H&K: The expensive way to win an election

Glenda Jackson and David Miliband

PERHAPS it’s no surprise that the three-way kitchen sink battle for the Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary constituency at the last election – eventually won by Labour’s Glenda Jackson by 42 wafers – made it one of the most expensive areas to tackle for the political parties. For every vote won here, the parties spent £2.02 (on leaflets, events etc), according to research from the Electoral Reform Society earlier this summer.

This is in comparison to the 14p per vote spent in Bootle. In some areas where the big parties were fielding no-hope paper candidates, the ERS say, they didn’t even bother to spend a penny. Once the numbers were crunched, H&K was the sixth biggest money splurge, per vote, in the country.

Chris Terry argues in the report, titled ‘Penny for your vote?’, the big contrasts on electoral spending in different areas are a smack for democracy. He writes: “Voters in safe seats are less likely to have resources spent on attracting their vote, and are, therefore, less likely even to turn up at the polling booth. As voter disengagement becomes a more and more pressing problem, so does the inequality of party spending, and so does the voting system which incentivises parties to target their resources ruthlessly… Those voters who have the misfortune of living in safe seats are ignored. They are not involved in elections.”

On that last point on the lack of spending in safe seats, it is interesting to turn to Frank Dobson’s seat in Holborn and St Pancras. A safe Labour seat? Plug the postcode into the ERS data and you find £1.47 was spent for every vote secured. That sounds like either the Lib Dems and/or the Tories genuinely thought they could get the lift on Dobbo in 2010, or Labour were a little more concerned than they let on.

£1.47 is still a lot more than Bootle.

5 Comments on H&K: The expensive way to win an election

  1. Ruairi McAleese // August 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm //

    It’s also a lot more expensive to hire staff and office space in Camden than it is in Bootle?

  2. David Boothroyd // August 29, 2013 at 12:44 am //

    The full details of 2010 campaign spending is available and I can tell you that it is the former. George Lee (Conservative) spent nearly £18,000 in the ‘long campaign’ (six months before the election was called) and £10,300 in the ‘short campaign’ (the month leading up to polling day). The latter was 90% of maximum. Joanna Shaw spent much less in the long campaign but £10,600 in the short campaign. Frank Dobson spent £15,000 in the long campaign but only £7,800 in the short campaign.

    But topping them all for short campaign spending was Natalie Bennett of the Green Party with £10,895.48, a full 95% of the maximum allowed.

    These and other fascinating facts can be found here: https://admin.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/excel_doc/0014/107006/qry_Candidate_Returns_publication_reduced_FINAL-20110816.xls

    • Peter Brayshaw // August 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm //

      Surprised to see Natalie Bennett spent over £10k in the short campaign, although do recall floods of Green Party literature. By my arithmetic she spent a massive £7.36p per eventual Green vote (Frank spending 31p). And Natalie also stood as a Councincillor candidate in the largest Ward in Frank’s constituency on the same day (St Pancras and Somers Town), giving additional prescence and permitted spending!

  3. Richard Osley // August 29, 2013 at 12:56 am //

    Of course, readers of the CNJ will already have digested all of that in this soaraway article: http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2010/jul/lib-dems-spent-big-final-push-win-dobson-seat

  4. £1.10 per vote was spent in Lewisham Deptford which is one of the safest Labour seats in London (and something like 40th safest in the country), so I don’t think one can read too much into a high overall spend-per-vote in the capital.

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