Ministers are to urge Whitehall departments to shelve some of their advertising campaigns until after the general election in order to blunt Tory attacks on Labour for running 'party political' advertisements.
Ian McCartney, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for COI Communications, is to urge his fellow ministers to delay non-urgent ad campaigns until after the election, which is widely expected to be fought out in May.
His unusual move reflects concern among senior ministers that Labour could be vulnerable to renewed Tory charges of using the Government's rising ad budget for party propaganda. The Government's adspend rose by 7 per cent to pounds 113.4 million last year and a further increase is expected in the current financial year ending in April.
Under the long-standing Whitehall rules, most government advertising stops once a general election is called, but McCartney's move could halt some campaigns planned over the next few months.
The pre-election battle hotted up this week when William Hague unveiled a pounds 1.5 million blitz by Yellow M in which the Tories attacked the Government's record.
Posters at 1,000 sites illustrated ordinary voters asking the question: 'You paid the tax ... so where are the trains/the teachers/the police/your operation?' Ads also also ran in the national and local press, and were reinforced by a direct mail operation.
Hague said of Yellow M: 'It is a very good agency. It is working very closely with us.'
Labour maintained that the Tory blitz was effectively marred because the posters were on display in London for more than a week before their formal launch. The Tories' ambitious attempt to project their slogan on to the Dome was blocked after just two minutes by security staff.