Conservatives row over change in pre-election strategy

A row has broken out in the Conservative Party over its decision to

stop running advertisements about public services from its general

election campaign.

Tory moderates have warned that the party's pitch for floating voters

has been damaged by plans to switch from posters featuring police,

teachers and nurses to ads promising tax cuts and mentioning the issue

of Europe.

The criticism is understood to be shared by Yellow M, the party's

agency, although it has denied speculation that there is a rift between

it and Conservative Central Office.

Some Tory candidates are disappointed that the party is no longer

running Yellow M's "You paid the tax, so where are the

nurses/teachers/police?" ads, which broke earlier this year. They

believe this was the right strategy for the election because most voters

cited health, education and crime as their main concerns.

Ian Taylor, a former Tory Science Minister, said: "The ads were

effective, but we undermined them. We should be showing how we could

deliver better public services for an equivalent amount of taxpayers'


As the election campaign entered its final week, the Liberal Democrats

accused Labour of stealing the idea for its poster showing William Hague

with Margaret Thatcher's hair. The Lib Dems said it mirrored an unused

ad by their agency Banc showing John Prescott with Ann Widdecombe's


Tony Blair denied negative campaigning, describing the TBWA/London ad as

"amusing, with a serious point". But the Shadow Chancellor, Michael

Portillo, said: "All Labour's posters are in-jokes intended to cheer up

N1 but they have no impact outside there at all."