LONDON — Britons who want to leave the EU in June’s referendum are sending the government’s pro-Europe leaflets back to Downing Street in a furious protest against a campaign critics have slammed as scaremongering.
The "Post It Back" campaign on Facebook and Twitter has attracted support from hundreds of people who do not appreciate the taxpayer-funded, pro-European Union leaflets being delivered to their homes this week.
Kirsty Stubbs posted a picture of her leaflet on Facebook defaced with slogans including "What scaremongering rubbish" and "Vote Leave!" before sending it back.
Alex Armstrong sent his leaflet back to a freepost address for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives with an added special package in the hope of lumbering the party with a large bill for postage.
"Just sent back the propaganda leaflet to the freepost address with a suitably heavy attachment -- a lump of concrete," he wrote on Facebook.
Others burnt their leaflets or said they would use them as toilet paper, coffee mats or cat litter.
Eurosceptic MPs are also angry that Cameron’s government has spent over £9 million (11 million euros, $13 million) on the leaflets, which will eventually go to every home in Britain.
They forced a debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Monday.
"It is bad enough getting junk mail, but to have Juncker mail sent to us with our own taxes is the final straw," said Liam Fox, a senior Conservative, punning on the name of European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.
Another Conservative, Nigel Evans, spoke of his work as an election monitor and compared ministers’ campaign tactics to those in Zimbabwe.
"If in any of the countries I visit I witnessed the sort of spiv (racketeer) Robert Mugabe antics that I have seen carried out by this government, I would condemn the conduct of that election as not fair," he said.
More than 200,000 people have signed a petition on parliament’s website opposing the use of taxpayers’ money to pay for the "biased" leaflet, forcing MPs to schedule another debate on the issue for May 9.
The glossy, 16-page leaflet makes a series of claims including that leaving the EU would "create years of uncertainty and potential disruption" and that EU membership "makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK".
The main pro and anti-EU campaigns will each be entitled to send a publicly-funded leaflet to all households or electors, worth up to £15 million each, in the run-up to the June 23 vote.
But opponents say that by spending £9 million on this extra leaflet before the formal campaign period begins on Friday, the government is getting an unfair advantage.
Support for both camps is tied at 50 percent, according to an average of the six major polls.
Darren Halket set up the "Post It Back" social media campaign, which has drawn support from figures including UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
He expects that hundreds of thousands of people will eventually send their leaflets back.
"It’s public money that could be spent elsewhere on X number of nurses, help for the homeless, food banks," Halket, who runs a small business developing websites in Manchester, northwest England, said.
"This country is not in the best shape," he said. — AFP