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Editors demand Government action after Lib Dem local newspaper row

Ian Murray 2Editors have demanded Government action on party political pamphlets after the latest attempt at local newspaper mimicry by the Liberal Democrats.

The Society of Editors wants Westminster to act on the issue and has also accused the Lib Dems of “not taking this matter seriously”.

HTFP reported on Monday how the Northampton Chronicle & Echo had warned its readers about the Northants Citizen, a publication described as a “free local newspaper” which has been launched by the West Northamptonshire Liberal Democrats.

The practice has been defended by the Lib Dems on the grounds that “every major political party has been producing this style of leaflet for many years”.

But the SoE has now demanded the Government acts to stop it.

Ian Murray, pictured, executive director of the SoE, said: “Unfortunately, the fact this practice has been going on for some time and it has been raised with the Liberal Democrats as well as other parties would seem to indicate the Lib Dems are still not taking this matter seriously.

“It is in no one’s interests, including politicians, to appear to be attempting to mislead the public in this way.

“The practice undermines trust and democracy and it is to be hoped the Government will act to ensure there is a requirement for all political-affiliated newsletters and propaganda publications including those on line to be clearly marked as such.”

The Northants Citizen is the latest example of political parties mimicking local newspaper titles following a spate of similar incidents in the run-up to the 2019 General Election which were highlighted by HTFP.

The then-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson backed her party’s use of the tactic prior to the election, saying the use of such campaign newspapers was “as old as the hills.”

But the row led to regional publisher Newsquest threatening the party with an election news blackout and the Electoral Commission subsequently called for an end to the practice.

HTFP has approached both the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport and the Liberal Democrats for further comment.