Election rules are failing to keep pace with rapid changes in technology, allowing political parties to spend millions of pounds on locally targeted Facebook adverts with national campaign funds, experts have warned. The outdated rules mean parties can tailor hyper-local adverts on Facebook as part of a spending “arms race” in marginal seats, despite rules that are supposed to limit spending in individual constituencies. Regulators do not know what adverts are being seen, creating the “potential for abuse on an unprecedented scale”, according to campaigners. The Electoral Commission is under fire for not clamping down on the use of social media during elections, despite the widespread use of Facebook by the Conservatives in the 2015 general election. Both the Tories and Labour are believed to be investing heavily in Facebook adverts this time round.
Facebook is the frontline of the digital campaign. In the 2015 General Election, £1.2m was spent by political parties on social media – and Facebook got more than 99% of that, according to the Electoral Commission. In 2017, it will be just as crucial. The Conservatives outspent Labour 10-to-one on Facebook two years ago; Labour have pledged to bridge that gap. And this election is the last opportunity for no-holds-barred digital campaigning. After 2015, the Electoral Commission proposed that, at the 2020 election, parties should record all their spending on social media, with the aim of “providing greater transparency on campaigner’s activity and provide a fuller understanding of how technology is changing traditional campaign activities”. Theresa May’s surprise election means that won’t happen this time, so the digital campaign remains murky at best.
Conservative HQ has launched a wave of digital attack adverts targeting Jeremy Corbyn into voters’ Facebook feeds, a snapshot of the opening stages of the online election campaign reveals. Labour’s response meanwhile largely avoids mention of its party leader, according to a sample of more than 77 adverts sent out by party HQs to over 2,000 Facebook users that have been collected by a new initiative called Who Targets Me. The two main parties are expected to spend well over £1m between them during the 2017 general election by exploiting Facebook’s ability to target specific voter groups with tailored messaging. The rise of Facebook, which now has some 32m accounts in the UK, has empowered campaigners to experiment with video, beyond the strict limits of the traditional televised party election broadcasts. The ability to splice together TV footage and post it to Facebook streams within hours of an event is bringing to Britain elements of the “attack ad” culture previously more prevalent in the US.
Theresa May did her first Facebook Live Q&A today – and more than 10,000 people reacted with the ‘angry’ emoji. Viewers of the Tory leader’s first live online interview could react in real time to what they heard – whether they liked it, loved it, laughed at it or it made them angry. There’s also a flower emoji, and nobody’s really sure what that means. By far the most popular emotion expressed by viewers of the broadcast, hosted by ITV News, was anger. Some 10,163 people reacted angrily, compared to just 4426 who pressed the ‘like’ button, and a mere 1274 who clicked the ‘love’ heart.
Jeremy Corbyn hijacked Theresa May‘s first ever appearance on Facebook Live to demand a TV debate. But Mrs May dismissed his call, saying that it was more important for her to take questions directly from voters. Among the scores of questions, Mrs May was asked to discuss her experience of type one diabetes. The Tory leader revealed that she injects herself with insulin four or five times a day but urged fellow sufferers not to allow the illness to hold them back from doing what they want in life. Mrs May will hope the unorthodox appearance will improve her standing among young voters – the only group generally polling in favour of Mr Corbyn. But the interview was bombarded by almost 10,000 people smashing the ‘angry’ button – far outweighing ‘likes’ and ‘loves’, which while the interview was taking place added up to about 5,000.
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn gatecrashed Theresa May’s Facebook Live event to directly challenge the Prime Minister to a head-to-head televised debate ahead of the General Election. The proposal, which was posted on the livestream, was brushed off by Theresa May, who claimed it would be more important to take questions directly from voters themselves. Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise appearance came as the Prime Minister participated in the first of ITV’s Facebook Live events. The series of online events will see political leaders answer questions sent in by users of the social media website over the coming weeks. Around halfway through the Q&A session, presenter Robert Peston informed Mrs May he had received a query from “Jeremy Corbyn of Islington”. The message said: “Hello Theresa May, as Prime Minister you’ve served your elite friends by giving them tax cuts when wages have stagnated, house-building is at its lowest since the 1920s, there are 20,000 fewer police on our streets since 2010 and the NHS is in crisis. “Do you not think the British people deserve to see me and you debate live and on television?”
