Spending on spin has trebled under New Labour, the British Conservatives are claiming. A total of 1,815 press officers and other public relations staff work in the Whitehall department, the London Daily Telegraph is reporting today:

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has three press officers, despite no longer having a department.

According to the reports, there are a further 1,444 in various agencies paid from the public purse. Just like in Australia, government advertising expenditure has leapt:

The Central Office of Information’s PR, advertising and marketing budget has soared from £111 million in 1997 to £322 million last year. Much of the money has been spent on advertising flagship policies, including tax credits and extra help for pensioners. Critics have expressed concern that Government spending on advertisements and public relations tends to peak in election years, prompting suspicions that Labour is using public money to sell its key policies to voters.

And the Telegraph’s spin on the spinners seems to suggest that they’ve been getting plenty of practice:

The Central Office of Information defended the increased spending, saying that Labour was “a radical and reforming Government” and that it had a duty to explain its policies, decisions and actions and to inform members of the public about their rights and liabilities.