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Panorama Friday, 24 May, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Money for Votes
Government TV advertisement targeting benefit fraud
Money for Votes

A Labour Councillor has expressed her disappointment that her party has been "using money to buy votes".

Elaine Abbot, who has worked selling advertising for 17 years, is unimpressed by New Labour's campaigns that appeared just before the 2001 general election.

Speaking to Panorama about the government's record levels of spending on advertising, she said:

"I know it's expensive and I know in some instances it works. In a lot of instances it works. But I don't think the benefit fraud campaign was value for money.

Ineffective advertising?

"Very few people condone fraud of any kind, but the people who are committing benefit fraud know it's wrong, know they're doing wrong, and they're not going to stop just because they see an advert telling you that they shouldn't be doing it."


It was to let people know that they were considering benefit fraud as a serious issue

Elaine Abbot
Even the government's own research reveals that, after the campaign, people "perceived benefit fraud as easier to commit".

Elaine has concerns about the motivations behind this campaign.

"I don't think it was a serious attempt to target benefit fraud", she told Panorama.

A different aim

"It was to let people know that they were considering benefit fraud as a serious issue. People who probably had given the government grief about benefit fraud. The people who would not normally be Labour supporters but the government was hoping to court."

Elaine Abbot
Elaine Abbot remains committed to Labour, despite disappointment over their advertising
The advertisements were aimed at members of the general public who were not on benefit, as well as claimants themselves.

By publishing advertisements in newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, New Labour hoped to reach and change the attitudes of opinion formers.

Abbot, who was re-elected this May, said: "I'm absolutely certain that all parties do it when they're in government, but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth that it's my party that's doing it."

Is the country's biggest advertiser using your money for party political messages? Panorama investigates, Sunday 2215 BST



FORUM
See also:

11 Feb 02 | UK Politics
31 Aug 01 | UK Politics
21 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.


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