Conservatives Accused of ‘Camouflage’ Campaign Tactics After Imitating Green Party Leaflets
A number of Conservative candidates appear to have suddenly dropped the party’s blue branding, reports Max Colbert
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Conservative MPs and candidates have been coming under fire on social media after several Twitter users complained of receiving leaflets mirroring the design of Green Party literature.
The Conservative material, which features the same colourway and banner style as the Greens, has an emphasis on green initiatives. This appears to be part of a campaign that ran through summer and autumn last year both via physical leaflets and on Facebook, which are reportedly now being re-circulated.
In particular, literature promoting Robert Largan, Conservative MP for High Peak, recently caught the attention of Twitter users, with one posting a picture of a leaflet that they received on 4 January, stating: “This has just popped through the letterbox from my local MP… Who would like to take a guess at what party he represents?’
The user went on to add that: “It says Conservatives, in green in small type right at the bottom on the back. If you were just to flick through the grand photo achievements you’d never spot it.”
Largan responded to the tweet, saying: “This is entertaining. The leaflet (from last summer) mentions several times that I’m a Conservative & green has been the colour of the House of Commons & Members of Parliament for centuries before the Ecology Party changed their name in 1990. Thanks for sharing my leaflet though.”
A letter written in the Times the next day entitled ‘Clever Tory camouflage’ seemed to confirm that this was “the latest leaflet posted through doors by Robert Largan”, and that it had “lots of dark green text on a light green background with only the word ‘Conservatives’ in small type on the back to indicate that he isn’t the Green Party candidate.”
Green Party members have expressed their shock at the strategy, including Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, who referred to it as “disgraceful messaging”.
While the campaign is not new, as confirmed by a Green Party spokesperson, they did state that: “The Tories do seem to have adapted a lot more of their literature in the past few months, certainly since the autumn.”
Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay told Byline Times that: “Clearly the Conservatives’ own brand is now so bad, and Tory MPs so deeply embarrassed about their own Government, that they are trying to camouflage themselves as Greens.
“Our many gains from the Tories in recent local elections – almost equal to our gains from Labour – also has them rattled.”
The Art of Selling a Lie
When this style of literature first began to appear, the apparent adoption of Green Party aesthetics also drew criticism from the Reform Political Advertising [RPA) campaign, which said that the Conservative Party’s leaflets were “straight out of the Green Party style guide”.
Lord David Puttnam told Byline Times last year that he became involved in the RPA campaign as “a natural consequence of the report I did for Parliament on the impact of the digital realm on democracy”, saying that the lack of restraints on political advertising would not be permitted in a commercial setting.
Puttnam went on to point out that the Green Party has signed up to the RPA campaign, unlike Labour or the Conservatives. He said that, unfortunately, the two main parties often pursue advertising strategies based on “what works”, rather than the truth.
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While this latest act of imitation may seem reasonably contained to operations at a local constituency level, it is far from an isolated incident of trickery in modern British politics.
The pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign used statistics about the cost of EU membership – £350 million-a-week – that were labelled as a “a clear misuse of official statistics” by the UK Statistics Authority. The Leave campaign also relied heavily on the claim, now proven to be false, that Turkey was set to imminently join the EU and gain access to freedom of movement.
This playbook was followed once again during the 2019 General Election campaign, when the Conservative Party’s social media gurus Topham Guerin changed the name of the Conservative HQ Twitter page to ‘FactCheckUK’ – impersonating a fact-checking service – while also setting up a spoof website made to look like the Labour Party manifesto.
With more local elections coming up this May, it will be interesting to see if any new underhand tactics are used in the effort to solicit votes.