A SPOOF news article went viral across social media recently which claimed that Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson murdered squirrels for fun.

The satirical article was designed to appear as though it was from a legitimate news source – The Mirror – and said that “harrowing’” footage had been uncovered which showed Ms Swinson killing squirrels using a slingshot while shouting “pleb bunnies’” at the poor creatures.

As hoaxes go, it wasn’t particularly sophisticated. Those who are social media savvy would have quickly spotted it as a fake. But as the post spread across Facebook, some were taken in and commented to express anger at Ms Swinson and her apparent love of blood sports.

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Ms Swinson decried the article as “very fake news” saying: “I do think it’s worrying because it echoes what we’ve seen in other elections and particularly when you think about fake news and the technological possibility for deep fakes where videos can be faked, then there are questions about the role of publishers in circulating these things that aren’t true.’’

Ms Swinson is right to be worried about the impact fake news has in an election campaign and how it can damage the trust people have in politicians. It’s curious, therefore, that she seems content to allow similar distortions of information from within her own party.

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of a campaign of misinformation over their distribution of fake newspapers in areas using names similar to independent publications.

The LibDem “newspapers” have been used in more than a dozen seats and have been styled to look like genuine publications. It’s only if voters spot the small print they will see that the literature is in fact LibDem campaigning material.

Newsquest’s Toby Granville said it was outrageous that the LibDems had produced a paper to promote their candidate called The Gazette so close to an area where local newspaper Basingstoke Gazette is published.

He went so far as to warn the LibDems that if the material wasn’t pulled, he would advise all Newsquest editors not to publish campaign news for their party.

It’s not the first time Jo Swinson’s party has been criticised for sleekit behaviour during this General Election campaign.

Their penchant for including wildly misleading bar graphs on their election leaflets has prompted accusations of an attempt to deliberately mislead voters. The data used to produce the bar graphs is often not based on previous election results, but a leading question posed by the LibDems.

Is this just the cut and thrust of politics? After all, the LibDems and other parties have been using these tactics for years and the concept of politicians being economical with the truth to win votes is nothing new.

Earlier in the month, the Conservatives were roundly criticised for putting out a doctored video of Labour’s Keir Starmer, which had been edited to appear as though he wasn’t able to answer a question put to him by a journalist.

They ramped up their dirty tactics during the ITV leaders debates when their press office changed its Twitter name and profile photo to pass itself off as a fact-checking service.

There is a reason why misinformation during this campaign is provoking a level of anger that it hasn’t in previous elections.

Trust is central to the decision we are being asked to make on December 12. Labour says you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS. The Tories say you can’t trust Labour with Brexit. The SNP says you can’t trust Westminster with Scotland’s future. And the Liberal Democrats say they are the only party that can be trusted to stop Brexit.

The entire premise of their offering to the electorate is based on the claim that voters were lied to and misled during the EU referendum. In interview after interview, Ms Swinson has reminded us all of Vote Leave’s duplicity and reiterated her belief that, such was the scale of the con, the UK needs to be given the chance to think again.

Yet the shenanigans she is willing to not only tolerate but defend when it comes to her own party show that she’s no better than the rest of them.

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As is so often the case with the Liberal Democrats, their words don’t match their deeds. If you are going to cast yourself as a leader of unique integrity and commitment to truth in politics, you damn well better live up to that expectation.

On Tuesday, Ms Swinson won a court order forcing the SNP to withdraw an election leaflet which accused her of hypocrisy over fracking. The leaflet claimed Ms Swinson had accepted a £14,000 donation from a fracking company.

Ms Swinson’s lawyers successfully argued that this could be defamatory, saying that the donation was made by the director of Warwick Energy while acting in a personal capacity.

When it comes to SquirrelGate or the fracking-fankle, Ms Swinson is big on accuracy in politics: less so when it appertains to her own party.

A recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that her personal favourability ratings have taken a tumble – 50 per cent of adults surveyed are now unfavourable towards the LibDem leader – up nine per cent on the previous week.

The same poll showed a sharp increase in the number who think the LibDems have had a bad campaign week, up from 33 per cent to 39 per cent.

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These figures might make grim reading for Ms Swinson but they aren’t at all surprising.

Whether it is the extraordinarily earnest way she dodges questions, or her casual response in the affirmative that she would use nuclear weapons to kill millions of people, she has had an even worse campaign than her party.

Billed as a fresh face that would hoover up Remain votes across the country and make political capital from the woeful leadership from the two main parties, she has thus far failed to live up to her own hype.

It seems the more voters see of her, the less they like or indeed trust her.

When the result of the election is known, Ms Swinson might well view the week she was forced to deny murdering squirrels as a high point in the LibDem campaign. Because it got so much worse from there.