Tories in bust-up over advertising focus

Michael Howard has been urged by the Conservative Party's general election campaign director not to "waste" money on a huge nationwide poster campaign.

Lynton Crosby says the Tories should concentrate their fire on direct mail and telephone canvassing in key marginal seats. The proposal has sparked a new row between him and Maurice Saatchi, the Tory co-chairman who oversees the party's marketing.

The dispute is embarrassing for the Tories. Lord Saatchi wants to target 160 marginal seats - enough to give Howard victory. But Crosby, a veteran of four election wins in his native Australia, wants to focus on a much smaller number, which implies the Tories cannot win and are trying to cut Labour's majority.

Labour and Tory officials say their parties are heading for a low adspend and will rely on "tactical" poster launches rather than the blanket approach as they fight the most "personalised and local" campaign ever seen in the UK. But both parties expect to run national press advertising.