night and his only excuse to hold an election now is to send a message out to the world that Britain is open for business. Perhaps he would like to take a tour of his country and find out there is a minor crisis getting just a little out of hand. While we slaughter perfectly good animals, mishandle the current situation appallingly and stoke up the funeral pyres for a fine fiasco, why not ignore reality and get down to the important issue of re-electing a Government who are playing at politics? I hope there is a protest vote against their sheer incompetence and lack of understanding.
Nigel, UK

Is the country in crisis or not? Is it open to tourists or not? It doesn't look very open to me, as every footpath in the county is closed. So how can we consider having an election while this state of affairs exists? US tourists had better stick to Trafalgar Square.
Andy Brown, England

I find it no surprise at all that Tony Blair is as usual only thinking of himself and his own self gain from holding an election when the country is undergoing a national crisis. I live in the country and I know how it is affecting us. Get him out I say. No election.
Nicola Ballantyne, UK

Things can't just stop, simply because farmers want them to

Paul, UK
The elections should continue. Postal votes are a good solution - where's the problem? Things can't just stop, simply because farmers want them to. For such a small group of people they seem to wield a disproportionate amount of influence.
Paul, UK

Nobody has suggested that postal deliveries should be stopped, or that people living in affected areas should not go into work (that would include me!). Cancelling the election would make no sense when this is still permitted. The Government now seems to be calling for people to come into towns and villages in affected areas. If people can reach shops, pubs and hotels I am sure they can reach polling booths. Now which is most important, going to the pub or democracy?
Chris, England

Yes the elections should be postponed. Country people will be disenfranchised - perhaps that is what Tony Blair wants - he knows that they have had enough of him!
John Campkin, UK

Yes, the election must be halted. MP's should think of the thousands of jobs put at risk by spreading the disease. As all farmers run their own businesses they do not suffer from apathy and will want to vote but can't.
Alastair Muirhead, Scotland

The backlash against any government presiding over this would be enormous

Godfrey Bartlett, England
Of course Tony Blair wants elections in May. New Labour will stand a good chance of winning. Can you imagine the despair the country will feel by autumn? The slaughter will have continued throughout the summer, hotels and shops will have gone into receivership, dairy and meat in short supply, and normal outdoor pursuits largely banned. The backlash against any government presiding over this would be enormous. The public needs time to consider the enormity of the problem and make reform of food production methods a major election issue.
Godfrey Bartlett, England

It is beyond me why the Prime Minster thinks he can have an election during a crisis of this nature. He should be concentrating on helping the countryside, the people who live there, not totally discarding their misery and distress this disease has caused.
Julie Preece, England

Have the rural community not heard of postal votes?
Helen, UK

With the country facing such a crisis, our politicians should not be spending ANY time on "politics", at all, instead they should be concentrating on stopping the crisis and helping those in need. NO TO AN ELECTION, local or national
Graham Baylis, UK

I would like to question why very little mention has been made about the National Census and why that has not been delayed. If people talk about delaying the elections they should also talk about delaying the census, when scores of people will be travelling through the countryside and delivering the census papers by hand. Ultimately I feel I just have to question the motives of those who delay one national event but not the other.
Martin Skates, UK

No, elections shouldn't be postponed. Let's try and get back to 'normal' ASAP and help the tourist industry. People who say that they won't be involved in canvassing should come and live in the city. When was the last time you seen your local MP or part rep? Most canvassing in now done via the media!
A Harrison, UK

What is the government frightened of? Movement of people means movement of cars - potentially spreading the disease, but they government to date is not taking it's responsibility serious enough.
Maurice, England

The government should not be involved in trying to win local and national elections whilst extra ordinary problems demand its total concentration. A responsible government and parliament would know this by instinct. Consensus and common-cause in the face of crisis is vital - and requires a suspension of normal politics. The government has a responsibility to foster that consensus.
Simon Smith, GB

Click here to read earlier comments on this issue

I'm a townie, but I can appreciate how farmers are a special case

John Wells, England
I'm a townie, but I can appreciate how farmers are a special case. They are the guardians of our rural environment and if we want to go on enjoying it for generations to come, we must start supporting them. If that means postponing the ballot for a month or two, what does it matter in the whole scheme of things?
John Wells, England

If you can't canvas, if you can't campaign and if you can't get to a polling station, then you don't have a free and fair election. If Blair's arrogance is so great that he won't back down, then the rural voters might use their votes to teach him a lesson. And he won't like that...
Jeremy Drysdale, England

I certainly do not think that the elections - general or local should go ahead. I work for a meat wholesaler and live in an area which now has a confirmed case of foot-and-mouth disease.
Sheila Evans, UK

It would be very irresponsible to hold any elections in May. How can it possibly be justified? People aren't allowed to walk in the countryside and even some parks have been closed. Going to polling stations would be a good way of spreading the virus. Tony - do the honest thing and call them off. Think of the country and not just about your political ends.
Maciej Kudanowski, UK

I don't believe that elections cannot be logistically held? The concern expressed is that canvassing cannot take place, but ask yourselves this. How many farmers from infected farms have been interviewed by reporters? How come the reporters are able to move around? And how come the farmers were able to meet the Chief Vet?
Paul Goddard, UK

If the Government doesn't postpone then it is discriminating against a section of the community

