Used to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums.


The term comes from the Urdu (parda) and Persian (pardah), meaning veil or curtain and can be thought of as a time when a veil is drawn over Whitehall and it distances itself as much as possible.


The term 'purdah' is increasingly used when talking about the time leading up to parliamentary elections or referendums. This pre-election period is a time when civil servants have restrictions placed on their activities and they are given guidelines to follow when dealing with Government business during this time. Similarly, local authorities have to follow statutory guidelines regarding publicity in the lead up to local elections. All civil servants are sent an internal memo on pre-election rules.


It is a time for care to be taken when decisions are made which could have an effect on matters relevant to a forthcoming election. Long term decisions and even appointments must be treated cautiously bearing in mind that the newly elected government may have a different view.


There will be no changes in policy nor will any contentious decisions be made and, although the government carries on with its' business, it is only carrying out necessary administration. 

The restrictions should ensure that voters are not biased, allowing a period of neutrality. It stops large amounts of public money being used to campaign on behalf of a political party as the use of government funds is restricted in the final days of a referendum or election campaign.



Pre-election purdahs begin when Parliament is dissolved and continue until the new government is formed. For the 2015 general election, purdah became effective after parliament dissolved on 30 March and remained in place until 7 May.  For the Scottish referendum, purdah was put in place 28 days before the referendum took place.

For the first time in 2010, there was a purdah enforced for social media.

The Government had hoped to change the rules on purdah ahead of the EU referendum in 2017 which would have amounted to a relaxation but the Government was defeated.

General election purdah looms for 400,000 civil servants .

BBC News - Purdah's welcome relief (for some)

We are about to enter purdah | Schools Week

Osborne's further powers plan 'not against purdah rules' - BBC


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