GOVERNMENT POLICIES vied with detergents and a junk orange drink for 1999’s ad spend top spot.

According to the annual league table compiled by AC Nielsen for Marketing magazine, Procter & Gamble led the field with £165.5m, while in second position came Her Majesty’s Government bountifully distribut-ing £92m of taxpayers’ cash to the grateful media. Also-rans in the Top Ten were the likes of BT, Kellogg’s, Vauxhall and Renault.

Lacking much else to politick about, the Tories seized on the figures as evidence of New Labour’s "obsession" with image and presentation. "I’ve long suspected", sneered Tory chairman Michael Ancram, "that Tony Blair is selling his policies like soap powder." Countered a Cabinet office spin doctor: "This is a radi-cal, reforming government with an ambitious programme and it is entirely proper that these reforms are ef-fectively communicated to the public." ["And so say all of us", echoed the joyful chorus of media-owners and (mainly) responsive agencies!]