BREXIT negotiator Guy Verhofstadt today insisted that Britain must end up worse off after leaving the club otherwise there is “no point” in having a European Union anymore. In a series of candid remarks the former Belgian PM said most Britons, including leave voters, did not want the “brutal exit” being pursued by Theresa May and promised to secure a special deal with the UK. However, he warned that the terms of that agreement will necessarily have to be worse than those Britain currently has a member otherwise everyone else will leave the club too. He said that premise would form the “foundations” of the bloc’s negotiating position for the upcoming divorce talks, demonstrating the tough task Mrs May faces in securing a deal she can sell to UK voters. Mr Verhofstadt made the remarks at a live debate about the future of the EU hosted by the France 24 news channel, at which senior eurocrat Frans Timmermans also spoke.
Non-Europeans can get residency in the UK by marrying citizens of European Union (EU) nations in overseas ceremonies which they do not even have to attend, thanks to freedom of movement laws. Details of the practice emerged on Sunday when the Daily Mail reported that Ghanaian migrant Albert Awuku “scored a major victory” at the Appeal Court after Home Secretary Amber Rudd allegedly changed her position and allowed the case to go forward. The African’s landmark four-year legal battle to live in the UK centred around a ‘proxy wedding’ conducted 3,000 miles away in Ghana which he did not even have to attend.
BRUSSELS is facing yet another populist nightmare with the collapse of Austria’s coalition government sparking an early general election later this year. Voters will head to the ballot box with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) currently leading the polls as the battered EU has to prepare itself for another nail biting campaign. The bloc had recently stabilised with victories over populists in the Netherlands and France and had just the German election, which pits to pro-EU candidates against each other, to contend with this year. But now it faces a new fly in its ointment with the developments in highly eurosceptic Austria, which came within a whisker of voting in a far-right president earlier this year. The country is now being led by foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, who has taken over control of the centre-right People’s Party (OVP) after a coalition with chancellor Christian Kern’s left-wing Social Democrats (SPO) collapsed.
EUROPEAN leaders want to export the continent’s southern border to Africa in a bid to stem crossings of the Mediterranean and prevent a fresh migrant crisis. In a letter to eurocrats the interior ministers of Germany and Italy have called for new EU-backed border posts to be set up on the frontier between Libya and Niger to vet would-be asylum seekers. War-ravaged Libya, which is in a state of political chaos, is now the main gateway to Europe after a deal between Brussels and Turkey last year effectively closed that route off to economic migrants. And EU officials have long spoken of it as the next major flashpoint in the migration crisis, saying the route must be closed down to prevent a rush of newcomers from central and sub-Saharan Africa.
Lawmakers in Greece started a four-day debate Monday on whether to approve a new package of spending cuts that will extend the number of years Greeks have lived under austerity to more than a decade. Amid confirmation that the country’s battered economy is in recession again, unions have launched a wave of protests ahead of a general strike on Wednesday. The latest round of austerity measures, which form part of an agreement between the Greek government and international bailout lenders, will involve additional pension cuts in 2019 and higher income tax in 2020. Without the new measures, Greece would face the prospect of not getting the rescue money it needs to avoid potential bankruptcy this summer when it faces a big debt-repayment spike.
Greek seamen and journalists have walked off the job a day before a nationwide general strike to protest new austerity measures as Greece struggles to emerge from a seven-year financial crisis. The 48-hour seamen’s strike starting Tuesday will leave ferries servicing the country’s islands tied up in port for two days. Journalists are holding a 24-hour strike, pulling news broadcasts off the air from 6 a.m. (0300 GMT). Wednesday’s general strike is expected to affect services across the country, from schools and hospitals to public transport. Air traffic controllers have declared participation with a four-hour work stoppage. Workers are protesting a new deal with Greece’s international creditors that imposes a raft of new tax hikes and spending cuts beyond the end of its third bailout in 2018.
