Countdown to purdah

Purdah (noun):

1. The practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain.

1.3 British The period leading up to an election, during which government departments generally refrain from making any new announcements. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Tomorrow, March 30, the organisation where I now work will enter purdah. Apparently the term purdah as related to elections, according to constitutional expert Dr Catherine Haddon, originated from ‘the idea of Whitehall drawing the veil over itself and cutting itself off as far as possible’ (Guardian). So from March 30 until a government is formed in the UK general election, we can only use work-related social media sites for operational communications. In addition, we can’t share any information about our organisation or our work programmes on personal social media accounts. We’ve been briefed.

I haven’t been subject to purdah restrictions before. It feels odd. I’d assumed that it just meant we couldn’t do or say anything in favour of or against any political party. However, it goes a lot further than that. Our work programme is determined via a mandate issued to us by the Department of Health, so if during purdah we communicate the positive outcomes from a particular project, I suppose it could be seen as endorsing the current government. One of our teams is hosting a conference in April, and they won’t be able to tweet about it on the day. I imagine their delegates can, though.

So the last week at work has been extremely communicative, with a flood of different newsletters to our various stakeholders, all packed with as many items as possible and all warning their audiences that this might be the last non-operational communication for a month or two.

I’ll be glad when it’s over. I don’t talk about work a great deal here, or on Twitter or Facebook; but when you’re told you can’t do something, suddenly it becomes uncharacteristically attractive. Or perhaps I’m just contrary.


The featured image is National Sor Juana Festival Houston 2007 by Mario, and is shared by permission of Creative Commons license 2.0.

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