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Your comments on Tony in Adland
Your comments on Tony in Adland.

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I would like to raise one point. Two years ago the government declared it was cracking down on benefit fraud. I would like to know if this also applies to the departments involved. The reason I ask is because two years ago my wife had most of her DLA (Disability Living Allowance) cut. The reason: she was no longer entitled to it and had never been entitled to the benefit. This was the view of an independent tribunal, which I have spent two years fighting and have now won. The commissioner for social security (Edinburgh) agreed with the secretary of state that the decision of the tribunal was erroneous by law and my wife was given another tribunal to re-evaluate her entitlement to benefit. We were also successful in this as my wife now enjoys the highest rate of entitlement. However when I asked for compensation for the stress and the emotional torment that my wife and I had endured, not to mention the cost of losing £4000 for two years, I was told that I was not entitled to anything. I have full documentation to support my claims and have now complained to my MP.
David Bone

1) Re your BNP programme: surely the BNP's candidates should have been legally rejected by local Electoral Services Depts., on the grounds that the party clearly is guilty of openly inciting racial hatred(?).
2) In that context, particularly, is tonight's programme, attacking the Labour government, responsible in exposing New Labour's authortarian shortcomings in such a way as to encourage ANY opponent thereof, without any suggestion of a viable alternative and leaving viewers in fear of a repetition of the anti-Labour propaganda of the 1970s which resulted in cruel, pernicious and unbridled Thatcherism?
Richard Comaish (Orpington Labour Party)

I don't think I have ever seen such a hypocritical piece of broadcasting. The BBC has the nerve to take this government to task when for years it has spent billions of pounds of licence payers' money spouting propaganda for the same Labour party, under the guise of "balanced broadcasting", claiming to be putting out news when it is patently spewing out Labour party propaganda. Witness the debate (what there has been) on the single currency. The BBC has scandalously and shamelessly spent licence payers money and should be brought to book along with New Labour. What was behind the programme? Has the BBC and Tony had a tiff?

As always, when this Government is caught out they fail to put up a spokesperson when given the chance. I hope Panorama now investigates the abuses coming to light re. the introduction of freely available postal voting in the recent local elections?
Bill Peabody
South London

Well - after 5 years of New Labour government, the BBC has finally decided to air a programme that criticises some of their methods. Well done. Hope it's not another 5 years before the next.
Paul Rowlands

Last night's programme was appalling. I've heard of digging around trying to get a story but this was a disgrace. The content of the whole programme was bad enough with very little in the way of investigative journalism, but the way in which it was portrayed was even worse. The simple point is this - when any government brings out new initiatives should they not advertise to improve take up and target the people who really need to know? Things like Working Families Tax Credit and New Deal for Lone Parents needed to be publicised otherwise no-one would have known anything about them. It got worse as the programme went on - I'm no great supporter of Blair but the constant screening of him unveiling party political billboards during the last election campaign gave a clear impression that public funds were being used to finance this advertising. This of course is untrue. Panorama used to be a good current affairs programme but now it has become what it really is - a low budget sensationalist rag with little or no in depth content whatsoever.
David Neath

I thought the programme was unbalanced and put forward a very weak argument. The government ads might have been ineffective but it was stretching the point to say that they were party based rather than informational. In an effort to recruit nurses and make people aware that benefit fraud was being targeted, the government had to try and get its message across.

Your programme did an excellent job of exposing this activity by the government. Clearly what Labour did was morally indefensible. But with respect to Panorama, who cares? The wider public doesn't appear to. And who is to stop this government or any other doing it again? Surely the debate needs to be not so much did they do it as how can mechanisms be introduced to stop the government abusing its position. We need a watchdog with teeth.
Chris Davenport
Stockport, Cheshire

In business, advertising is all well and good for raising the profile of a brand or product, but to achieve results, there is no substitute for personal contact. What I wonder is what the government are doing to improve the 'contact' with their constituents and the UK Public at large and fix the gap in understanding and trust caused by all the spin.
David Pearson

I "shopped" a benefit fraudster - a neighbour from where I used to live who was claiming sickness benefit on the grounds of barely being able to walk and yet I saw him stride into the fields with his dogs every morning. Nothing was done and he continues to claim the benefit. I have a housemate who is genuinely in need of this benefit and I have no problem with my taxes paying for her - but if that neighbour wasn't getting it, my housemate could get more and have a higher standard of living and THAT is what makes me really resent the fraudulent neighbour.

