Local elections 2023: Labour spending twice as much as Conservatives on social media advertising

Photo: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld
A local Conservative group has promoted a video highlighting inconsistencies in Keir Starmer’s policy positions

Labour has spent twice as much on social media advertisements so far in the run up to next month’s local elections.

Keir Starmer’s party has spent more than £30,000 on sponsored Facebook adverts in the last 30 days. The party has not published the widely-criticised attack ads targeting Rishi Sunak on its official page.

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The Conservatives have acknowledged that they face a difficult task on 4 May, with a senior MP saying it will be “a difficult set of elections,” for the party.

‘He still watches football regularly’

Labour has purchased almost 3,000 adverts in the last 90 days, totalling more than £34,000. Many of the ads use the same text and graphic, but are tailored slightly to certain geographic areas.

This figure is based on spending by the party’s main Facebook account, through which the vast majority of ads have been purchased, although local parties and individual politicians have in some cases purchased their own adverts.

While attack posters put out by the party targeting Rishi Sunak and the Conservative’s record on child sexual assault conviction rates have been widely criticised, the party has largely eschewed negative attack ads on Facebook.

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The most widely-viewed post is a video featuring a university friend of Starmer, John Murray, describing how the Labour leader hasn’t changed much since they met. Labour spent between £5,000 and £6,000 promoting the post, which has been seen more than 800,000 times.

“He still likes the same things. He still plays football regularly. He still watches football regularly,” Murray says in the video.

Another video features several former Conservative voters explaining why they will vote for Starmer’s Labour, while a widely-shared graphic highlighting Labour’s windfall tax policy states the party would “use a proper windfall tax to stop prices going up in April”.

The Conservatives have spent around £16,500 on 94 sponsored posts promoted by their main account in the last 30 days. Many of these posts don’t relate to the local elections at all, with several criticising the newly introduced ULEZ charge in London, despite their being no elections in London this year.

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Most of the other posts sponsored by the party’s main account are aimed at encouraging voters to register for and send off their postal votes ahead of the local elections. While the main page has not sponsored any ‘attack ads’ targeting Labour, a number of local party pages have sponsored popular posts attacking Starmer in particular.

One local Conservative association, Basildon and Thurrock Conservatives, spent between £300 and £399 promoting a compilation video highlighting how Starmer has changed his position on a number of issues over time. Critics of Starmer within Labour have predicted that this will be a major attack line for the Conservatives in a general election campaign.

The Liberal Democrats and the Green party have both spent less than £500 each, while Reform UK has not paid for any advertising on the platform.

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