Political parties ‘plumbed new depths’ through misleading ads in local election campaign – iNews
Political parties “plumbed new depths” during the local election campaign by “consistently misleading” the public through false advertising, a new report has found.
Analysis by Reform Political Advertising (RPA), and reviewed by the Election Advertising Review Panel (EARP), of ads used in the 2022 local elections found each of the major political parties used a “lies for votes” tactic.
The damning report said: “We can state with some certainty that new depths are plumbed by political parties in 2022. This tranche of advertising is the worst that we have seen because it is frequently and consistently misleading – almost risibly so in some cases.”
The 15-page document seen by i, detailed examples of online ads used by the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party and provided detailed explanations of why they were misleading, inaccurate or unsubstantiated. A common theme emerged of deceiving financial claims.
The Lib Dems quoted a Daily Telegraph headline in one ad that read: “Rishi Sunak’s triple whammy of tax rises set to cost every adult £1,000 a year extra” – but this article could not be found online or in print. EARP also noted that more robust analysis suggests the total will be significantly less.
Labour deployed the same tactic and were twice criticised for being financially misleading.
One ad claimed that “under the Conservatives families are £2,620 worse off” but the report cites a Full Fact investigation that found these statistics were based on unreliable assumptions and excludes the impact of rises in benefits and wages.
A second used an unsubstantiated claim that “Conservative councils cost you £330 more than Labour councils”, the authors said.
The Tories also came under fire for using misleading figures. An ad targeted at voters in Wandsworth claimed the council “has the lowest council tax in the UK”. But EARM noted that this is incorrect, as the lowest title belongs to Westminster City Council where Band D rates in 2021/22 were £827 versus Wandsworth’s £845.
Financial inaccuracies weren’t the only things that cropped up, with RPA taking aim at a Labour ad that suggested the Lib Dems wanted to “legalise drugs”. The ad exploited an old policy under Nick Clegg’s leadership and did not reflect the party’s new plan to legalise and regulate the market for cannabis – not all drugs.
The report concluded that: “There remains an alarming amount of grossly misleading election advertising from all main parties that attempts to secure our vote with deceitful misrepresentation of their own achievements or others’ incompetence”.
RPA has called for the introduction of a code of conduct for election advertising, agreed by political parties, to be regulated by an independent body. They are concerned the number of misleading ads will only increase as we head towards another general election.