An excellent demonstration of how this labour government is more focused on spin and PR to achieve its aims of retaining power, than actually delivering something concrete. We do not deserve a government like this... get out and vote against them next time!
John O'Neill

Government advertising/political party funding: Is no-one in the political village capable of thinking the unthinkable and simply doing less of the media blitz that is of questionable value, and using what funds parties have to do something more useful? We are all far more media literate and cynical these days, so none of it works, even at the margins. Do what other membership organisations have to do - make yourselves so attractive that people actively want to give you money through subscription. Bit of a pipe dream, really.
Derek Elder

Congratulations to Panorama for having the guts to hold this cynical, duplicitous and dishonest Labour government to account. Nothing that this shower do with our tax money surprises me anymore. Blair really will try anything to keep him and his self-regarding plutocratic elite in power for as long as possible.
Simon Jackson

I found the Panorama report on government spending prior to the last election fascinating and also very frustrating. I was convinced that New Labour were spending a great deal of tax payers money on advertising by stealth at the time but many said I was getting paranoid, your programme has vindicated me. What I find most annoying is the fact that no matter what you say now, they have conned their way into power and as a result there should be a way that they should pay for their actions. If I had my way I would say that they used unscrupulous methods to get elected and therefore the results should be null and void and the election should be held again but the chances of that happening are nil, I am certain. I find it quite ironic the BBC has brought this to our attention, for are you not just as guilty of spending tax payers money to get New Labour elected? I have complained, as have many others, for a long time about the way in which the BBC acts as the propaganda wing of New Labour. You gave a very biased account of the party prior to both the 1997 and 2001 elections and your air time is funded by Joe public, is it not? You severely trashed the Tories and put out distorted news stories about New Labour, many of which must have come straight from the then Milbank propaganda machine. In New Labour and Tony Blair we have the most deceitful bunch of politicians that have ever plagued our land and we have the BBC to thank for aiding and abetting their rise to fame.
Peter Condon

A very revealing programme. I had previously thought the campaign against benefit fraud was well intentioned. But the revelation that in fact fraud had gone up afterwards, and that the adverts were targeted at Channel 4 and the broadsheets was quite shocking. The nurses one I always thought was a party political broadcast anyway, and clearly an immensely ineffective targeting of nurse recruiting. I had never seen the single parents one, but if anything that was the worst of the lot! The repeated showing of the clips of Blair on his high horse back in the 80s should be thoroughly shaming for him. A textbook case of hypocrisy. I am more and more puzzled as to who actually votes for this lot! The Tories' sleaze looks more and more like a golden age of probity all the time compared to this bunch of idiots.
Jon Cooper

What a difference six years makes. We were promised the earth and received what we expected - nothing! I'm dizzy from the spinning! All the extra taxation and no delivery. The only extras we have are much improved sleaze and state control. I would like to say it makes me laugh but I feel more like crying.
Ann Hill

The civil service became more politicised under Mrs Thatcher but now it seems to be at the mercy of the government of the day. Wouldn't it be better for the country to give it its own independent voice. Government is becoming as authoritative as if we were living in a big empire. We cannot depend only on the opposition as they are so weak. We must be wary of becoming like 3rd world countries who have politicians getting away with whatever they want. We must think of something to avert this. A strong civil service to which people listen, exposing what they are being asked to do, would restore their traditional position without it becoming a 'Yes Minister' scenario.
Christine Ahmed
Newcastle upon Tyne

Shame on you Panorama to use the Lone Parent advert the way you did. Not only am I a Lone Parent, but I am also a Lone Parent Advisor. The New Deal for Lone Parent scheme is not by any means compulsory. The only part of it that is compulsory is that lone parents attend one interview per six months to see if there is anything we can do to help them. They get three letters asking them to come in to see their advisor and then after the third if they don't attend they get a small amount of their benefit suspended. I know of no client that this has happened to. Our clients are always rung before the third interview and they do come in to see us. This is where the compulsory part stops. I tell them what is on offer and it's up to them to decide whether or not to take up that help. Sometimes it is the right thing for lone parents to be able to go to work, but sometimes it's not beneficial. I can do a calculation to see if they would be financially better off in work; some are, some are not. Some would rather stay at home while the children are young and that is fine as well. The important thing is that for the first time ever there is help for lone parents and I believe the programme has totally bad-mouthed what I do. New Deal for Lone Parents is NOT compulsory. It is not a miracle cure for everyone either, but it's a start in the right direction for lone parents to be able to get out of the poverty trap and be able to decide whether they want to work or not. I work 24 hours a week and because I work over 16 hours a week I an able to claim working families tax credit and with the maintenance I get this enables me to have a reasonable amount of money to live on. This woman on your programme tonight would have had three letters before any action was carried out and probably a phone call inviting her in. It also states in the letter an amount of her benefit would be stopped, however all she would have had to do was to attend the interview, we can also defer interviews. I am cross Panorama. Even though I work for the civil service I am not talking politics here - just one lone parent to an other. Have empathy with my clients and do my best to advise them on what's best for them and their children.
Emma James
Newport, South Wales

