Lib Dem leaflet misleadingly attributes supportive quote to the Guardian

15 January 2024
What was claimed

The Guardian said: “Voters in south-west England know—it’s the Lib Dems who can get the Tories out.”

Our verdict

This is misleading. The Guardian did publish this phrase, but only as the headline of an opinion piece written by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

A Liberal Democrat local campaign leaflet has attributed a supportive quote about the party’s electoral prospects to the Guardian—even though the quote was actually the headline of an opinion piece written by the Liberal Democrats’ own leader Sir Ed Davey. 

The misleading leaflet was sent to us by a supporter in response to Full Fact’s demand for political parties to end deceptive campaigning tactics

The leaflet is designed to resemble a newspaper, and is titled “Somerset Clarion”. It was delivered to our supporter, who lives in the constituency of Somerton and Frome, on 2 January 2024. 

One page of the leaflet features a bar chart depicting the election result of the Somerton and Frome by-election in July 2023. 

Alongside this chart are the words “Voters in south-west England know—it’s the Lib Dems who can get the Tories out”, typeset on an image that resembles ripped paper. The Guardian’s logo appears underneath the phrase.

While it’s true that these words were published by the Guardian, they do not come from a Guardian news report, analysis or editorial, as those reading the leaflet might assume. Instead, they were published as the headline of an first-person opinion piece written by the party’s leader, Sir Ed Davey, in July 2023. 

The Guardian press office told us: “This is not a Guardian quote.” 

As shown below, the Liberal Democrat leaflet does not attribute the quote to Mr Davey, make it clear that it was a headline to his opinion piece or give any other indication of its origin beyond the Guardian logo.An image of a Liberal Democrat campaign leaflet, resembling a newspaper, depicting a bar chart.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats confirmed to Full Fact that the leaflet was campaign literature and that the quote appeared in the Guardian as the headline of Mr Davey’s opinion piece. They said: “We did not write the headline of this article, and therefore quoted it in campaigning literature. The headline was written by someone at the Guardian, not the Liberal Democrats.” 

We’ve also asked the Somerton and Frome Liberal Democrats and local MP Sarah Dyke, who is promoted in the leaflet, for comment. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Liberal Democrat leaflet misleadingly attribute a quote to the Guardian. In November 2019 we wrote about a leaflet which attributed the words “Lib Dems winning and on the up after by-election victory” to the paper, without being more specific about the source of the quote. The quote was actually an edited version of a Guardian news story headline, which made clear that the words originally came from then-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, not the Guardian itself.  

Ahead of the general election, Full Fact is asking political parties to pledge not to use deceptive campaign practices that risk misleading voters and undermining trusted independent media institutions. Over 12,000 people have already signed our petition on this—you can add your name here.

Image courtesy of the Liberal Democrats

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted the Glastonbury and Somerton Liberal Democrats to request that they: (i) cease distribution of the leaflet in its current form, (ii) issue a correction to its recipients, and (iii) refrain from deceptive campaign practices.

We are in correspondence with the Liberal Democrats about this.

It’s not good enough.

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