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Editor sparks Tory U-turn over local press mimicry

John Wilson HerefordAn editor’s bid to ban political leaflets from mimicking local newspapers will be raised with Conservative Party chiefs after a local Tory vowed to stop the practice.

Hereford Times editor John Wilson’s criticism of the tactic has sparked a U-turn from North Herefordshire Conservative Association, which recently distributed a leaflet published under the name ‘Herefordshire Champion’.

Association chair Dan Hurcomb had initially defended the practice on the grounds that Conservative Campaign Headquarters had offered local branches predetermined templates for pamphlets ahead of May’s local elections.

However, Mr Hurcomb has now told the Times his branch of the party will not distribute any more newspaper-style election campaign leaflets and will raise the matter with CCHQ.

Welcoming the move, John told HTFP: “I am delighted that Conservatives in Herefordshire appear to have listened to our concerns and have undertaken to discontinue campaigning with this sort of publication.

“It was clearly propaganda hoping to gain advantage by mimicking a trusted local newspaper. I hope political parties of all colours tempted to adopt this ploy will now re-think.”

In a letter to John, Mr Hurcomb gave a “personal guarantee” not to distribute any more “newspaper-style” campaign materials ahead of the election for Herefordshire Council on 4 May.

Mr Hurcomb further told John, pictured, he “would also be happy to raise your concerns directly with CCHQ in an attempt to have the templates changed”.

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.