In response to Gordon Hunter, he has tried to suggest that the pre-election peak in government advertising was all right, since many companies have peaks in advertising, but he has tried to illustrate this by quoting an example that clearly demonstrates why it was NOT!:
"... It is not normal to spend 80% of advertising budget in the last 3 months of the financial year" Ask M&S, Argos or Woolworth's how much of their advertising budget they spend in the 3 months prior to Christmas!" The analogy between Christmas for retailers and elections for political parties is a good one. The issue is that the adverts were intended to show that the government was addressing key targets, and they were aired just before the election. The charge is that they were aimed to promote the Labour Party, rather than UK government. Furthermore, whilst the "use up the remaining budget before the end of the financial year" feeding frenzy is a well known business occurrence, the programme demonstrated that that had not occurred in other years. The only difference this time around was that there was an election imminent.
Paul Rowlands

1. With all the TV advertisements illegally purchased by the government with taxpayer's money, just prior to the last elections in spring 2001, will the Labour Party reimburse the money involved to the tax-payer's kitty, now that this crime has been uncovered?
2. Will the responsible members of the government who carried out these illegal acts be properly charged with fraud? Who would start the action?
3. The thing that winds me up with this kind of thing is that government people can misspend huge sums of our taxes (eg Blair's white elephant at Greenwich), and no one goes to prison! It gets embarrassing for a week or so, until some other situation takes the headlines, and then it all blows over. No one carries the can, and the buck is quietly hidden somewhere. .........and they have the gall to wonder why people are withholding/ignoring their vote.
A. Leniston
East Grinstead

Tony, do us all a favour and start doing what you're paid for.

Perhaps the BBC should look at itself. During the 10 o'clock news last night the BBC advertised the Panorama programme. Surely the BBC News should report the news not promote its own programme? I found the programme presented views from many EX Civil Servants who seemed to work under Tories. Did the Tories move the goal posts in the late 80s? The programme makers used Tony Blair's complaints at that time but did not show any of the adverts which Mr Blair complained about. This therefore did not show a fair comparison between Labour and Tory government advertising.
David Stone

What delicious irony that the ministers and spinners who commissioned the ads about benefit cheats were themselves cheating the taxpayer. Well done, Panorama, for shopping them! No wonder, when Vivian White sought an interview, the supreme communicators of this government became uncommunicative. They can have no answer to the case he assembled and presented with such devastating forensic skill. Now Mr White and the Panorama team must observe how these popinjays puff themselves at our expense before the next election and any referendum on joining the euro. This government is so shameless and today's Civil Service so supine that I feel sure there'll be plenty more where last night's programme came from. In the meantime, thanks and congratulations for this brilliant exposé.
Blackheath, London SE3

Panorama scraping the bottom of the barrel: I never thought I would see the day. Vox pop testimony from nurses, and allegations from discredited sources, such as Lord Armstrong. TV campaigns have made speeding and drink driving socially unacceptable. More nurses, police officers and teachers have been drafted in to the professions partly as a result of positive ad campaigns. I see the programme in question didn¿t focus on the police or teacher recruitment, but just on the nurses. Why? because the editor knows that the NHS is the bigger hot potato. Journalism is about reporting facts, not innuendo. Throughout the programme the terms "allegedly" and "sources believe" were prominent. I image that your researchers took longer to dig out TV footage of Blair in 1989 than it took to compile 40 minutes of so called investigative journalism.
James Courtney

Congratulations are in order to the PM for a brilliantly conceived and audaciously executed scam! And what an excellent smoke screen to have previously accused the Tories of misappropriating tax payers money in the same way. Better luck getting the next one past Panorama, Tony.
James Woolf

I saw the Panorama programme on Sunday night and was quite surprised about how the Labour government has been using advertising for political gain. All of the adverts that were shown I had seen, and never thought of them previously of having a political bias. The facts seem to speak for themselves - "more than 50%+" of the advertising budget spent in the three months prior to the election. This is shocking and I hope New Labour is punished for this. But how can we punish them? The election has been won and they are in power for another 5 years. I didn't like seeing Tony Blair criticise the previous government on their advertising record, only to break their records by a mile as soon has he got to power. I hope the Conservatives make something out of this issue. New Labour, New Spin.

