John Prescott has called for Labour activists to click on the Conservative Party’s Google adverts in an attempt to bankrupt the opposition.
The former deputy leader of the Labour party posted a message on his Twitter page on 6 April, which said: "Click here http://bit.ly/RinseCashcroft then click on Labour Have Failed = 50p out of the Tories warchest. Let's do this! #ukelection."
The Conservatives have reportedly been sponsoring thousands of Google AdWords for more than three years. The adverts are placed to appear when people use Google’s search engine to search for key political terms, and the Tories are charged on a pay-per-click basis.
A spokesperson for the Conservatives said: "This is just the latest in a long line of dirty tricks from the Labour Party."
However, Google has said that the effect on the Conservatives will be minimal.
It said: "We have for many years devoted significant resources to creating sophisticated ways to filter invalid clicks before advertisers are charged for them."
In the past, Tory ads have appeared around budget announcements when people searched terms such as ‘budget’. Now, the Tories have expanded their reach by placing their ‘It’s Time For Change’ advert, which links to a Youtube video of the Conservative Party headquarters, when people search for terms like ‘election’, ‘Gordon Brown’, ‘Nick Clegg’ and ‘hung parliament’.
Jeremy Hunt, shadow culture secretary, told the Financial Times: "We use Google search advertising heavily to reach millions of people with relevant messages. The Conservative Party has a strong message for change on all the major issues, and the ability to get that message to people who are interested in that policy area, is invaluable."
The newspaper said that Labour uses search advertising to a lesser extent, preferring to boost their websites up natural search rankings, which are unaffected by advertising. However, it does place adverts highlighting government websites, such as NHS Choices and Directgov, when people search for words relating to health, education and the economy.