Purdah or P.E.P?
Bit of a fuss yesterday over whether the SDLP's housing announcement broke the so-called "purdah" rules, under which civil servants and government departments try to steer clear of anything party political or agenda grabbing during a campaign period.
The SDLP denies any rule has been broken and further points to the DUP leader's announcement of a breakthrough for PMS savers as a more blatant example of stretching the convention. The Social Development department eventually confirmed the figures already revealed by their minister, Alex Attwood, via an e-mail, but if you visit their website you won't see any official announcement (although they do seem to have been convicting a lot of benefit fraudsters lately there's no sign of any action against purdah fraudsters).
In truth political parties can't break purdah as the rules which you can read here, only apply to civil servants and special advisers.
No doubt the debate about what is or isn't a breach of the rules will continue, but should we be using the term "Purdah" at all? The Stormont guidance doesn't use the term, talking instead about the "formal election period". In Wales four years ago there was a bit of controversy over whether the use of the term "Purdah" might be offensive to Muslims or Hindus. Instead Welsh officials were instructed to refer to the Pre Election Period or P.E.P.
One thing I know. If Purdah requires women to hide themselves away during this pre-election period, then there's one woman (whose surname sounds remarkably similar) who will not hesitate a nanosecond before flouting the convention. Indeed if all goes according to plan she will be usurping my slot on this week's "Hearts and Minds".