I have never voted Labour - so seeing this programme just compounds my sinister suspicions of all politicians who gain positions of power. It is a guaranteed certainty that they abuse it when it suits them. To think that old "Tone" spends my hard earned cash on HIS bull makes me (and no doubt countless other honest human beings) sick to the last. It's time we had a change. Bring back the Queen! All is forgiven! *sob*
George Duncan

There could well be a good programme to be made about Labour's advertising spend. Sunday night's Panorama wasn't it. An ill old man; a tired nurse predictably surprised at how much TV campaigns cost; a parade of retired public officials with an opinion. These are hack's tricks, not a reasoned argument. What does finding one critical Labour councillor mean? Everybody - except programme makers apparently - knows that perfectly decent, well-intentioned people can be wrong. Perhaps too lazy to do any research, the reporter was amazed that a campaign can have the opposite effect to that intended: or perhaps he is too unworldly never to have heard of advertising catastrophes like the Coca Cola Classic campaign. But not too unworldly to have put together a sequence starring himself in a pub, we notice, with the cynicism engendered by too much self-congratulatory current affairs reporting. At that point, the sheer transparency and shallowness of the programme became too much for me and I switched it off. Maybe it improved, but I doubt it.
Roy Stephenson

It seems the basis of New Labour is not politics but marketing. Sad to see New Labour trivialising real issues.

When will people realise that politicians will be politicians. They all need to sell themselves for the lucrative directorships which will come when they are out of office. As a rule of thumb there is no such thing as an incorruptible politician. At least the Conservatives are honest about it and we can trust them to be corrupt. I shall be voting Conservative at the next election on that principle. I will then not need to worry about the morality of government. That is of course if there is any point in voting at the next election. We will probably have abdicated to Brussels and have the euro by then.

Nothing seems to have got any better since Tony and his cronies took over. All he is bothered about is making a name for himself in history. Even his colleagues and his party are dispensable in his quest.
Les Jacobs

I would expect any party to do exactly what Labour did - Politics is an extremely complex affair and I think any office should be given more lee-way to make adjustments. On an international level, the present government has dealt with the issue very impressively - something the Americans should emulate.
A Gathoni

The Labour government's best advertisement is by results: so far singularly lacking.
Bembridge IOW

The Americans have an "impeachment" process. Isn't it high time that Blair and his ministry of spin were impeached? Or is the law such an ass that he can't be?

Show Tony Blair the speech he made in 1988/89 which we all saw on your programme, we all feel the same as to what he said in that speech. The government is doing it for their own benefit and not for the public sector. It's about time Mr Blair had doses of his own medicine.

I work hard for a living, and it seems to me that all my taxes get spent unwisely on everything from white elephants to the mind-numbing propaganda. My question is this: Do we need to prosecute Mr Blair for his flagrant abuse of the country's funds, and if not, why not? If I had used money from my employers for my own personal means - I'd end up in jail.
George Duncan

How wonderfully hypocritical of Mr Blair to refuse to comment on last nights allegations having, on numerous occasions, seen fit to deride the Conservative party's use of public funds. Surely what he and his cronies have done is defrauded the UK tax payer and flouted the rules on spending for the general election. Someone should be facing criminal charges over this blatant misuse of taxes. Or is Mr Blair once again going to claim that he was not aware of the link between the ads and electioneering; in the same way he has been continually unaware of the link between hefty donations to Labour party PLC and the passing of favours to the donors? Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law and what is just.
Colin Hand

I stopped watching the Blair-bashing, Conservative Panorama after the programme on the NHS, "just before" the 2001 Election, which contained outright lies and deception, and again used people with "independent" credentials. I was channel hopping and switched on to the last 10 minutes - that was enough - of your "in-depth" programme. You really plumbed the depths. I fully agree with the impartial comments from Gordon Hunter: March is the end of the financial year. The 2001 election you were referring to was not actually due till May 2002, but was brought forward, so as not to coincide with the Queen's Jubilee celebrations. In fact the election took place in June, not May, three months after the so called political propaganda. Three months is a long time in politics, bad timing I say, for such a "slick" government. As regards the independence of Lord Armstrong, Mr Bernard Duffy hit the nail on the head. He was proved to be Thatcher¿s lying lap dog and cost this country millions when the "Spy-catcher" trial collapsed, when, as Thatcher called it, he was found to be "economical with the truth". What "independent" credentials - good enough for Panorama. Pre the 1997 election, if you can remember, Mr Blair said he would stick to the Tory spending plans for the first two years, which he did, even though it caused him problems, lack of investment in the NHS, and especially, with the pensioners' 75p inflation based State pension increase. The Tories spent less money advertising for more nurses, more police, and more teachers etc. because they did not want any. They were too busy running down the public services. The "New Labour" benefit fraud adverts were intended to get the amount spent on Social Security Benefit down from the massive £100.3 billion inherited from the Tories in 1997. The Tories, from 1979 to 1997, increased spending on the NHS from £26 billion in 1979 to £46.3 billion at 1997, a total investment of £650 billion, £150 billion less than France, the No 1 Health Service. The UK NHS was No 18: what an international disgrace. Between 1979/1997 the Tories increased Social Security Benefit spending from £52.4 billion to £100.3 billion, to pay for the 3,500,000 unemployed, a total spend of £1,383.6 billion: twice as much as on the NHS, what a disgrace. These figures are "real growth" spending at 1998-99 prices. Your researcher must have really plumbed the depths of your archive department to find a clip of Mr Blair in 1989 when in opposition. I would really have liked to have heard the comments in full, and what they related to, not your edited version. I do not remember what position he held at the time, but Mr Neil Kinnock was the leader. I will be watching more Panorama programmes now, to learn how to be more "economical with the truth". I bet you don¿t enter these comments.
F Marsden

