Deceptive Campaign Practices – FAQs
Why is Full Fact concerned about deceptive campaign practices and tactics?
Full Fact is a charity focused on improving the quality of information in public life. We know that bad information damages public debate and erodes public trust. We are concerned that political parties run election campaigns in ways that are not fully transparent. This needs to change. The first step is to stop misleading voters by presenting campaign materials as something they are not, and in particular, to stop exploiting their trust in other institutions like local newspapers.
What changes do we want to see?
Full Fact is calling for all party leaders to publicly pledge that they will not use deceptive campaign materials—such as leaflets made to look like local newspapers, polling cards or final notices—in election campaigning. This needs to happen by no later than the announcement of the next general election.
Who is the petition addressed to?
There are currently 380 political parties registered with the Electoral Commission.
Full Fact is focusing its efforts on the 12 political parties that currently have seats in the House of Commons and the petition is addressed to the party leaders:
- Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP (Conservative)
- Rt Hon Keir Starmer MP (Labour)
- Rt Hon Ed Davey MP (Liberal Democrats)
- Humza Yousaf (Scottish National Party)
- Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay (Green Party)
- Laurence Fox (Reclaim Party)
- Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey M Donaldson MP (Democratic Unionist Party)
- Rhun ap Iorwerth SM (Plaid Cymru)
- Alex Salmond (Alba Party)
- Colum Eastwood MP (Social Democrat and Labour Party)
- Naomi Long MLA (Alliance)
- Michelle O'Neill MLA (Sinn Féin)
What are deceptive campaign practices?
The deceptive campaign practices we’re referring to here are political parties producing election literature pretending to be something that it is not. This is misleading and we continue to see egregious examples of this, including election literature dressed up as:
The most widespread of these tactics is producing tabloid style newspapers which in some cases emulate the name of cherished local or regional newspapers in order to promote party political messaging. In many cases the legally required imprint of these election communications is small and hard to read.
Local and regional newspapers are often seen as trusted sources ranking above well known, national UK news brands such as The Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Independent.
Despite a warning by the Society of Editors in 2019, parties across the political spectrum are creating imitation newspapers made to look like trusted local and regional outlets to communicate their own views.
These include the Conservative Party and The Liberal Democrats creating ‘local newspapers’ in recent by-elections, instructions about how to create tabloid newspapers on The Labour Party website, and the Green Party circulating a newspaper in Brighton.
We have seen examples of other misleading formats, such as: leaflets that look like a polling card, election material made to look like a utility bill (including with a bill number) or official council tax correspondence using fake local government insignia, and one party pretending to be a fact checking organisation on social media during a 2019 UK general election campaign TV debate between Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
What evidence is there that this is a problem?
We’ve seen this happen consistently at previous elections including the 2019 general election, where at least three major political parties used campaign material that looked like local newspapers.
The BBC collated numerous examples of campaign material. It also interviewed voters about these materials, and found that voters perceived them as confusing or misleading. The Electoral Commission also highlighted after the 2019 election that parties were campaigning using leaflets designed to look like local papers, and noted that “If voters lose trust and confidence in political campaigning, democracy as a whole will suffer”.
We are concerned that more examples will appear as the election approaches, and we want parties to commit to dropping these practices as soon as possible.
Please let us know if you’d like to see examples we have gathered from previous elections.