Election `97: Tory election posters leaked to Labour

Mole sent copies of advertisements to Millbank in brown paper envelopes
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The Independent Online
In the continuing tit-for-tat war over leaks from each others' camps, Labour has admitted receiving advance copies of all Tory advertising posters in the run-up to the election.

A senior source at Millbank, Labour's campaign headquarters, said that during the year leading to the launch of the election campaign, every Tory poster had been sent to the party a few days in advance.

He said: "This has been really helpful. It has enabled us to prepare for all their attacks."

Unfortunately for Labour, the source of information from Central Office appears to have dried up just before the start of the campaign. Labour knew of the "New Labour, New Danger", the crying lion and the "Britain is Booming" campaigns, but were not alerted to the infamous little-Blair- sitting-on-daddy-Kohl's-knee advertisement.

Millbank sources say the posters turned up in brown paper envelopes. Suspicions on the source of the leak will centre on the advertising agency used by the Conservatives, MC Saatchi, and will do nothing to improve relations between the party and its agency which have become strained because of the failure of its lion campaign and the Tories' continued failure to break through in the polls.

Claims and counter-claims about spies in each camp are now being levelled almost daily and it is clear that both parties know quite a lot about each other's plans. The revelation about the advertising campaign follows the publication by the Tories earlier this week of Labour's "war book", a detailed outline of the party's campaign.

The Tories have also claimed that they have a mole inside Millbank who has provided Central Office with a copy of Tony Blair's election itinerary. The Tories have claimed that they have known every day where Tony Blair has been going, but the failure of the Tory chicken to turn up to many of Mr Blair's visits suggests this may be a bit of bravado.

Despite the leaks and counter-leaks, the very tight security has managed to ensure that the real hot secrets of the campaign have remained hidden.

t Voters in Blackpool are being offered free fish and chips at Harry Ramsden's in a campaign newspaper sent out by their Conservative candidate.

The paper, sent out by Richard Booth, the would-be MP for the highly- marginal Blackpool South, bears the words: "Vote Booth. Vote for Blackpool. Vote Conservative," next to a coupon for the famous chippy.

The ad, placed and paid for by the restaurant, says: "Bring three hungry people to Harry Ramsden's Blackpool.

"This voucher entitles you to a free haddock fillet meal when accompanied by three paying customers." The offer says it is worth pounds 5.35.

Last night the Liberal Democrats sent an angry solicitors' letter to Mr Booth's agent, Chris Hall, claiming that the ad constitutes "treating" and is illegal under the Representation of the People Act.

However, the Liberal Democrat peer, Lord McNally of Blackpool, did not appear to be taking the matter quite so seriously.

In a statement too full of excruciating fish puns to be quoted at length, he said the Conservative Party chairman should "reel back" his candidate.

"... but he won't. So Blackpool's battered Tories have had their chips. Next Thursday they'll be knocked off their perch and find there is no plaice in Government for them," he said.

Mr Hall said the attack was "absolute nonsense."

"Harry Ramsden's always does a coupon for anybody to bring friends and have a free meal. It is a standard practice in this sort of environment. You can pick them up in any free newspaper," he said.