An excellent programme exposing how this Government appears to operate. The Kremlin operated in much the same way under the communists with high level jobs provided to Party friends, propaganda put out as truth and paid for by the public, ten year plans that somehow never seem to reach the 10th year and a desire for the leader to be the president over as many people and countries as possible. The only surprise in watching the programme was that I could in fact be surprised that the government has acted in such a manner.

It also bothers me that I didn't think anything was wrong with the advertisements when I first saw them. I now see them in a new light.

I thought the Panorama programme on government advertising raised a number of important questions. Did somebody make a mistake, an error of judgment, or were the rules deliberately bent in order to promote the New Labour government just before the election? I would like an answer to this question. I was particularly troubled by the fact that nobody from the government would be interviewed. This may be clever news management but is exactly the sort of behaviour that makes people cynical about modern politics. The other thing I am puzzled about is why didn't anybody in the news media notice these political "public information" advertisements when they were first aired? It also bothers me that I didn't think anything was wrong with the advertisements when I first saw them. I now see them in a new light.

I do not feel qualified to comment on the "Benefit Fraud" or "New Deal" campaigns. However, I work in the NHS and was very pleased with the ad. campaign to attract "returners" to the NHS. I also support the Labour Party but, if I had problems with this campaign I would not hesitate to voice them. My comments on the section of the programme dealing with the NHS recruitment campaign are as follows: 1.We do not only need more nurses and the campaign addressed this. I know that the ads had the extra benefit of making those of us who are not Doctors and Nurses feel more valued by Government than we ever have before. They were talked about at work and gave everyone a heck of a boost - intended or not, the campaign will have helped with the need to retain existing staff as well as with recruitment. It was a tremendous lift to morale it that it didn't "puff" professions but informed the public about what we do and how we can help. 2. Panorama criticised this as a "PR" job for the NHS. I do not feel that it did this overtly. However, it would have been a poor recruitment campaign if it had dwelt on the work still to be done to improve the NHS. It also seems appropriate that a Statutory institution SHOULD be promoted by the State, although I do not feel that this was the message of the campaign. 3.If the campaign had covered WHY we need massive recruitment of "returners" to the NHS then it would inevitably have been "political" - but it did not do this. 4. I do not believe that the timing of the this campaign was linked to the election. There had been an earlier campaign targeting nurses. It had been conducted by the NHS and it had not been very effective. There were calls in the NHS for a more effective campaign that also targeted other professions. There was a lot of discussion with the professional bodies and this was covered in the health "Trade Press" and professional publications. Nobody in the NHS should have been surprised that this campaign happened when it did. Not because there was an election coming up but because the preparations were regularly reported. Finally, I feel that the Government should be congratulated on this campaign, and that Panorama "misread" it (wilfully or not) simply because it happened when it did and the timing fitted the argument the team wanted to make. I hope that you get enough similar responses to persuade the team to go back and view this campaign afresh with a less jaundiced eye.
Liz Panton
Newcastle upon Tyne

Come on give poor Tony a chance, what's a little tax money spent on his PR matter, he has the task of selling out every English interest to secure his future in Europe to concentrate on.

