The Liberal Democrats are facing heavy criticism for their campaigning in Southport after releasing leaflets that have been described as "a cynical and shoddy attempt to hoodwink" local voters.
It comes after Southport constituents received a letter within the Lib-Dem campaigning material informing them that Labour was "strongly likely to finish a distant third" and advising them that "if Labour voters were to lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats they could stop the Conservatives winning in the town".
The letter comes from Mike Smithson, founder of politicalbetting.com who says:
"I make my living by cutting through spin to see what the data really says. it's the data that forms the basis of all my predictions",
before then offering his advice on the situation in Southport.
What the letter doesn't reveal is that Smithson is also a former Lib-Dem politician and that similar letters have gone out to several Lib-Dem marginals, all offering the same recommendation to vote for the party.
It seems that instead of "cutting through the spin" as the letter states, Smithson and the Lib-Dems are creating it.
John Donnelly from Ainsdale was one of those who received the material, he said:
"The letter came with another Lib-Dem campaigning leaflet in an envelope addressed to me. I'm used to getting all sorts during an election, most of it goes to the recycling bin but I thought it was odd to see the Lib-Dems basically advertising what looked like a political betting site so I did a bit of Googling."
He continued: "The letter gave me the impression that Mike Smithson was an independent expert so I was really angry to discover what to me is a blatant conflict of interest. I really don't like any political parties trying to trick me. Lord only knows how many other people too. It's sly and underhand in my opinion."
The letter, which is essentially standardised for several marginal constituencies but appears based on local specialist advice, has caused some concern on twitter and has now featured on one of the leading political blogs, Guido Fawkes
, which stated:
"Wherever they arrive, the data outlined in Smithson's letter always points to voting tactically in support of the Lib Dems. What a shocker."
John is a Labour supporter and was so annoyed by the letter he took it along to our campaign HQ in Wayfarer's Arcade to complain.
Liz Savage, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Southport, says she's appalled by the tactic:
"It's at best misleading. It's a cynical and shoddy attempt to hoodwink Southport voters I'd say. It's desperate stuff from them because various polls have us level or ahead of them and they know momentum is increasing with us. We are the only chance of stopping the Tories in Southport now and they know it."
She says it's the latest in series of claims made in an "increasingly negative campaign" by her Lib-Dem opponents:
"They've said I can't win here and that more and more Labour voters are turning to them but I'd like to know the basis for their claims. Indicators and surveys show that there's a surge of support towards us in the town. It's a shame they feel they have to resort to such underhand tactics but more importantly, it's also unfair to the people of Southport."