How to manipulate local “news”

“The Conservatives have spent tens of thousands of pounds buying wraparound adverts on local newspapers across the country, pushing deep into Labour-held constituencies with a tactic that shows both the ambition of their election campaign and the party’s ability to make the most of legal loopholes in campaign spending rules.

More than a dozen titles across the country owned by major newspaper publishing companies – including Johnston Press and Daily Mirror owner Trinity Mirror – carried the wraparound adverts on Wednesday and Thursday. The four-page adverts, which replace the newspapers’ own front pages, barely mention the word “Conservatives” and instead focus on Theresa May’s leadership and the promise of Brexit.

As long as the adverts in local papers do not reference the local candidate or local issues, they are considered to be exempt from strict local constituency spending budgets, which can be as low as £12,000 per candidate for the entire campaign. Instead the Conservatives are able to count the adverts as “national spending”, which comes under the party’s central campaign spending limit of around £19 million.

3 thoughts on “How to manipulate local “news”

  1. This is an excellent example of how deep-pockets can attempt to buy you an election. Smaller parties without billionaire donors – and independent candidates without any donors – just cannot compete with this blanket advertising (assuming that there is any advertising space left after the Conservatives have booked it all – they knew in advance when the election was going to be and could plan ahead and snap up the advertising slots beforehand).

    It’s also an example of how independents like Martin Shaw can still beat the local Tory muscle.

    But beware – the required imprint is printed at the bottom of the page, but is dwarfed by the E&E banner and headlines which can easily fool you into believing that it is a news article written by a journalist (who just might have scruples about balance) rather than paid propaganda.


    Are you going to be swayed by what the Conservatives say – or are you going to look at their actual track record on health (hospitals, GPs, ambulances, nursing), social care, education, taxation increases (by pushing them down to local council tax bills), continual kicking of the least fortunate in our society, privatisation (by the back door), suppression of democratic debate and process, and delusional Brexit stance – whilst at the same time giving tax cuts for their rich individual and corporate donors? (Yes – those same donors who fund the blanket advertising!)

    This election essentially comes down to two questions:

    a. Do you want a government which is only interested in the rich (regardless of what the PM says, look at their track record), and who makes them richer at the expense of the rest of us?

    b. Do you want a government that lies through their teeth and refuses to be accountable?

    c. Do you want a government who seems determined to give us an ultra-hard Brexit, despite promising we would stay in the single-market, and whose blustering posture (as a substitute for realistic negotiation) is going to give us a harder Brexit than we might otherwise achieve?


  2. Hear, hear. Hands up those who spotted “Advertiser’s Announcement” on the front page (clue: it’s in small white lettering on grey background). How many more votes would the Tory candidates in the district have lost if people had instead glanced at the Express and Echo’s own front page with its headline: “Probe into Tory’s planning interest”. And I gather Hugo Swire was overheard at the election count claiming there were no dirty tricks in the local elections! Didn’t he know what his party was up to?


  3. I just took a close look at the sizes of the text.

    The promotional blurb at the bottom is in something like 7pt or 8pt text – you have to hold it close and squint to read it, and you can see the individual pixels that make up the letters.

    The headlines are in something like 72pt or bigger. If you hold it at the same distance as you need to to read the promotional blurb, the letters are actually too big to be able to read them.

    I can only assume that the Promotional blurb at the bottom is so small because the Conservative Party doesn’t want you to realise that this is written by and paid for by them – and since it promotes them, that can only mean that they want the public to believe it is a newspaper editorial.

    Conservative Party deliberately attempting to mislead the public? Surely not?


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