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Second Tory bid to mimic local press exposed ahead of by-elections

A second Tory attempt to masquerade as a local newspaper has been uncovered as voters go to the polls in three by-elections.

The Conservative Party has published the North Yorkshire Chronicle in Selby and Ainsty following the circulation of the Somerton and Frome Chronicle in Somerset, where a by-election is also taking place tomorrow.

As with the Somerton and Frome attempt to mimic the local press, the North Yorkshire Chronicle features no reference to the party by name and mentions only in small print at the bottom that it is circulated on behalf of Tory candidate Claire Holmes.

The pamphlet claims to have scored a scoop of Rishi Sunak “writing exclusively” for its “special edition” serving “Ainsty, Tadcaster, Selby, Sherburn-in-Elmet and our villages”.

Selby Tory

Posting about the “newspaper” on Twitter, Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson wrote: “This sort of devious, cynical journalistic imitation is designed to dupe you.

“They want to trick you. Beware.”

The controversies in the two constituencies come after a Tory spokesman defended the party’s use of the practice in April on the grounds that “any literature from the party has to clearly state that it is from the party”.

HTFP shone a spotlight on the issue of local press mimicry 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.

In March this year, Hereford Times editor John Wilson had succeeded in getting local Tories on his patch to pledge to discontinue the practice after he criticised the North Herefordshire Conservative Association for publishing a pamphlet under the name ‘Herefordshire Champion’.

John’s criticism prompted a U-turn by the Association, which had initially defended the practice on the grounds that CCHQ had offered local branches predetermined templates for pamphlets ahead of May’s elections.

HTFP has approached the Conservative Party for a comment on its use of the tactic ahead of today’s by-elections.