The European Commission have promoted a bizarre pro-open borders cartoon, which is being shown in cinemas across France. The cartoon, entitled ‘Eurodame, Help!’ has been produced by mass migration activists, Europeans Without borders, and has the European Commission plastered over it at the end and the top of their website. The video depicts a migrant family passing through EU’s border agency, Frontex (yes the EU does apparently have a border force), when all of a sudden, they are saved by a fairy wearing a European Union t-shirt…Who whisks them off to Eastern Europe…on a flying carpet (we kid you not!) Where they are greeted by a hostile crowd who chant: “No refugees here!” The group then decide to try their luck in Western Europe… Where they are greeted by ‘an eager crowd which takes care of them, giving them food and clothes’, according to the video’s script. The family are then housed by a nice family and everything is hunky dory.
A Européens Sans Frontières (Europeans Without Borders) video sponsored by the European Commission depicts the EU as a fairy godmother bringing migrants to Western Europe after ‘racist’ Eastern Europeans refuse to welcome them. The short film, titled Eurodame, Help!, was funded in part by the European Commission, the French government, and third-party groups such as the Fondation Hippocrène. Fondation Hippocrène is a non-profit organisation which has funded a number of projects alongside George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations network and says its mission is to “promote the construction of genuine European citizenship” by targeting young people. The animated short opens on a migrant man, his hijab-clad wife, and their two young sons approaching the gateway of a forbidding wall, with the words FRONTEX emblazoned above.
Judges at the European court of justice have gathered to rule on a landmark case that could have widespread implications for all EU citizens applying for British passports. The court in Luxembourg will consider whether the British government has breached the family rights of a dual British-Spanish citizen seeking to have her Algerian husband live with her in the UK. In a rare sitting, the full panel of 15 judges met to hear the arguments of the British government and of the Spanish woman in the Grand Chamber on Monday after the case was referred there by the high court in London last year. Such is its significance that Spain and Poland, in addition to the UK home secretary, also made legal submissions.
Free movement of people will end after Britain leaves the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn has said, as he vowed a Labour government would implement a “managed” and “fair” migration system if elected in four weeks’ time. It comes after the party leader risked confusion over Labour’s immigration policy earlier this year after apparently backing free movement – one of the EU’s “four freedoms” – just hours before giving a speech in which he was due to say his party was not “wedded” to the principle. But when asked by ITV’s Julie Etchingham what controls a Labour government would implement on immigration, Mr Corbyn said there would “fair” immigration but refused to be drawn on specific numbers.
BORIS Johnson dropped Britain’s long-standing efforts to stop an EU army – in a bid to curry favour with Brussels ahead of crunch Brexit talks. In a major shift in stance the Foreign Secretary said Britain will “not stand in their way” as he met his European counterparts for a summit in Brussels to discuss plans to build a HQ in the Belgian capital for EU military training missions overseas. Aides said Mr Johnson made clear the UK is “not a fan of anything that goes onto look like an EU army” and added: “Whatever happens, EU military cooperation cannot step on the toes of Nato.” But sources conceded there was “only a certain amount we can do to hold things up” due to our decision to leave the EU. Instead Mr Johnson will focus his efforts on stopping the new military centre being called an “operational headquarters”.
BORIS Johnson this morning indicated that Britain will not seek to block Brussels’ plans to establish its own military headquarters despite the Government’s previous resistance to the idea of an EU army. Arriving in the Belgian capital for a meeting of European ministers, the foreign secretary said the UK had some concern over the “language” of any agreement but would not ultimately “stand in its way”. Downing Street has signalled that it wants to continue military cooperation with the EU after Brexit, but it is believed to be wary of being sucked into a future euro army by the wording of an agreement between member states. EU diplomats said that the UK was currently “blocking” the proposal and that its principle objection was to the use of the words “operational HQ” appearing in the text.
New centre-left party
A new centre left alternative to the main political parties could emerge in the event of a Conservative landslide at the general election, leading Liberal Democrat Sir Vince Cable has suggested. The former Business Secretary told The Independent said there was a lack of a “unifying voice” for “vast numbers” of voters who have centre-left, pro-business views and also believe in social justice. “There are vast numbers of people in the country who I think want that kind of politics, but don’t find it and don’t know how to get to it at the moment,” he said, “The Lib Dems are trying to provide that, but we’ll have to see after the election what the relative strength of the force is.”
