Parties reject code of conduct for elections

The political parties have rejected pressure from the advertising

industry to agree a new code of conduct for the forthcoming general

election campaign.

Political watchdogs are predicting a 'dirty' and highly personalised

campaign because the parties' ads will not be covered by the industry's

code of practice for the first time since it was introduced.

The Committee on Advertising Practice exempted party ads following the

controversial ban on a Tory ad showing Tony Blair with 'demon eyes' in

the run-up to the 1997 election.

The parties have refused to take up pleas by the industry and the

Committee on Standards in Public Life for them to agree their own code

of conduct.

'There has been no attempt even to talk about it,' a Tory official


The committee called for the newly created Electoral Commission, which

will supervise election spend, to police a new code, but this has been

blocked by the Government, which said the independent commission would

be sucked into party-political disputes.

Although Labour blame the reluctance of the Tories and Liberal Democrats

to agree a code, officials in all three parties believe that it would be

almost impossible to draw one up. They also fear that any attempt to ban

an ad might fall foul of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees freedom

of expression.

Industry leaders are disappointed that the politicians spurned their

offer of help to draw up a code. Andrew Brown, the chairman of the CAP

and director-general of the Advertising Association, said the business

might now be brought into disrepute. He said: 'I don't see why

politicians should regard themselves as a different, superior species

that don't need regulation. They seem to think everybody else does.'