With the UK election campaign barely hours old, a government official has gaffed by revealing the private email addresses of many senior politicians to journalists.

The data accident happened in an email sent out without using the BCC (blind courtesy copy) feature to lobby journalists, giving the Downing Street official's contact details for use during the forthcoming campaign.

The email embedded the full address list in open text, which made public email contacts for an unnamed but long list of members of the government also sent the email, reportedly including Prime Minister, Gordon Brown himself.

Of all the journalists to inadvertently spread such information to, lobby journalists are probably the least worse option. The point of lobby journalists is to take unattributed briefings from government officials, a system that has been widely criticised for its secrecy and the degree to which governments can use it to scheme and manipulate.

Journalists take part in the system because they need stories. In short, lobby correspondents are normally the soul of discretion.

The fact that the addresses have been sent to journalists at all will be embarrassing amplified by the fact that lobby journalists are being contacted for special briefings during an election.

The error spread across Twitter long before conventional news outlets got hold of it, a taste of the way in which social networking is likely to set daily topics as the election campaign progresses.