The Tories have been conning people with party propaganda disguised as local newspapers. There are no laws against any political party doing this, but new polling shows that the public believes lawmakers need to ban the practice.
In one case, local Tories produced the Uxbridge and South Ruislip People, a title that resembles the local council’s paper Hillingdon People. That leaflet pushed the anti-ultra-low-emission-zone line – which supposedly led to Labour’s failure to win the seat in recent by-elections. In another, party campaigners adopted the Lincoln Chronicle name of a well-remembered paper that wound up 15 years ago.
One particularly misjudged attempt saw High Peak MP Robert Larghans use the name of a paper that is still owned by Quest Media.
Parties are supposed to put the names of their printer and promoter on their campaigning material, along with their party name. However, as Byline Times explained, these can occasionally be in text so small it is almost illegible.
One example sent to the Canary by a reader illustrates the point perfectly. It listed the printer and promoter – but only in tiny, light grey text outside the bounding box at the bottom of the page:
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It’s also worth noting that these papers don’t even use the colour palette a reader might expect from party political material.
Now a new poll by Byline Times has revealed that, unsurprisingly, most people are against this con.
Even Tory supporters disagree
On 24 August, the paper said that a survey conducted by independent poll company Omnisis on its behalf showed:
62% of people in Britain think that the fake newspaper tactic should be banned if they do not make clear which party is behind it.
The figure rises to 65% among Conservative voters, the same as for Labour voters. Liberal Democrats, who also have been known to use fake newspapers for election material, are less in favour of a ban (55%). The figure rises significantly among over 75s, some of whom may be more vulnerable to misleading campaign materials: 75% back a ban on the practice. And opposition sits at 71% among those with no formal qualifications.
It also noted that the Conservative Party hadn’t yet responded to its questions about the campaign material. However, at least one Tory MP has since given a half-baked apology for such leaflets. The Darlington and Stockton Times reported that local MP Peter Gibson, said:
I am sorry if any Darlington resident has been confused about the receipt of a Darlington Champion through their letterbox.
Friends don’t let friends get duped
However, dozens more MPs who create similar materials have tried to keep their head down. However, there is also no law in place to make them change their actions.
Byline Times explained how these leaflets exploit loopholes in the law. Specifically, because we’re not yet in an election period, rules on clearly marking campaign materials don’t actually apply.
As a result, anything goes right now – including brazen deception. We can’t really expect anything less from the current state of our government. However, what we can do is raise awareness about this problem so that our friends and family aren’t duped by these scams.
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