Wakefield and Tiverton by elections: Labour and Lib Dems outspending Conservatives on Facebook attack ads
Facebook advertising spend by the main parties suggests Labour are backing off in one of two by-elections later this month
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Labour is spending more than any other party on Facebook advertising ahead of two major by-elections later this month.
Keir Starmer’s party has put out dozens of ads claiming to have forced the government into a ‘U-turn’ on a windfall tax, while the Conservatives have made hay over Labour’s selection issues in Wakefield.
What kind of adverts have parties been buying for the Wakefield by-election?
The Conservatives are being outspent on Facebook advertising by the Labour Party and Reform UK in Wakefield.
Labour recently purchased 48 almost identical targeted ads, telling voters in Conservative constituencies that their MP “voted against a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to lower your energy bills.”
It states: “Now, after months of dither and delay, Labour has forced the Tories to U-turn.”
In Wakefield, where the Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan was forced to resign after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year old, Labour has purchased more than three times as many ads as the Conservatives.
A number of these have highlighted Mr Khan’s sexual assault conviction, and that the former MP “clung on for an extra two weeks” in order to get a full month’s pay.
One post, which the Party spent at least up to £299 promoting, asked “why are the Conservatives still backing their paedophile Wakefield MP?”.
The video shows an interview clip of Conservative Crispin Blunt MP, seemingly defending Mr Khan after he had been convicted.
There are also a number of videos featuring Labour’s candidate, Simon Lightwood, a former NHS worker from Calder Valley, who also worked for the previous Labour MP for Wakefield, Mary Creagh.
All four of the adverts purchased by the Conservative Party about the Wakefield by-election focus on Mr Lightwood not being from Wakefield, and the controversy surrounding his selection as Labour’s candidate.
Several members of the local Labour party’s ruling committee resigned and walked out of a meeting, claiming the central party had influenced the selection process in order to pick their preferred candidate.
All the Conservative Party’s advertising has been done through the Wakefield Conservatives Facebook profile, rather than through the main party account.
A video promoted by the Conservatives for over £100 highlighted Mr Lightwood’s numerous previous attempts at running for office in different constituencies.
Another points out that Mr Lightwood is registered as living in the Calder Valley constituency.
It states: ”Official documents confirm the Labour candidate lives in Calder Valley. How can they know the issues if they’ve been parachuted in?”
Meanwhile, Reform UK has spent around £1000 on adverts introducing their Wakefield candidate, and wishing people a “happy and glorious” platinum jubilee weekend.
In another post, which cost around £400, Reform UK claimed to be the party to have “fought for” and “delivered Brexit”.
What have the parties spent on Facebook advertising for the Tiverton by-election?
In line with reports that Labour could be informally ‘standing aside’ in the by-election to allow the Liberal Democrats the best chance of winning, Labour has not purchased any ads backing their candidate.
Early in the campaign the party spent several hundred pounds on a number of adverts aimed at establishing themselves as the main challenger for the seat, ahead of Labour.
The Lib Dems’ adverts do not mention the nature of Mr Parish’s resignation, after the MP admitted to watching porn in the Palace of Westminster on two occasions.
Instead, they focus on their candidate, Richard Foord, emphasising his local roots and three priorities for the area.
The Conservatives’ most recent ad targeting voters in Tiverton and Honiton attacks the Liberal Democrats over their support for rejoining the EU, and claims they are “plotting to put Labour in power” at the next general election.
The ad also claims that the Liberal Democrats voted “against strong borders,” while another Conservative targeted ad offers voters a chance to “have their say” on the government’s plan to send would-be asylum seekers to Rwanda, which is thought to be illegal.
Tiverton and Honiton voted to leave the European Union in 2016, and the Liberal Democrats have not performed well there in a national election since.