Lib Dems caught up in fake newspaper controversy

Lib Dems caught up in fake newspaper controversy

The initiative is part of a national campaign being posted through the doors of a number of constituencies throughout the UK.

Locally, the campaign material is branded the ‘Tunbridge Wells Gazette’, and is described as a ‘free newspaper covering Tunbridge Wells’, featuring a front page headline declaring ‘support surging for Chapelard’ [the local Lib Dem candidate].

The fake newspaper also contains a bar chart showing a ‘surge’ in support for the Lib Dems, but the graph refers to last May’s local council elections and not General Election polling.

People have taken to social media to complain about the latest ‘misleading’ and ‘disingenuous’ campaign literature.

Kate C Hashemi wrote on Twitter: “Misleading and disingenuous. Came home to a #LibDem political leaflet disguised as a ‘free newspaper’. Gain votes through policy, not trickery!”

Tunbridge Wells Labour candidate Antonio Weiss described the latest Lib Dem campaign material as ‘dodgy tricks’.

He told the Times: “All political parties need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror. This sort of stuff doesn’t help to rebuild trust in politics.”

He continued: “They’ve [Lib Dems] also been peddling some fairly dubious bar charts, which we all know about.”

Last month the party was embroiled in a row over a graph they released on social media in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North-East Somerset constituency, which put Tories on 38 per cent to the Lib Dems’ 32 per cent and Labour on 8 per cent.

But the small print beneath the graph showed that residents were asked which party they would back if the Tories and Lib Dems were neck-and-neck, with no other parties near.

“The fact is that in 2017 Labour nearly got three times the Lib Dem vote here, and in a General Election we’re best placed to beat the Tories,” said Cllr Weiss, who is also a Labour Party councillor for Harrow Council in north London, but has family connections in Tunbridge Wells.

He continued: “These sorts of dodgy tactics do the Lib Dems and their candidates a disservice and distract from the real issues.”

But the Lib Dems defended their campaign literature. Their parliamentary candidate, Ben Chapelard, said: “This is a non-story. It is clearly a mock paper. To suggest otherwise is simply sour grapes from the Labour Party that came fifth in the Culverden by-election and sixth in the EU elections.

“Only the Lib Dems can beat Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in Tunbridge Wells.”

The row comes after the Conservatives were widely condemned for briefly changing the name of their press team’s Twitter account to ‘FactCheckUK’ during the ITV leaders’ debate.

The Electoral Commission has urged for more ‘transparency’ in election material. A spokesman said: “While we do not have a role in regulating election campaign content, we repeat our call to all campaigners to undertake their role responsibly and to support campaigning transparency.”


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