General Election candidates spend thousands on Facebook ads to persaude voters in Northampton South

Two candidates battling it out for the Northampton South constituency in the next General Election have paid out thousands of pounds for adverts on Facebook, an investigation by this newspaper has revealed.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 2:56 pm
Councillor Gareth Eales

Figures obtained by the investigations team at JPIMedia, owners of this newspaper, show that across the country Facebook users are being targeted with thousands of adverts seeking to influence their opinion of local politics.

The figures date from October 2018 to September 7, 2019 and show the amount spent on either Facebook or Instagram.

Sitting Northampton South MP, Conservative Andrew Lewer, has spent £1,245 and his Labour rival, Councillor Gareth Eales has topped this, spending £1,766. According to the figures, Councillor Eales is the second-highest spending councillor in the country.

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Northampton South MP, Andrew Lewer

He said: "These days elected representatives and aspiring elected representatives should use all platforms to raise awareness of issues that affect local people. That is precisely how and why I utilise social media, which is just one of the ways Northampton South Labour Party campaign and engage with citizens. To be clear any promotions are purely funded via donations from activists and not any public monies. My analysis is that I get a lot of positive feedback from my use of things like Facebook and long may that continue."

The figures also show that Councillor Sam Rumens, representing Kingsthorpe North on Northamptonshire County Council, spent £699.

Across the country, hundreds of individual MPs, elected officials and local authorities have placed nearly half a million pounds’ worth of promotions on the site in less than a year, we can reveal.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media giant last year began publishing details of who places - and pays for - adverts promoting political or social issues.

Spending on these ads, often targeted to specific groups, has totalled more than £6.4m nationwide since last October.

And while much of the attention has focused on the big parties and pressure groups on either side of the Brexit divide, the data also reveals the thousands of adverts placed at a local level, often seeking to influence constituents on what can appear to be seemingly mundane neighbourhood issues.

Under new rules Facebook introduced in October 2018, anyone placing a political advert must declare who paid for it.