The rise and rise of government adspend since the Labour Party came to power in May 1997 has led to a bonanza for Britain's ad industry.

The latest advertising expenditure report from ACNielsen MMS reveals that Blair’s blare exceeded £16.4 million in February, ahead of former top spenders Unilever (£12.3m) and Procter & Gamble (£10.1m).

This, claimed Conservative Party chair Michael Ancram, demonstrates that the Blair administration is “obsessed with spin”.

And lest cynics dismiss Ancram as just another axe-grinding politico, his argument is supported by no less an authority than US ad industry weekly Ad Age Global. According to the magazine, nowhere else on the globe save Canada does the government feature among the top ten advertisers.

All of which was grist to Ancram’s mill: "This is yet more evidence of a government obsessed with spin, prepared to spend taxpayers' money on mass advertising which should have been used on improvements to public services, such as recruiting more police and teachers and providing cleaner hospitals."

According to Nielsen, the biggest government campaigns in February aimed respectively to recruit more nurses, urge people to plan their pensions and to encourage families to claim the new children's tax credit.

"Each of the campaigns is for the legitimate purpose of imparting important information to the public," justified a Labour spoke. "There are significant changes in the spring that people need to know about."

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)