Sue Laycock, England
The Government should postpone the elections if it becomes apparent that the rural community can't attend the voting stations. If the Government doesn't then it is discriminating against a section of the community.
Sue Laycock, England

It doesn't matter when elections are held. They're a trick to make people think that their vote can make a difference. All that can happen is a different bunch of robbing, lying, useless politicians will get a turn with their snouts in the trough.
Anna, UK

If the Government calls the election for May 3rd, Parliament will be dissolved shortly afterwards. This means that MPs won't be able to oversee the government's handling of the crisis, and, if the situation gets worse, there will be no one to pass emergency legislation. What's more, the Government seems to be doing a pretty good job of controlling foot and mouth. But do we really think they will be able to devote their attention to the crisis when they're spread out across the county campaigning?
Robert Kaye, UK

The government should get its priorities right. Clear up the foot and mouth, and then resign.
Mr. H. Mycock, UK

We are not at war which has been the only accepted reason for delay

stjohn, UK
The local elections should go ahead, we are not at war which has been the only accepted reason for delay. The leader of the opposition only calls for delay for his own political purposes not for the benefit of the country. Idle speculation about the general election is just that. It took the best part of 10 years to sort out the mess over BSE, a disease fatal to humans and cattle. At least this government has moved swiftly to deal with the problem and has been willing to undertake any measures deemed necessary by informed veterinary opinion rather than political expedience.
stjohn, UK

I think the Government are totally insensitive to the whole rural community, and all elections should be put on hold until this disaster is resolved. The current attitude to the crisis in my opinion illustrates their lack of care and understanding.
brian turtle, N. Ireland

As a farmer's daughter in the heart of rural Devon, I feel strongly that the government should consider postponing the General Election until this crisis is under control. Many living in my farming community have consciously withdrawn from social activities and restricted their movements. The government's determination to press ahead with May 3rd yet again demonstrates its lack of regard for the rural communities of the United Kingdom.
Wendy Parkman, Devon, England

There is no cynical attempt by the Tories to exploit the Foot & Mouth crisis as one contributor puts it. Rather we have seen no sign of Tony Blair attending any meetings with farmers, or hoteliers who are suffering because of this crisis. If the government is so worried about postponing the election, they must be worried about losing.
Alex Samson, Scotland

The thought of another two months of campaigning fills me with despair

Andrew Dowle, UK
Don't postpone it - bring the election forward! The major parties have already been campaigning since Xmas, and the thought of another two months of it fills me with despair.
Andrew Dowle, UK

Unless and until this outbreak is genuinely under control the elections should certainly be postponed. Townies may not notice the difference but down in Cornwall the cliff paths and closed and the rural economy is facing meltdown. Already the Labour spin-machine has made matters worse by refusing to use troops to kill and destroy the carcasses in case it looks like a crisis.
Nicholas Beale, England

Of course they should be postponed - Tony Blair is scared of losing the election that is why he is rushing. He does not care about the farmers, the unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals - disgusting.
sheila, n ireland

It's the campaigning that would cause any further risk of the infection spreading, not the voting

Peter Jackson, UK
I understand that every one has the opportunity of a postal vote this year. It's the campaigning that would cause any further risk of the infection spreading, not the voting. The farmers are predominantly Tory anyway so campaigning would be a waste of time for these people, they have made their minds up already. Let them post their vote.
Peter Jackson, UK

I'd rather have this government concentrating on getting this outbreak under control and working to save the jobs and livelihoods of those affected than putting everything on hold to get themselves re-elected. If they don't cancel the election then I think it will show that they consider their own future more important than the tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods and long-term future are under threat.
Michael Thomas, UK

I certainly hope that it does go ahead in early May and backfires right in Teflon Tony and his cronies' faces. What a shame John Smith died!
Julian Sims, UK

Undoubtedly the elections must be postponed. The more we restrict movement, difficult though it is in the short term, the more likely we are to bring the disease under control faster. I can't see what the problem is politically - after all, the Scottish Executive recently put our local elections back by a year on a simple proclamation. If I were being cynical, I might suggest that Mr Blair has realised that the rural voters who will take the sensible line and stay at home on polling day are all natural Tory voters, but I'm sure he wouldn't allow that to influence him, would he?
Stuart Reynolds, UK

Are the Conservative Party saying a postal ballot is undemocratic?

Vivien Hicks, England
Are the Conservative Party saying a postal ballot is undemocratic? Many disabled people are told needs must. Other people who work away already choose this method. Are we now being told it's a waste of time?
Vivien Hicks, England

The election should go ahead as the Government has a very good economic programme and they need to be in power for another 4 years to effectively put it in place.
Wesley Baker, UK

The country should go to election to stop the Conservatives' cynical attempts to exploit the foot-and-mouth situation for their own political gain. Delaying the elections will not delay their electioneering. We should get the vote over and allow the Government to focus on the epidemic. It is not as if we did not know about the suggested date before the outbreak.
Guy Robinson, UK

Absolutely no need to stop any elections. There are more people out of the country on holiday or on business during an election than farmers affected by foot-and-mouth, but nobody wants to postpone elections for them. It is also possible to vote by mail and canvassing nowadays seems to consist of leaflets delivered in the post or via the media. It is ridiculous to even consider postponing the election and it's about time farmers realised they are not a special case as miners and steelworkers found out over the years.
Phil Jeremy, England

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