How “Capitalist Worker” is a front for the pro-Brexit lobby group Global Britain, according to the Financial Times.

Jessica Garland, director of policy and research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “What we actually need is proper legislation. This election has really exposed that we haven’t got the legislation in place for a fair contest.”

Political campaign groups with no obvious affiliation to any of the UK’s main parties have bought thousands of Facebook ads in the first month of the general election campaign, in a digital battle for votes that transparency campaigners warn is too opaque to be adequately monitored.

According to Financial Times analysis, these non-party groups, sometimes referred to as shadow campaigns, have spent more than half a million pounds on ads with Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram, as well as other online networks such as Google and Snapchat.

But amid concern over the spread of online disinformation and political meddling in elections, transparency advocates worry there is a lack of information on these groups: in particular who funds them, and what their links are to the various political parties.

The non-party groups are seeking to influence voters on issues including Brexit, tactical voting and opposing Labour’s radical reforming agenda for Britain.

Since the last election in 2017 the number of non-party campaign groups registered with the UK watchdog the Electoral Commission has risen from 43 to 67. Those groups’ combined spending of £503,000 is more than double the amount spent so far on Facebook ads by the Conservative party’s central office.

Capitalist Worker

One of the groups, Capitalist Worker, began advertising on Facebook at the end of November, campaigning against the Labour party’s sweeping nationalisation plans and criticising Jeremy Corbyn, the party leader.

Since then, the group has spent more than £14,000, largely targeting men aged between 18 and 34.

The sum spent by Capitalist Worker is more than many other registered non-party campaigners, although analysts point out total amount spent on ads is not necessarily the most important indicator of their impact online.

Capitalist Worker’s Facebook page, which oddly displays a picture of New York’s Grand Central station, gives no information that would identify those pushing the messages or the provenance of their funding.

Brian Monteith

 

However, an entry on the Electoral Commission’s website, where the group is registered, shows it is linked to Brian Monteith, a Brexit party MEP and communications director for the pro-Brexit lobby group Global Britain.

Representatives for the group did not respond to the FT’s requests for comment on their funding and strategy, and aside from the Facebook page the group appears to have a limited digital footprint.

Mr Monteith, who describes himself on Twitter as a “cigar smokin, Jaguar drivin . . . free-marketin Bluetrot”, did not respond to requests for comment.

Data collected by the advocacy group Who Targets Me suggests that Capitalist Worker’s online ads were viewed mostly in Labour-held constituencies, including 14 of the so-called “red wall” seats that are key to the Conservatives’ chances of winning in next week’s election….

Jessica Garland, director of policy and research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “What we actually need is proper legislation. This election has really exposed that we haven’t got the legislation in place for a fair contest.”

Any unaffiliated individuals or groups wanting to campaign during an election period must register with the Electoral Commission if they want to spend more than £20,000 in England (the limit is £10,000 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) on any campaign activity.

The official spending cap for unaffiliated groups at the general election is £479,550, although that could be higher, depending on the non-party groups’ campaigning during the rest of the year.

Election spending returns do not need to be filed until after next Thursday’s poll and there is concern over shadow campaigns’ adherence to the reporting threshold. Though rules exist to prevent any undisclosed joint campaigning, they are difficult to police.

See full article by the FT here