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Editor demands ban on local press mimicry as Tories adopt tactic

An editor has demanded a ban on party political leaflets that mimic local newspapers after a fresh example of the practice by the Conservative Party was uncovered on his patch.

Hereford Times editor John Wilson has hit out at the Tories over the distribution of the Herefordshire Champion ahead of the forthcoming local elections.

The practice has been defended by North Herefordshire Conservative Association on the grounds that the templates it was offered by the party’s headquarters were predetermined.

But both John and Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Times publisher Newsquest, have criticised the latest example of local press mimicry after years of argument about political parties employing the tactic.

Herefordshire Champion

HTFP shone a spotlight on the issue ahead of the 2019 General Election – with the Electoral Commission subsequently calling for “real change” on misleading party political leaflets.

We further highlighted numerous examples of the tactic being revived by the Liberal Democrats in recent years, both before and after elections across the country.

Said John: “Publications like this are nothing more than party political propaganda.

“In deliberately mimicking the look of an independent local newspaper they undermine trust both in politicians and objective journalism. They are deeply damaging and should be banned.”

Henry, who spearheaded a campaign against the practice during his chairmanship of the News Media Association, added: “Make no mistake, these publications are designed to fool you into thinking you are reading independent journalism.

“In fact, they are the exact opposite – party political propaganda sheets masquerading as real newspapers.”

According to the Times, the four-page A4 publication “appears to have been posted through the doors of most homes in Herefordshire ahead of the local elections”.

Dan Hurcomb, chairman of the North Herefordshire Conservatives Association, told the newspaper that the Champion was a Tory campaign headquarters project where the templates on offer were predetermined.

Mr Hurcomb claimed that the publication “clearly identifies” itself as Conservative Party election material.

“The electorate deserves to know the record of the current Green-Independent coalition and our Conservative candidates will now continue to promote our positive vision for real change via their local leaflets and conversations with residents on the doorstep,” he added.