Political slogans to be monitored in run up to General Election

Senior civil servants are planning to keep a close eye out for politically focused slogans from the Government in the run-up to the election.

Whitehall: watching the slogans
Whitehall: watching the slogans

Whitehall sources are concerned the temptation to use the public sector comms machine to emphasise Labour Party messaging will be higher than usual, as Labour faces a general election campaign with little funding.

This week, the union representing senior civil servants called for ministers and the civil service to be extra vigilant about maintaining the boundaries between the Government and Labour.

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume said: 'In the months leading up to a general election, it is more important than ever that ministers and civil servants understand where the boundaries must lie about what is acceptable for the civil service to undertake and where ministers must rely on the party machinery.'

Meanwhile, one former government director of comms admitted that many government departments would seek to create 'consistency of messaging' with Labour's political machine.

But the source said: 'You get into a problem when you start to use slogans that perhaps mirror a party slogan. If they are almost identical it would probably raise questions with civil servants.'

The source added that it was the job of Labour's publicity department to promote what the Government was doing, but said that 'huge efforts' were made by civil servants to challenge any crossover.

Concern about the Government's use of politically focused slogans surfaced earlier this month with coverage about a leaked memo from Lord Mandelson in The Sunday Times. Mandelson's memo was reported to have introduced the slogan 'Building Britain's Future'.

The memo reportedly caused civil service revolt as the same slogan is expected to be used by the Labour Party in the run up to the general election.

However, Whitehall comms experts have denied any revolt. Permanent secretary for government communications Matt Tee insisted Building Britain's Future was a government brand, and said he would ensure it was not used by the Labour Party.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) director of comms Russell Grossman said: 'All civil servants are keen to ensure the line isn't crossed into political sloganeering. This slogan doesn't cross that line at all - The Labour Party hasn't used this.'

HOW I SEE IT - Matt Tee, Permanent secretary for government comms, Cabinet Office

It is very important to me that what is used by government is not used by political parties. I am clear that Building Britain's Future is a government brand - if we reached a position when someone else used it, I'd have to consider the risk that citizens could be confused about where the messages are coming from.

I am responsible for propriety in government comms and I encourage civil servants to come to me if they have concerns about activities on which they are working. I would hope that these cases do not increase in the run up to the general election.

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