Advertising expenditure by the UK government spiralled skyward by 37% in 2001, totalling £143 million ($202.9m; E232.3m) – the highest recorded for any British administration and well ahead of former leaders in the spending stakes, BT and Procter & Gamble, according to data just released by ACNielsen MMS.

Although the government has previously led the field on an ad hoc monthly basis this is its highest-ever annual figure, fuelled by a raft of campaigns including a drive to boost public participation in last year’s national census and a major anti-smoking push.

Lagging the Blair administration’s largesse, P&G spent £123m and BT £95m; while among all other British advertisers only Ford exceeded half the government’s total.

The news will be welcome ammunition for the country’s emasculated parliamentary opposition, the Conservative Party, which has already attacked the government for its record adspend – alleging misuse of taxpayers' money to promote New Labour’s political ends rather than the public interest.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff