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Letter: We Need Media Organisations to Continue to Publish the Truth

Published on: 12 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 12 Sep, 2023

Examples of fake newspapers distributed in Guildford

From: Pete Bennett

In response to: Local Politicians Defend the Use of Fake Newspapers

The unfortunate fact is that fake news works.

A party (or individual) of integrity that decides they are not going to mislead, invent scare stories or smear the opposition is immediately at a huge disadvantage.

“All politicians lie” has become so embedded into public thinking that the public doesn’t even listen to what political parties or individual politicians have to say – a politician of integrity would just be assumed to be lying about not lying.

Having destroyed trust in politicians, the political parties can now no longer rely on positive messaging in traditional campaign literature or knocking on doors to actually talk to people. They now need to find new ways to get elected.

At a national level, the Labour Party has used the Sunak attack ads to get on the news. The Conservative Party uses the Mail/Express/Telegraph to keep pumping immigration to the top of the BBC news agenda.

At a local level, such options are not available. Other than for the wrong reasons (such as risk of bankruptcy), Guildford is rarely going to make the national news. So how do the local parties get their message across?

For many people, anything with a party label on it just goes straight in the bin. The fake newspapers get past this filter and people will at least look at them. To be fair to the Lib Dems, you don’t have to read their newspaper for very long to understand what it is, but people will still have read further than they would have a normal political leaflet.

Of course, people eventually realise, even with the Conservative newspaper, that it is not real news. Having destroyed trust in political leaflets and their own reputation, the politicians are therefore trashing the trust in the news media.

And this is not the only tactic. The Conservative fake news leaflets about the congestion charge were designed to not look like Conservative campaign leaflet (and it was fake news, despite Cllr Richard Mills’ protestations – the borough council doesn’t even have the power to introduce a congestion charge). Email distribution lists that people have signed up for “village news”, ie the one produced by Cllr Witham in Worplesdon, suddenly turn political during an election campaign.

All of this just leaves a general population more and more distrusting of all the pillars of democracy. The belief in the “stolen election” in the US would have seemed incredible 10 years ago. As trust continues to erode in the news, the judiciary, science and the police, what unbelievable things will we be talking about in the next 10 years?

A party or individual that tries to stand against this flow may be at an electoral disadvantage, but to ignore this descent into populism and fake news is irresponsible. We need individuals who are prepared to stand up for truth, just like we need support from the media organisations like The Dragon to continue to publish that truth.

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Responses to Letter: We Need Media Organisations to Continue to Publish the Truth

  1. Geoff Tipson Reply

    September 12, 2023 at 6:28 pm

    Peter Bennett of R4GV should know a thing or two about fake news. His party were telling us one minute to be concerned about developers building high-rise buildings then the next minute they were proposing to build tower blocks in the middle of Guildford.

    • John Perkins Reply

      September 13, 2023 at 9:14 am

      I doubt R4GV are proposing to build anything. That is the preserve of builders and developers, not political parties.

  2. Pete Bennett Reply

    September 13, 2023 at 7:52 am

    I think Geoff Tipson has reinforced my point perfectly by attacking me for saying that we need politicians who are prepared to tell the truth. I am presuming, with politicians having trashed their own reputation, the thinking is that he just needs to tell people that I stood for council and nobody will listen to a word I say?

    For the record, I have never made a secret that I was a candidate for R4GV, and I did not even mention R4GV in my letter. The letter was not about promoting R4GV (although clearly I would not have stood for R4GV if I believed they support fake news in any way) nor deliberately attacking any one party.

    In the May elections I wished an opposition candidate well after she posted, “If I have to lie to win your vote then I don’t want it”. I don’t care about political party. I just want to see integrity in politics.

    This wasn’t a call for people to vote R4GV, it was a call for people with influence in any party to stand up for integrity and stop this decline before we destroy democracy.

  3. Sam Peters Reply

    September 16, 2023 at 2:34 pm

    Another type of disinformation or questionable intent in political literature is copying or mimicking the widely-recognised colours, fonts and other stylistic aspects of other parties.

    Recently, countless Conservative candidates, councillors and MPs nationwide, including Jeremy Hunt, have sent out multiple leaflets clearly ripping off the Green Party style guide (

    The latest from Jeremy Hunt appeared only a few months ago, again lacking almost any mention of the Conservative Party.

    Whether it was down to fears about the surging Green Party vote locally and nationally, the toxicity of Conservative branding under the current government, or some other reason, it would just be nice if the imitation – the sincerest form of flattery, after all – took the guise of copying Green policies, rather than just mimicking the branding.

    Sam Peters has stood as a Green Party candidate in recent local elections.

  4. Brian Creese Reply

    September 19, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    I have great sympathy with Sam Peters’ comments. As soon as an issue considered “green” arises, all the party newsletters suddenly look like the Green Party – even Conservative ones!

    Luckily, with the Lib Dem and Tory Party suddenly becoming pro-toxic air (I know, extraordinary, isn’t it?) the Green Party will presumably be the only green newsletter on the block for a while.

    I wish I could speak for Labour nationally, but here in Guildford at least, Labour leaflets remain clearly Labour even when they agree with Sam’s green policies!

    Brian Creese, is the former chair of the Guildford Labour Party

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