A PIECE of political literature posing as a newspaper front page has been branded as an “underhand tactics to reach voters.”

With just three weeks to what some are calling the most important general election of a generation, political parties have been hitting the campaign trail hard.

In Winchester, Liberal Democrat candidate Paula Ferguson, has produced an election leaflet under the banner of the “mid-Hampshire Gazette”, an area which is covered by the Gazette.

The leaflet looks like the front page of a newspaper claiming, “Paula Ferguson leads the way” and that voters are switching to the Lib Dems.

Katie French, editor of the Basingstoke Gazette and Andover Advertiser, has said that the campaign leaflet has “shamelessly exploited the trusted format of a local newspaper for their own political gain.”

French said: “This is the second occasion this week where a major political party has resorted in underhand tactics to reach voters.

“It is deeply worrying that despite much debate about transparency and honesty, the Liberal Democrats here in Hampshire have shamelessly exploited the trusted format of a local newspaper for their own political gain. “

This is nothing more than a political advertisement dressed up as a newspaper. The look and feel of this advertisement is very convincing and readers will have to spot the small print in the top right corner to see the so-called Mid Hampshire Gazette is published by the Liberal Democrats.

“This is a flagrant attempt to manipulate voters by presenting them an advertisement in the form of a front page news story. Frankly it is insulting to the public who deserve better from one of the leading political parties.

“It is also offensive to local journalists, including my team, who work very hard to be the trusted and balanced voices in the community.

“As non-broadcast political adverts are largely exempt from regulation, we will be writing a letter of complaint to the Liberal Democrat party."

Ms Ferguson has been contacted for a comment