This is my first election as a newspaper editor and in the past week I was plunged head first into the murky world of political communications.

The Liberal Democrats published and distributed a four-page newspaper titled the Mid Hampshire Gazette in the catchment area of my paper, widely known in the county as the Gazette.

Leader Jo Swinson defended her party’s so-called ‘free newspapers’ as old as the hills. I think the phrase she was looking for is over the hill.

When we contacted Paula Ferguson, the candidate emblazoned across the front of the Mid Hampshire Gazette, she hurriedly refused to comment and referred us to the press office who have been equally reluctant to talk.

But this problem is larger than Jo and her army of printers.

Over the past week, I have seen countless iterations from all camps who have shamelessly exploited the trusted format of a local paper in a bid to prime and manipulate voters.

Whether it is the Conservative’s dubious Derby Post or Labour’s nefarious incarnation in south west London, there is no doubt about it: they are all at it.

And it has become increasingly, these tactics are well-known and widely accepted in the polished, wood-panelled halls of Westminster.

So much so that many a politico has whinged across my timeline in recent days: ‘What’s all the fuss about? This has always happened.’

Perhaps the answer is something only honest and decent people can understand. There is something morally repugnant about packaging an advert in the format of a local paper.

There is no Mid Hampshire Gazette. The creation of the name, the use of a masthead and its geographical connotations associated with a partisan political puff piece make a mockery of my newspaper’s core values.

The Lib Dems freesheet was handed out in the same week that my team slogged away to write, design and produce an eight-page general election pull-out that provided informative political coverage free from bias.

There was no Daedalian intent when I composed a tweet to condemn the fake Gazette other than sheer annoyance and a desire to call out a practice that is so clearly damaging to both politics and press.

I can see why demanding an all-out ban on political newspapers may be something for tipsy dilettantes to titter over at after-work drinks in SW1.

But in real life, this is serious business.

The public has never trusted politicians less and there is no one who understands this better than the regional reporters who are out in the constituencies day in and day out, talking to real people - not for the benefit of Twitter or for viral soundbites, but for honest reporting.

It doesn’t matter if this has been going on for decades - when it comes to light that something is morally dubious, the right thing to do is to stop it.

The Basingstoke Gazette has played a key role in bringing this to the attention of the wider media industry and today backs the National Media Association’s demands for an all-party ban.

Today we ask you, the reader, to support this. You deserve better.

While Jo Swinson, Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson publicly fight over one another to be the first to denounce fake news, remember that they have all been publishing, printing and distributing their very own brands of fake news.

An all-out ban isn’t about red versus yellow or blue versus red. This is about right and wrong. And banning these manipulative and damaging assaults on democracy is simply the right thing to do.