853 election exclusive – updated: Greenwich’s Conservatives have had a billboard ad promoting a rejected council election candidate taken down after a bank holiday weekend when it would have been seen by thousands of people.
The ad, on Bugsby’s Way in Greenwich, implored locals to “Vote Jasmine 5th May 2022 For Greenwich Conservatives”, alongside the party logo.
But the advertisement, which had been up since at least Friday and was only removed this morning, was posted without the consent of the local party. Officials have contacted the police about the issue because the advertisement did not contain small print containing key details about who is behind he campaign – meaning it could break electoral law.
The ad featured Jasmine Cannon-Ikurusi, who had hoped to stand for the Tories in Thursday’s poll for Greenwich Council – and had started her own publicity campaign. But she was told she could not go on the ballot paper for Plumstead & Glyndon ward because she does not live, work or own property in the borough.
Cannon-Ikurusi, who was brought up in Plumstead but lived in north London until recently, said the ad was paid for by the company that owns the billboard, and it had refused to take it down until this Sunday.
However, the billboard company, Clear Channel, says it does not donate political advertising. It said that while Cannon-Ikurusi had asked for a new advertisement to replace the “Vote Jasmine” poster, contractors had put up the old design in error.
Even though that area of Plumstead has consistently returned Labour councillors since before the First World War, Cannon-Ikurusi booked her own advertising campaign in the South London Press and on the News Shopper website and has been running a Facebook page to document her efforts.
And even though the billboard was essentially worthless, she still posed with it for her social media followers.
“My family and everyone thought, you know what, despite it all not standing, you guys will still take memories of it,” she told 853.
“I did a post on Friday just as an encouragement, for anyone who has a dream.”
Despite not being picked, she still appears in a photo on the front of the party’s local manifesto with local party leader Nigel Fletcher, which was taken at an event for hopeful candidates earlier this year.
“Call me delusional, but I’m just someone who believes the world can be changed. I spent 20 years of my life in Plumstead and I’m passionate about my area,” she told 853.
“I would never be associated with a party that doesn’t celebrate diversity and unity,” she told the MyLondon website at the time. She said that Theresa May’s Stand for Women campaign had attracted her to the Tories.
“I wouldn’t believe that someone like me, from southeast London, is running for councillor,” she said in a campaign video.
She won just 307 votes in Hoxton East & Shoreditch, coming a distant third, and she is said to have made little impression on the political scene in Hackney. Nomination papers show her as living just inside the borough, in Finsbury Park.
Cannon-Ikurusi told 853 that the Hoxton experience “should have sent her running from a Labour-centred area”. But, she added: “I always wanted to stand for somewhere I have an attachment with. Somewhere that I can resonate with and make a change. So that’s why I chose Plumstead.
“That’s the area where I grew up. Why not stand for somewhere where you’ve seen the everyday issues and see if you can make a change. Even if I wasn’t going to win this year, I was still going to try again. It’s an area where I believe that a change could happen and hopefully given the opportunity, I can make that change.”
After discussing standing for the Greenwich party, she was left so convinced that she was standing that booked her own publicity blitz, including leaflets and flyers, which have now had to be destroyed. “Trying to revoke everything has been really hard, as you can imagine,” she said.
She said that she got sponsorship from the billboard company after “telling them what I stand for and what I represent”. The company has been contacted for comment.
“I’m very good at networking – trying to get the word out … as a charity owner, you know, how to get things for free,” she said.
But Cannon-Ikurusi insists she was told “very late” that she was not standing – and by then, she says, it was too late to stop the ads.
“As far as I knew, I was a chosen candidate. And then they told me there were due to be signed nomination papers, and I wasn’t on their electoral register.
“So I was like, that’s a bit strange – I’ve always been at my mum’s address in Plumstead. I’ve just moved to Bromley a few months ago. Then I told them to put down my office address in Greenwich where we do delivery services for the charity.
“I sent an email asking what had happened with the nomination papers, I hadn’t heard anything. And the agent said the deadline had passed.