Isn't this type of spin targeting the middle classes indicative of the form of media control employed by Clinton after he lost control of congress in the early 90's, thus ensuring his second term? In fact, isn't the whole "third way" concept including some of the key phrases a direct take of the Democrats success in the early 90's? It seems some of the themes don't translate well into our Parliamentary democracy, including a supposedly impartial civil service. What are the government's options now that the media, the all important opinion formers and middle classes see through these tactics?
James Brown
Walsall, UK

Your programme gave us an excellent first-hand insight into why voter turnout fell so sharply at the last election. It was not, as the government would like to believe, that the public at large is so satisfied that they don't see the need. Rather, it is the deficit of Labour voters who feel they cannot conscionably vote other than for Labour but are at once so reluctant to do so.
Alexander Davies
Streatham, London

I saw the advertising campaign on the hoardings (six were posted in less than a mile in my area) and rang the local Benefits Agency to say how pleased I was that at last they were going to do something about the cheats, only to be told that they were not actually doing anything. The ads were to get members of the public to report cheats. I then wrote to Alastair Darling's department and received a letter stating "the Targeting Fraud Advertising Campaign advertisements you mention are simply examples of how benefit fraud could be happening in real life and how benefit cheats do get caught. A campaign like this is not part of a quick fix attempt to tackle fraud but it does help us make it clear that benefit fraud matters to all of us and that it is not acceptable. "Campaigns against drink driving ran for many years and eventually delivered a major change in attitudes and behaviour. This campaign is part of a long-term strategy to help the public share the view that fraud is unacceptable, it's unfair and it's a crime. We want to reinforce honest behaviour by demonstrating that benefit cheats do get caught and penalised as a result of their dishonest behaviour." What a total waste of £3 million. These cheats have no feelings of guilt but openly boast of how they are cheating the system.

A poor programme short on fact, long on innuendo. Surely an appraisal of how successful the adverts had been ie how many more benefit fraudsters had been reported after the advert, how many more single parents had rung the helpline and how many more nurses had been encouraged to re-enter nursing and how many more recruits had applied to start nursing then a more balanced picture would have been presented. It could have been damning if none of the above had happened but it made one wonder if we weren't presented with that information because it did happened. How credible are old civil servants from the mid eighties who sat and watch Thatcher and the Tories do what they were accusing Labour of doing? Panorama used to do better.
P Skelding

As a working single parent, I voted Labour in 1997. My standard of living dropped dramatically, and I realised that the Labour government paid no more than lip-service to helping lone parents. Four years working in the NHS disillusioned me further, confirming my experience of government spin. Now as a struggling mature student trying to improve my future prospects, my standard of living has dropped even further still in spite of Tony Blair's alleged meritocracy. Thank you for such a revealing and informative programme, it's good to see some reality on TV rather than hype.
Ruth Silver

Excellent Panorama - but just touches the surface in the blurring of official "election expenses" and the use of both government and party monies which break the rules. On May 4 2001 (an important date in relation to tonight's Panorama) Waveney MP Bob Blizzard published his "annual report" - a 4 page wrap-round to the Waveney Advertiser, informing constituents about "the things I and the government have been doing." There then follows 4 pages of "working for you" - "unemployment cut in half" - "new NHS facilities" - "new cash for rural enterprise." At the time, all other General Election candidates complained that this report must be included in Blizzard's election expenses. Yes, it was paid for by the party - but New Labour said it was an "annual report", and thereby would not be included in expenses. Remember, the date of publication is important - May 4 2001. This year, Blizzard published his glowing 4-page "annual report" in April - just before the local elections (obviously, New Labour's year is shorter!) Though all candidates complained, on the basis that such propaganda be included in election expenses, nothing has been heard since. I shall be following this further... Hope you will too.
Rupert Mallin

I am amazed that your editor thinks that Lord Armstrong is in any way an authoritative commentator in relation to the subject matter of "Tony in Adland." Unless my memory has seriously failed, he was the civil servant who, at the time of "Spycatcher", was famously "economical with the truth" in the Australian courts. The reality is that he lied for the Conservative administration headed by Thatcher. What possible credibility does he possess? Clearly, he was prejudiced during his career in favour of his then master. Are you journalists really so naive as to think that he could be objective or that he would have challenged the advertising campaigns were he still Head of the Home Civil Service? You undermine an otherwise important thesis by trying to support it with the opinion, not I stress anything that would constitute "testimony", of such a tainted character. Personally, I cannot stand new Labour nor Blair's sanctimonious manner. However, as the present administration seems to be following the lead of the Conservatives during the Thatcher and Major years, your piece lacks balance by not looking at the wrongdoing of governments of different political hues. I did not vote in the last election since I do not think either of the main parties is made up of anything remotely resembling honest people. The surprise is that anyone in the BBC thinks otherwise.
Bernard Duffy

what about the possibility of taking legal action to force the Labour Party to foot the bill for these adverts since they were clearly party political?

