Tories paying to push anti-Corbyn interview with ex-Labour MP Ian Austin to voters

The Conservatives are paying to push videos of interviews with former Labour MP Ian Austin out to voters over Facebook, The Independent can reveal. Footage and quotes of the MP criticising Jeremy Corbyn on the Today programme has been place on the newsfeeds of as many as 100,000 users in 24 hours, the party’s advertising return…

The Conservatives are paying to push videos of interviews with former Labour MP Ian Austin out to voters over Facebook, The Independent can reveal.

Footage and quotes of the MP criticising Jeremy Corbyn on the Today programme has been place on the newsfeeds of as many as 100,000 users in 24 hours, the party’s advertising return shows.

The Tories have bought six different versions of the advert, on which they have spent over £1,000 in a single day, excluding production costs.

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The revelation comes after shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the former Labour MP of working with the Tories, a claim Mr Austin demanded an apology for.

The episode prompted a row in Westminster over how surprising it is that Mr Austin would urge a vote against Jeremy Corbyn’s party and for the Conservatives. 

leftCreated with Sketch.
rightCreated with Sketch.

The former junior minister in the Brown government has not been a Labour MP for around nine months, and was appointed as a government trade envoy by Theresa May in the summer, though the role is not salaried.

Mr Austin had already said in September that he would “make absolutely certain” that Labour MPs had to “answer to [their] voters at the next election”. He has also been a constant critic of Mr Corbyn’s leadership since day one. 

The Tories’ advert contains some inaccuracies, such as one version describing Mr Austin as a “lifelong Labour MP”. In fact, Mr Austin became a Labour MP at the age of 40, and quit the party earlier this year. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg caused a storm last month after he said his network will not take down false or misleading adverts paid for by political parties. 

The advert features a video of the ex-MP (Facebook)

Facebook advertising is expected to be a key battleground in the upcoming election, with parties able to micro-target voters in individual consistencies, with particular views, and of particular demographics, with different adverts.  

The Tories are also running a series of Facebook adverts targeting Brexit messages at marginal seats. The adverts all follow a similar format: A picture of Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson next to a swingometer, with the majority of the MP in the targeted marginal seat and the text “It will only tax X votes in [consistency name] to get Brexit done”.

Adverts featuring this format have been pushed out to consistencies including Bridgend, Bolsover, Wirral West, Wakefield, Colne Valley, Workington, and Darlington.

The Conservatives have spent £295,245 on Facebook adverts since October 2018, with Labour spending £280,201, according to Facebook’s figures. 

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