“I was like, what do you mean the deadline has passed? Why didn’t anyone say anything to me? Why is it that I have to be sending emails? You know, I’m campaigning, I’m doing everything I can to see that a change can happen in Plumstead.”
Under electoral law, to run for a local council, a candidate needs to have been on that area’s electoral register for a year, owned property or had a job there for a year.
Tory sources in Greenwich say they had no idea about the campaign until they were told about an advertisement in the South London Press on April 8, featuring a big Conservative logo, and insist that she was then ordered to cease all activities.
“Jasmine for Plumstead Councillor – stand with me and stand for change. Vote on May 5,” readers were told. However, when lists of candidates were released two days before, she was nowhere to be seen. There was also no ward called “Plumstead”, as boundaries had changed.
A full-page ad followed a week later, on Good Friday. Neither contained an imprint – small print saying who is legally responsible for the ad.
With the SLP’s print edition being little-seen in the Plumstead area, the blunder may have only been noticed by a handful of political activists.
However, at the end of last week, party officials were then shocked to see a “Vote Jasmine” billboard appear on Bugsby’s Way – and even more surprised to see it appear on her Facebook page.
The billboard also failed to carry an imprint on it, despite it carrying the Conservative logo. At the same time, the News Shopper website ran digital versions of her SLP ad.
It is a criminal offence for a printer or promoter to publish printed election material without an imprint. This requirement does not not apply to digital advertising such as the Shopper ad.
Cannon-Ikurusi said she was unaware of the law on campaign advertising. “I’m very new to this – I’m not quite sure what does an imprint means,” she said.
When it was explained to her, she said that the Conservatives should have told her about the law.
“I think there’s a bit of disorganisation,” she said. “So imagine if you’re very new and becoming a councillor … imagine if I get a volunteer or staff joining my charity, I would say, this is the policy document. These are how things are done. These are the dos, these are the don’ts. I’ve never been given anything official or even told, like, these are the things, you know, parameters you can do.”
The billboard could also lead to a further headache for the local Tories, as there are strict spending limits on all election publicity, and all spending must be accounted for: voters can ask to see the invoices themselves once the poll is over.
Cannon-Ikurusi’s case throws up an uncomfortable fact about local democracy under the first-past-the-post system. At least half of the 185 people standing in Greenwich on Thursday are “paper candidates” with no chance of winning, but placed on the ballot paper to make sure that party at least offers its supporters a name to vote for.
Parties struggle to find these makeweights – particularly if the national party’s antics has driven their members away – sometimes calling in old favours or roping in spouses or other family members at the last minute. In Greenwich, only Labour and the Conservatives have managed to fill every spot.
Paper candidates are usually asked to keep quiet for a month, and maybe help out in a winnable ward instead. They occasionally they go rogue and leaflet their own roads or do their own mini-campaigns – all of which causes a legal headache when it comes to accounting for what money has been spent where.
But Cannon-Ikurusi went much further, with the first billboard seen in a Greenwich local election for decades, hoping that she could break the mould.
“I was just hoping they would look at the individual, someone who genuinely knows the people, who grew up on Plumstead High Street, who would genuinely make a change,” she said.
“I hoped that I wasn’t just warming up the chairs – that I was someone who potentially had a chance to make a change in Plumstead.”
Clear Channel, which owns the hoarding, told 853: “We can confirm that this campaign was booked by Jasmine Cannon-Ikurusi as Clear Channel UK does not donate media space to any political candidates or parties.
“Our team acted promptly on Jasmine Cannon-Ikurusi’s request to change the poster design, however, the original poster was posted by a third party contractor in error and contrary to our instructions. The poster has now been removed and will not reappear again.”
Greenwich Conservatives said in a statement: “This individual is not a candidate, and has been repeatedly asked to cease this unauthorised campaign activity.
“As they have persisted, we have referred the matter to the police and the Electoral Commission for further action. The Conservative Party has suspended their membership of the party pending an investigation.”
Updated at 5.15pm to include the removal of the hoarding and the statement from Clear Channel, and at 7pm to add a new photo.
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