Advertising standards chair wants a public body to crack down on politicians’ ‘misleading’ claims


The Advertising Standards Authority’s outgoing chairman, Lord Christopher Smith, has said the United Kingdom would benefit from a body to independently confirm the claims made by politicians after the “misleading” European Union referendum campaign that resulted in the vote to leave the EU.

Lord Smith, who portrays himself as a “proud and passionate remainer”, also stated that the British citizens should have the opportunity to vote in a second referendum once the terms of the Brexit deal are clear.

“The referendum was a snapshot in time,” Smith told The Independent in an interview at the end of September marking his ten years as chairman and his decision to step down. “I think people would welcome the chance to have another look at the issue once we know what the provisions of departure are going to be.”

The Advertising Standards Authority, which addresses complaints from the public regarding misleading or inappropriate advertising, examined several claims made by politicians in broadcast advertising until 1999. However, the process was abandoned because, unlike the advertising industry, which finances the watchdog through imposing taxes and upholds its judgements, politicians do not support a similar process.

“None of the political parties will buy into a regulatory system,” said Lord Smith. “At the ASA, we fundamentally depend on buy-in from the industry.”

He served as the MP for Islington South and Finsbury for 22 years until 2005. Throughout this time, he worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn, the MP for neighbouring constituency Islington North.

“I like Jeremy a lot,” stated Lord Smith, who worked as the Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sport during the first term of Tony Blair. “I have a lot of respect for [Mr Corbyn]. He did a brilliant campaign in the election. It completely astonished me. Clearly, he is unassailable as the leader and will lead Labour into the next election.”

Lord Smith asked Corbyn to bring Labour politicians that had previously opposed his leadership back to the front benches.

“I wish he would now bring into his shadow cabinet the array of talents that are available in the party, including those who have opposed him in the past,” Lord Smith said. “I believe that Labour needs to show its strongest face to the public.”

At the end of September, Lord Smith will step down from his post as chairman of the ASA. His successor is yet to be named.