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Tory MP candidate caught getting friend to pose as anti-Labour swing voter, as party's disinformation campaign continues

‘You know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?’ Conservative heard saying on phone, after forgetting he was wearing microphone

Jon Stone
Monday 25 November 2019 14:47 GMT
Tory MP candidate caught getting friend to pose as anti-Labour swing voter

A Conservative candidate has been caught getting one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter, raising further questions about the party’s use of disinformation and fake news.

Lee Anderson, who is standing for the Tories in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, forgot he was wearing a live microphone while he phoned his friend to set up the fake encounter to impress a journalist

“Make out you know who I am... you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?” Mr Anderson was recorded saying as he spelled out instructions to his friend minutes before bringing a journalist to his door.

The candidate also appeared to lie about the content of the phone call, commenting to the reporter as he hung up that it was about “some leaflets that have just come for me”.

Upon arriving at the doorstep, the supposed swing voter told the Tory candidate: “There’s no way Labour are ever going to get my vote again!” before heartily endorsing Mr Anderson’s policy proposal to send problem tenants to labour camps.

It was only after the filming that production staff at Mail + managed to tell the reporter they had recorded the Tory setting up the meeting because the candidate was wearing a switched-on radio microphone.

The manufactured encounter is the latest in a string of incidents of disinformation during the Conservative Party’s campaign.

Last week the party set up a fake website,, which purported to contain the Labour manifesto but which actually presented voters with Tory attack lines. It paid Google to push the website to the top of search results.

Earlier in the week the Conservatives set up a fake fact-checking service “factcheckUK” on social media that was actually controlled by its press office and was used to pump out Tory messaging and endorsements of Boris Johnson. The move was branded “dystopian” and condemned by bona fide fact-checking services.

The Ashfield candidate, Mr Anderson, also made headlines last week when he said that “nuisance” housing tenants should be made to live in tents and pick vegetables.

Ashfield is a key Tory target seat, currently held by Labour MP Gloria de Piero, who has stood down at this election. The Labour candidate in the seat is Natalie Fleet.

Ms Fleet told The Independent: "We thought Lee Anderson could stoop no lower when he said that antisocial council tenants should be subjected to forced labour and made to live in tents.

"But just a few days later, he was caught red-handed on camera as he tried to spread fake news by pretending that one of his friends was a random supporter.

"It’s clear that Boris Johnson’s intolerance and untrustworthiness has filtered down to local Conservative candidates. Ashfield, and the rest of the country, deserves much better than the Tories dishonesty and division."

The Conservative Party had not responded to a request for comment on this story at the time of publication.

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