It’s not just special interest groups and non-party organisations that enjoy misleading the public, but political parties too. On Tuesday evening, while Britain was tuning in to the first General Election debate of 2019, an official Conservative party Twitter account rebranded itself to make it look like it was providing a fact-checking service. David Lammy, prominent Labour MP, remarked that it showed “what disdain this party and this government has for the truth”. Following complaints from Full Fact, the charity that provides a non-partisan fact checking service, and others, Twitter said it would take “decisive corrective action” if a similar action was attempted again. But, in such a fast moving political environment, the damage is done.
This stunt exposes a few things that need urgent addressing. The first is that guidelines on what political activities are prohibited on social media platforms are not yet effective. When reporting tweets, you can now mark that a tweet is “misleading about voting”. That’s a welcome change. But it clearly isn’t enough. This tweet also shows us that established political parties aren’t above the fray. They’re more than happy to openly mislead the public in order to grab votes.
There are things we can do to make a hostile environment for this misbehaviour. We can call such action out publicly. We can contact our local elected officials and demand that they change their conduct. We can vote. And we can change election law. Our politics will continue to deteriorate if we don’t do what’s right and fight for our British values, the truth and fair play. The next government will have the power to enact legislation that safeguards our elections. It’s time we made sure that those in power put democracy, truth and fair play before their party.