I wrote two alternative campaigns for the government's benefits fraud initiative, while working in one of their agencies. It acknowledged the research showing people would "come clean" and re-enter the tax system if treated sensitively. A telephone line was due to be launched offering confidential advice as an incentive. It wasn't deemed politically agreeable and never happened. Ironically this is mild compared to my experiences in what used to be called Labour's Shadow Communications agency. I became aware of a coordinated approach between Labour MEPs and UK Unions to use Euro publicity grants for UK Party Political purposes! Now nothing surprises me.
Dominic Brennan

The programme was very interesting and enlightening. Instead of these [expert] people just complaining, what about the possibility of taking legal action to force the Labour Party to foot the bill for these adverts since they were clearly party political? What else can be done that the government will actually notice ? Telling them that it is wrong on TV won't stop them. Or what about obtaining consent of HM opposition, or 100% of a relevant select committee? Then only messages that were clearly for the good of the people would be let through. Tony or a future PM/party can just disagree with opinions or accusations without too many problems. Only the threat of the government's party or the individual people (as oppose to the taxpayer) being financially liable for mis-spending such as this will achieve results. Also, these "rules" or "guidelines" that were mentioned on what the government can advertise - who enforces this, who can decide if the rules are broken, and who decides the penalties if they are ? All of these must be 100% independent of the government, and I can only think of the judiciary here. Hopefully there are other independent bodies. One task: Some person/organization clearly needs to ensure that this cannot happen again at all in the future. Who is going to take this task on ? How likely are they to succeed ?
Milton Keynes

Firstly, I'd like to say that I am not a strongly political person, in fact I find politics mostly boring. I also like most Panorama programmes that you broadcast but tonight's programme was a farce! This was a very biased anti-Labour programme to the extent that I wonder if it was funded by the Tories! So much so that I am considering a formal complaint to the broadcasting standards authorities. Crazy comments were made in the programme such as "It is not normal to spend 80% of advertising budget in the last 3 months of the financial year" Ask M&S, Argos or Woolworth¿s how much of their advertising budget they spend in the 3 months prior to Christmas! Or ask ANY government department about spending in the final 3 months of a financial year and you will find that it is "spend, spend, spend" if the budget is there - otherwise you simply lose it! Why target The Times, Independent etc. for ads on benefit fraud? Well, again it is obvious to any idiot. Those readers are FAR more likely to "shop" a benefit fraudster than readers of The Sun!!! Oh, and of course it makes sense to glamorise recruitment ads for the NHS to encourage people to go into that career path, you'd hardly show nurses swilling out bed pans to encourage new recruits would you?
Gordon Hunter

The conclusions to your programme do not surprise me. Morality is about what is right, not what you can get away with. This government has little morality.
Henry Northcroft

Your programme highlights the facts that politicians have double standards and are morally unqualified to hold the position that they do. The recent elections for Mayor in various towns prove that people have had enough of politicians. And Panorama illustrates that people like Tony Blair (when not in power) will try to take the moral "high ground".
Martin Milburn
the programme-makers lack the politicians' responsibility to provide an alternative to what they purport to be criticising.

Richard Comaish

From a claimant's perspective, the programme succeeded in exposing the fact that New Labour has done little to improve our position But this clear attack on the Labour government fills me with new fears about the future. Surely Panorama's own criticism of hiding behind an 'apolitical' front to launch political propaganda, could be levelled directly back at this programme. Also, the programme-makers lack the politicians' responsibility to provide an alternative to what they purport to be criticising.
Richard Comaish

I found the section dealing with single parents particularly relevant as I have had the Lone Parent Interview as well and I found it to be a joke as I found the so-called "benefits" of the New Deal add up to about £20 pounds per week in exchange for having a lot less time for your child and a negative press about single mothers. It's always the children who lose out.
Rita Vallely

Brilliant programme. Panorama has been insipid and feeble for years. Can this mean that you are getting back into the old stride? This programme was brilliantly made, constructed, formulated, and executed. It exposed a very serious crisis of morality in our government, and the talking heads were people of authority and importance, balanced by relevant locals like the Labour councillor and the nurse. If you could only use your obvious investigative abilities to expose the even more terrifying corruption in Brussels, instead of cowering in fear of the Europhiles, then you would really be doing your job. Time to stop cringing and start shouting. This was a great beginning. Have you got a new editor or something? What on earth has got into you? Why did you suddenly get your courage and your imagination back? Channel Four has had all the good current affairs coverage for years, and the BBC was hopeless. Will this just be a one-off or will you keep it up? You never know, I might even start watching your channel at your time of night if you're really going to start becoming relevant again, instead of boring and useless like toothless hounds. DARE WE HOPE FOR MORE?? DON'T STOP NOW. By the way, it was not lost on me that the Opposition was kept out of the programme, which I thought made it more effective, since it was only your report, with no political alliance. And of course the most effective criticism of all was from Tony Blair himself, condemned out of his own mouth. You really ought to give the tape editor an award.
Robert Temple

l felt that the programme was a very good insight showing how the government wastes millions of tax payers' money. l was so angry after seeing this program l shall never vote for any of them again. All the ads do is to turn people against people making it worse for society in getting on with each other. Living is hard enough without the government making it worse, unless their intention is to make things worse.

