Calling Major a liar `leaves bad taste'

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Labour's aggressive broadcast on Wednesday night was produced by Butterfield Day Devito Hockney, the advertising agency appointed in October 1993 to handle the party's communications efforts.

According to Leslie Butterfield, the agency's chairman, it was part of a long-term strategy to keep the Government's tax record on the political agenda.

Timing and general content of the broadcast - a further film will precede the local elections on 4 May - was agreed at the end of last year, with script details finalised before filming two weeks ago. "The fact is that since June last year, tax has been a consistent theme of broadcasts," Mr Butterfield said. The result of that has been to put Labour on the front foot on one of the central issues that, it is argued, cost them the last election."

Defending the decision to call the Prime Minister a liar, he added: "Half of this country has been effectively disenfranchised for the past 15 years, almost everyone has been deceived by the Government for the last three years and tax has been a very good example of that. I think there is nothing wrong in pointing out that this deceit is taking place."

However, advertising industry observers yesterday said the film went too far and could be counter-productive. Bernard Barnett, former editor of the weekly Campaign and now director of corporate affairs at Young and Rubicam, said: "I believe that calling somebody a liar in such graphic terms and so many times stokes up ill-will unnecessarily. Labour has a much better case to make."

Winston Fletcher, chairman of the agency DFSD Bozell, and former advertising adviser to the SDP, said almost all British political advertising had been negative, including the most memorable campaign by the Conservatives - "Labour Isn't Working".

"It is argued that such advertising is part of the reason why politicians are held in such low esteem. It leaves a fairly bad taste in the mouth of the viewer about the advertiser, but also rings as possibly true."