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Editorial boss brands Lib Dems a ‘disgrace’ as party continues to mimic local press

Toby Granville 1An editorial boss who threatened the Liberal Democrats with a news blackout has accused the party of “undermining the fight against fake news” as it continues to mimic local newspapers.

Newsquest editorial director Toby Granville has branded the Lib Dems a “disgrace” after two fresh examples of the practice were discovered.

Toby, pictured, has hit out after Darlington & Stockton Times editor Hannah Chapman published an image online of a Lib Dem publication called the ‘Hambleton Herald’ which was posted through her door and is described as a “local newspaper”.

Posting on Twitter, Hannah described the delivery as “annoying to say the least” after she had “just pressed send on the last of three editions of a 96-page local paper produced by talented, hardworking journalists”.

In response, Toby wrote: “This is more than annoying – it’s an absolute disgrace.

“Totally misleading the public by purporting to be a legitimate local newspaper and undermining our industry’s fight against fake news. Shame on you Lib Dems.”

In 2019, Toby warned the Lib Dems he would advise all Newsquest editors not to publish any campaign news ahead of the General Election unless it ceased the practice.

The party has repeatedly defended its tactic of passing off campaign pamphlets as local newspapers, but the Society of Editors has demanded action from Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey on the matter after recent examples emerged in Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire.

In January, the Northampton Chronicle & Echo warned its readers about the Northants Citizen, a “political propaganda sheet masquerading as local news” which was launched by the party.

And a fortnight ago HTFP reported Malcolm Cowan, leader of the Lib Dem group on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, had defended the launch of the Welwyn Hatfield News, a pamphlet that features “similar characteristics” to Archant weekly the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

Toby’s comments prompted Norfolk-based PR boss Chole Leach O’Connell to come forward to reveal she had also received a similar pamphlet through her door.

She said: “I had one delivered in North Norfolk It’s disingenuous and absolutely sickening in these times of fake news.

“Mine didn’t even have a Lib Dem logo on it. Not a newspaper.”

Basingstoke Gazette editor Katie French, who previously criticised the party over the issue in 2019, added: “Deeply disappointing that this shameful practice of dressing party propaganda in the format of a trusted local paper is still happening.

“Lib Dems this is a terrible look. Please stop.”

HTFP has approached Newsquest for further comment, while the Liberal Democrats declined to respond to Toby’s remarks.