Conservative councillors in Devon have been left red-faced after an e-mail blunder saw the party hand its election strategy to its rivals.
Devon County Council leader John Hart, a Conservative, dashed off an e-mail explaining how Devon's Tories should fight May's local elections – claiming modest council tax rises would make a "very good sound bite".
The message was mistakenly sent to a man named Alan Hughes by Conservative Devon councillor Bernard Hughes.
Alan Hughes, a consultant in the satellite industry in Hampshire, decided that the e-mail should be passed on – and forwarded the battle plan to every member of Devon County Council.
Alan Hughes said he received an apology from Bernard Hughes, although by that time he had already forwarded the e-mail.
"I was trying to send the e-mail from one computer to another and somehow pressed the wrong button," said Bernard Hughes, who is no relation to Alan. "I've apologised to the leader of the council and I am very embarrassed. I'm mortified to be honest."
In the e-mail Mr Hart gives an update of a Conservative Party meeting before briefing councillors and candidates on the budget, which the council must pass before the election.
"We have a large majority on each of the scrutiny committees," he writes, "provided all members turn up...
"I would rather not have Lib Dem-recommended changes to the budget being passed as they will definitely become election issues in less than 12 weeks."
Mr Hart also talks about the party's election claims, including one that "we (Conservative Party) have run Devon County for four years and only increased council tax by 1.98%, a very good sound bite for every parish council meeting you attend".
Mr Hart finished his e-mail warning all campaign material must be approved by senior party members. He wrote: "I want no promises made by a candidate that we cannot keep, we will only play into the hands of the opposition parties. Keep your leaflets positive, ignore the other parties. Let them do what they like – answer them and you will find people looking to see what was originally said."
Mr Hart confirmed the contents of the email. He added: "We will be fighting the Devon County Council elections in May on our record of safeguarding frontline services, keeping council tax down and making the authority more efficient and business-like."