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.