As someone who is claiming benefits legitimately due to chronic ill health, I have to say that those benefit fraud adverts had a strong effect on me in the sense that I believed that people were seeing me as a scrounger rather than a human being in need. It also made me angry that the benefit fraudsters were seen as the poor only. As someone who is in the system I have found that much of the fraud is 'white collar crime' in the guise of 'cash in hand' payouts by unscrupulous employers, housing benefit fraud by 'landlords' etc. I would never believe that a Labour government would take such a biased view. I am now an ex-party member and could not vote for them again in their present guise.

I am surprised that anyone is surprised about Blair's advertising campaigns. The PM would not hesitate to use taxpayers money to promote his own image. I really do not think he realises it is wrong.
Graham Rawlings
Selby, North Yorks

If, as your programme says, the Labour Party has been using public money to fund its election advertising, then to my mind that is theft, they should have to repay every penny of it AND the leaders of the party should go on trial for the offence. It is time the ordinary people of this country realised WE are their employers. If we took money from our employers we would end up in prison - so should they!
Ian Williams
Mold, Flintshire

Well done, an astounding programme. You absolutely must track the next big issue - the vote on the euro. You must try to be ahead of the game next time and track the ad. bookings before they go out. The vote on the euro is a vital stepping-stone for Tony Blair on his way to being President of Europe. It all hangs on a 'yes' vote.
David Delaney

This programme shows perfectly how governments become essentially corrupt in their frantic determination to stay in power. Assuming your programme is a true reflection of events (not always a given from the media!) it makes me ashamed of (but not surprised by) Blair's "reign".

Your programme was very good. At last Blair has been shown for what he is. The Labour party in general is a traitor to the UK. The sooner we get them out of office the better. They are full of empty promises. What your programme showed is just the tip of the iceberg of the Labour party's deceit. The Labour party is more Tory than the Tories.
David Emmins
New Romney
Your programme has vindicated my decision to switch my vote.

Mr D Blanchard

I have been a Labour supporter for many years but recently switched my vote to the Liberal Democrats for the local elections. I did this because of the growing unease at the way the message given out by the government increasingly fails to match the reality I experience in my daily life. Your programme has vindicated my decision to switch my vote.
Mr D Blanchard

Brave and perceptive. Carry on the good work.
Paul Wolstenholme

Strange how all the adverts have vivid RED colours which catch the eye, not party political I wonder ??
Jeff Caudwell

The amount of money spent on advertising by the government is staggering and should be stopped. It seems to me that the adverts in some cases are misleading and the electorate is not given all of the facts. The ads concerning the nurses, benefit fraud, and the new deal for single parents were good examples of this. The money spent on the advertising space could and should be spent on other areas. Public services are far more important to spend this money on than on what amounts to be political advertising. Tony Blair should reflect on the comments he made some years ago, while Labour was in opposition. These views should still apply now he is Prime Minister.
Steve Fuller
(city) Brighton&Hove

Working for the NHS and being a real working class man I worry, not about the amount of money spent on adverts or certain sections of government policy, but about who in fact is the PM of this country: Mr Blair or Mr Campbell? Mr Campbell seems to have a little say in everything. Or - as I feel - is Mr Campbell having a large say? I wonder.

What an exposition of the hypocrisy which permeates the hierarchy of the Labour Party! This programme should be repeated a week before the next general election!
Alastair Mackenzie

Is the BBC effectively in the same position as it claims the Blair government is, in using vast amounts of public money for advertising - most notably recently by changing BBC1's corporate image and subsequently spending money for billboard advertising? This appears even more crazy than the government's exploits as the corporation continues to exclude the possibility of overt advertising (sponsorship) for its programmes although continually allows covert advertising in broadcasting specifically sponsored sporting and other events.
Isobel Davidson
South Queensferry

The programme highlighted what has become all too apparent in recent months. The current Labour Government obsessed with spin as opposed to substance. Recent parliamentary questions asked by Andrew Turner MP have shown that in 2000/2001 over £221 million has been spend on Press and PR with over 4000 press releases being issued. Power is being centralised in Downing Street, the mass media is being controlled all in an attempt to persuade people of the merits of the New Labour philosophy at a time when the reality is very much different.
Jonathan Sheppard

Well done, Panorama. Your documentary on the misuse of taxpayers' money for New Labour's party political purposes only confirms what most people have instinctively felt for a long time.

Sounds dodgy to me!

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

Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.

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