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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Did any UK political parties use rent-a-crowd service?

Today's Independent contains the quite startling claim that Rent a Crowd, a company that provides 'background extras and crowds of people for anything and anywhere in the UK', has claimed thatit had "provided people at different locations across the UK in the build-up to the election."

Apparently, these supporter boosts are usually arranged by the PR agencies working for the political parties, either to lighten the load of administration or to provide a convenient buffer between the party and the company.

They say that company doesn't make public which parties it works with, but the fact they have the budget to bring external PR agencies on board suggests they are probably larger than an independent candidate who comes away with a handful of votes. However, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour all say that they were not aware of having worked with the company:

The tactic is allegedly also being used in the US by both Republicans and Democrats, where companies will go as far as to create positive signs for rallies and prepare enthusiastic vox pops for the cameras. Earlier this week, Donald Trump denied paying actors to cheer at his presidential bid announcement.

Rent a Crowd maintains that it only contributes bums on seats.

"The crowds we hire are never there to voice any political opinion but simply to beef up the numbers in the crowds," the rep added. "We get very little info on these other than a simple brief of where to be and to mingle into the crowd. "

Rent a Crowd also claims to have provided general humans for Gok Wan and Fulham FC and has contributed extra mourners at funerals.

If these rent-a-crowds were provided during the run-up to the General Election, but Labour, Lib Dems and Tories deny using them, then who did? The only other party with sufficient resources would be UKIP. They are not included in the list of denials in the article. Perhaps they would like to clear up this issue.
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