UKIP has accused Theresa May of stealing its policies, and vowed to remain a political force even if it fails to win any seats in the General Election. The party’s economic spokesman, Patrick O’Flynn, said there was “still a stench in the political air” over favouring the rich and powerful despite the Prime Minister’s recent attempts to woo Labour and UKIP voters. Issuing a series of challenges to the Conservatives over their plans for the economy, Mr O’Flynn said more should be done to tackle big business rather than “dumping on the up-and-comers”. Speaking at a policy launch in Westminster, he said: “We could I think be forgiven for finding it galling that the ever-pragmatic Tory party has lately donned so many of our clothes – and isn’t it interesting, by the way, that Mrs May is being ferried around the country in the very battlebus that was used for the Conservative Remain campaign this time last year? “Rather like her, it’s had a message respray in the interim.”
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has promised to fight tax avoidance by large “international corporations” whilst opposing the Conservatives’ “attack on white van men and women”. Patrick O’Flynn, the UKIP Economics spokesman, said his party would fight a proposed National Insurance (NI) increase for the self-employed and continue to push for foreign aid to be slashed after the general election. The party used the press conference in central London Monday to slam the Tories for stealing some UKIP policies, with Mr. O’Flynn addressing members of Theresa May’s government directly. In an open challenge to Chancellor Philip Hammond, he said: “First, he could and should explicitly rule out unleashing a new national insurance raid on the self-employed.
Labour will pledge £5billion a year to create a universal childcare service for every family in Britain. In a landmark pledge Jeremy Corbyn will vow to extend 30 hours-a-week of free nursery care – currently only promised to working parents – to every family regardless of their circumstances. The massive entitlement, bringing the value of state-backed childcare to £12.5bn a year, would be available from the day every child turns two years old until they start school, even if neither parent is in work. Labour said an additional 1.3million kids across Britain will benefit from the policy if the party wins the election on June 8. The spectacular pledge – only hinted at in last week’s leaked manifesto – will be the centrepiece of the party’s official election manifesto, to be launched at a glitzy event in West Yorkshire on Tuesday.
One of the world’s leading drug companies is facing a fine of up to £220 million for increasing the cost of cancer medicines after the EU launched an investigation into alleged price hiking. The European Commission yesterday opened a formal investigation into Aspen Pharmacare following information that the company had “imposed very significant and unjustified price increases” for five lifesaving drugs. The Europe-wide investigation marks the first time that the commission has investigated a drug company for excessive pricing. It comes after an investigation by The Times which revealed last month that Aspen had aggressively pursued price rises across Europe after buying the rights to the five cancer drugs from the British company Glaxosmithkline (GSK).
NHS nurses with dementia should be allowed to carry on working, according to the profession’s top body. The Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favour of making dementia a special case when interpreting rules on whether a medical diagnosis signalled the end of a career. The move aims to keep experience, skills and knowledge in the NHS, nurses said, although patient groups warned that it could put safety at risk. The Alzheimer’s Society welcomed a “progressive step” after delegates at the annual RCN congress in Liverpool voted to “develop . . . a strategy for supporting members with dementia to continue nursing”.
The mission to discover whether Proxima B has the potential to support life has taken a new and exciting twist. Researchers have embarked on the first steps to explore the potential climate of the exoplanet, which has been dubbed ‘Earth 2.0.’ Their findings indicate that the planet has a climate that could be habitable, reinforcing the idea that it could host alien life. Proxima B was discovered in August last year orbiting our closest neighbouring star, Proxima Centauri, which is just 4.2 light years (25 trillion miles) away from Earth. Its nickname of ‘second Earth’ arose due to the fact that it is of similar size to our planet, and was thought to have an atmosphere like our own. Early studies suggested that the planet is in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri – the region where, given an Earth-like atmosphere and suitable structure, it would receive the right amount of light to sustain liquid water on its surface.