JANUARY 31, 2000. It might not ring any significant bells with most people but you can bet it is circled in red in the diaries of the spin-doctors at Millbank and no doubt in blue ink at Conservative Central Office.
A tinkering of the codes that govern political advertising will give politicians carte blanche to lie like they've never lied before. Whether anyone will notice the difference remains a moot point but the Committee of Advertising Practice has decided to relax the rules on political adverts to allow the spin-doctors free rein on the billboards to "make claims that are illegal, indecent, dishonest and untruthful."
Until now, parties have been subjected to the same code of practice that regulate the claims of soap-powder companies, washing- machine manufacturers, lipstick pedlars and other sellers. The code requires companies to be legal, decent, honest and truthful in their advertising. Before submitting an advertisement for publication, advertisers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims.
Politicians have also had to toe the line that their claims should not "mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise." A range of dissembling skills is usually seen as required elements for the job.
But the committee, the advertisement industry's self-regulatory body, has become fed up with the squabbling between the political parties as they seek to …