Gordon Brown has been shameless in using the tools of state to advance his party political objectives – to him, government is electoral war by other means. Anyone who has turned on a commercial radio station recently will have worked out his latest trick: a mass propaganda splurge before an election campaign. Get on a bus, and it can be 100 percent state adverts – advising how Big Brother will help you get a job, buy a car, see off door-to-door salesmen, give you a job in the prison services – anything you want.
We at The Spectator have tracked down the figures that show the extent of all this. State advertising was £13 million in December – yet surged to £34 million last month. To put this in perspective, the cap on election spending is £19 million. No way could Gordon Brown raise this cash honestly. So he has unleashed what is, I suspect, the biggest propaganda spend in British history. The various advertising messages will chime with Labour's "big government will protect you" message – boasting about wonderful things which the state does. It goes without saying that such services are at risk from spending cuts. The UK government is now the biggest advertising spender in the land, a title it has held since 1998. The annual figures are published openly, but the monthly figures are circulated internally within the advertising industry. This is what they say:
Now, why is the spend so high? CoffeeHousers may be familiar with the argument that advertising rates are cheap due to the recession, so that’s why we hear more from the government. But if this were the motive, then the cost of these adverts would not be going through the roof.
As we say in the Spectator’s editorial in tomorrow’s edition, Brown has been trying to use the tools of state to rig the election since he took over. His tactic is to employ as much of the electorate as he can (for every three private sector jobs since 1997, there have been five public sector jobs – a million more state workers) and his propaganda budget is simply another means to achieve the same end. I think we have just identified a very easy way for George Osborne to save money from 8 May onwards.