openDemocracyUK

How Theresa May is getting around election spending limits with big newspaper ads

By running local newspaper ads focusing on her message, Theresa May is getting around local spending limits for the upcoming general election

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Sunny Hundal
5 May 2017
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Twitter/Barry Whittleton. Some rights reserved.You could call it a trial run for an avalanche of media bombardment.

In 14 different areas across the country this week, the Tories have been running local newspaper ads that cover the entire front page, promoting May's message.

The four-page wraparound adverts were carried in local newspapers, focusing entirely on her leadership and message on Brexit. They are a sign of what is about to be unleashed.

Here's one example. And another one.

The Tories: literally buying themselves positive newspaper front pages. #Exeter pic.twitter.com/f8qNYS9jCA

— Richard Nelson (@badblokebob) May 4, 2017

 

It smells fishy but such ads are considered perfectly legal under rules set out by the Electoral Commission.

While local candidates have a maximum spending limit over the course of the campaign, by focusing on May, which in itself is unusual for a General Election, the spending is classified under national campaign spending.

And that can be as high as £19 million over the course of an election campaign. Some think this is unethical and the rules need to be changed.

Being able to buy big ads in target constituencies without being constrained by local spending limits was a "massive flaw," Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, told Buzzfeed News.

These rules of course benefit the party with the most money.

With the Conservatives already under scrutiny over their election spending in the 2015 election, this brazen attempt at ignoring local spending limits will raise more hackles.

But in her bid to win in the General Election, Theresa May is showing no such qualms yet.

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