As many of you are aware, the closest election battle in a generation reached fever pitch as the Conservative Party paid for premium space in the local press to make their final plea to voters in marginal seats.
In an unprecedented move, the Tories purchased a full advertisement ‘wrap’ around this newspaper and a series of others across the country the week before polling day in a bid to persuade any voters still undecided.
Just two weeks ago, Labour paid for the premium page one advertising spot in the Lancaster Guardian for their Morecambe and Lunesdale candidate and have run multiple advertisements in the title and sister title The Visitor.
Both parties have placed similar advertisement campaigns in other marginal seats across the country belonging to Johnston Press and other newspaper groups.
However, last week’s Conservative wrap has caused many of you to fear we are taking a political stance, which is absolutely not the case.
This was nationally sold advertising, marked as advertising, and not pages produced, written, edited or influenced in any way by the editorial team here in Lancaster and Morecambe.
As we go to the polls today, let me make it quite clear this newspaper does not support any political party. We have always accepted advertising from legitimate parties – although we have never seen a promotional push on quite this scale before.
The Guardian’s editorial stance under my editorship has and will remain staunchly politically neutral, an approach that my hard-working, locally-based team has enforced carefully and with integrity while seeking to provide fair and equal coverage of the news, personalities and issues surrounding both the general and local elections.
This major advertising campaign on the eve of a neck-and-neck general election shows that despite every form of lobbying, national politicians see the local press as one of the most important and effective means of communicating their message.
Advertising is the lifeblood of a free and independent local press, subsidising the cost of the newspaper to readers who might otherwise have to pay several pounds for each edition, and funds the objective journalism that is the cornerstone of a local democracy.
Advertisements do not in any way imply we either endorse the party or its message any more than any other product or company.
Please note a full page wrap was offered to the Labour party in advance of last week’s Conservative advertisement but they declined.