Labour has accused the Conservatives of potentially breaking government rules by using official resources to promote their "long-term economic plan" election slogan.
Labour MP Sheila Gilmore has accused the Conservatives of "state-sponsored campaigning" after official government publications repeatedly featured the phrase "long-term economic plan" – the slogan at the centre of the Tories' election campaign.
Labour claims the widespread use of the phrase in material produced by taxpayer-funded staff could break rules which prohibit civil servants from acting "in a way that is determined by party political considerations" or using "official resources for party political purposes".
Gilmore, MP for Edinburgh East, has now written to the head of the civil service to complain that the "long-term economic plan" phrase has been put at the heart of the government's communications plan despite being closely associated with the Conservatives' political campaign.
The letter, passed to BuzzFeed News, highlights the extent to which the phrase is used by Whitehall departments.
For example, the Conservatives' own campaign website looks like this.
While the official government website looks like this:
Meanwhile the official gov.uk site, run by civil servants, has almost 8,000 results for "long-term economic plan".
In the letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, Sheila Gilmore asked for an investigation into the use of the phrase in taxpayer-funded government material and press releases: "The continued use of 'long-term economic plan' by the Conservative Party by those employed in government in order to advance electoral and party-political advantage risks rendering Ministers, Special Advisers and civil servants in breach of important codes of conduct."
Labour fear the Conservatives are making the most of the final months of this government to use official resources to promote their policies before the official start of the election campaign.
When Labour complained about government promotion of the "long-term economic plan" phrase last summer the civil service ruled the phrase was "one in regular use across government" which predates "any use of the phrase in the political arena".
But the party claim this clashes with a more recent warning given to Jobcentre officials who used the phrase in official publications.
A Conservative spokesperson said: "Labour have finally acknowledged that only the Conservatives have a long term economic plan to build a more secure future for Britain. Instead of wasting time on meaningless political gimmicks like this Ed Miliband should clear up the confusion and chaos that lies at the heart of his economic policy. All Labour stand for is more borrowing, more spending and higher taxes."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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