Labour and Conservative candidates in Swindon have criticised the decision by Conservative head office to change of its Twitter account during the election debate on Tuesday.

While Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn argued on ITV for an hour the Conservative Central Headquarters account was given the title Factcheck UK and its colours and background were changed.

Many say this was an attempt by the party to mislead voters by presenting its arguments as facts sourced by an independent body.

While condemnation by Labour candidates in Swindon might be expected, criticism even came from the Conservative candidate for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson.

He said: “While it is right to challenge Labour lies during the campaign it should be open and transparent, it was simply wrong to do it in this manner.”

His Labour opponent Kate Linnegar said: “During the leaders’ debate, just as a voter was asking about the character and integrity of politicians, the Conservatives were yet again trying to mislead the public by rebranding their propaganda as an official fact check site. You couldn’t make it up. George Orwell was on the button with 1984. We’re living it.”

In South Swindon Labour candidate Sarah Church said: “It seems that the Conservatives have no limits on blatant falsehood in the public realm. Integrity and truth telling are necessary of those who seek to govern – these qualities are not on offer from Johnson’s Tories.”

But Conservative candidate Robert Buckland defended the move. “This was a simple device to correct false claims from Jeremy Corbyn throughout the debate – which regrettably there were many of. It tweeted factually throughout the debate. There was no attempt to pretend it was not CCHQ. The banner image clearly marked it as ‘from CCHQ’, the handle of the page remained clearly marked as @CCHQpress, the website it linked to was, the description of the account said factchecking Labour from CCHQ.”

Twitter has said it regards the stunt as an attempt to mislead the public and promised “decisive corrective action” if it happens again.

The Liberal Democrat candidate in South Swindon Stan Pajak said: “The Conservatives are very politically astute and very clever, but this just isn’t right.You can present yourself as a neutral when you are a party – it would be like the Lib Dems rebranding our account as ‘Google’ or something.”

Katie Critchlow is standing for the Lib Dems and Andy Bentley for the Green Party in North Swindon.