WHAT have you been doing in the heatwave/summer? I swerved the park and beer garden last week to spend a cooling afternoon in the election expenses at the Town Hall. The staff are boxing up for the imminent move to the Crowndale Centre in there, but they still have all the paperwork declarations about who spent what in the run-up to May’s local elections available for public view. All apart from Marx de Morais’ group, Independents For The Movement, and a couple of other independents who have yet to file. Both Labour and the Tories have apparently sent someone in to look over the figures and receipts, checking up on each other.
An oddity jumping out of the binders is the amount of money the Conservatives spent on defending Frognal and Fitzjohns, their safest ward. You will remember the narrative: Labour left-wingers ran a rebellious campaign, pounding the beat in a neighbourhood which always returns Tory councillors. Feeling a little unloved by some of their own Labour colleagues, who had long decided it wasn’t worth the breath, they set up their own campaign events – Owen Jones visited – created their own website (now offline). And the election figures appear to show the Conservatives were a little spooked by this unexpected uprising: The Tories spent more on election material and campaigning in F & F than Labour did in any ward across the borough. Something that will make Rebecca Shirazi and her friends smile, no doubt.
The Green Party’s records do not take much scanning. Every candidate was given a nominal £1 as their election campaign budget, apart from in Highgate – the ward where the Save Sian mission was in full flow. Having not fielded a candidate in last year’s Gospel Oak by-election – a sort of annual event in those parts – and losing their deposit at the general election, the least sympathetic Labour members (clue: you can find them in Highgate) will no doubt ask whether this crowd of paper candidates raises questions as to whether the party has the resources to expand in Camden. These endless elections come at a financial cost for all parties, and in the Greens case they did not move beyond re-electing Councillor Sian Berry. As the Greens worked to hold that seat and made a good fist of trying to take further seats in Highgate, they did spend some cash: £721.48 per candidate. Labour, who saw Oliver Lewis re-elected and Anna Wright join the council, spent £574.52 per candidate here over the short campaign.
Meanwhile, if you find a Liberal Democrat in Camden moaning about the all-seeing influence of Facebook, criticised as it has been for its handling of personal information, spread of ‘fake news’ and indirect role in the destruction of the newspaper industry (cheers Mark!), then give them an exaggerated cough, a stern look and send them to the election office. The receipts show that the Lib Dems in Camden spent more than their rivals on trying to sway opinion via Facebook.
During an election day visit to the Conservative nerve centre – a grand name I like to give to the Heath Hurst Road office where you will often find David Douglas fiddling with an ancient risograph – it was impossible not to notice that one or two campaign scratchcards remained undelivered. These are the ones which you scratched away to find Labour had broken a promise! By the time you got to the third or fourth panel, you could guess you probably weren’t going to win £10,000 and as compensation were simply going to be reminded that Labour had reduced bin collections, which they had previously said they’d wouldn’t. When I say one or two election scratchcards, I mean one or two boxes of election scratchcards. The receipts show 20,000 were printed – so the one I kept as a limited edition souvenir to sell on eBay in 50 years time may not be worth £10,000 that way either. The cost of the print run came in at £1,099.
Finally, Labour vs Conservative, spends per candidate, across the wards.
WARD / LABOUR / CONSERVATIVE / RESULT
Belsize / £663.10 / £646.18 / 2 LD, 1 Con
Bloomsbury / £370.02 / £356.16 / 3 Lab
Camden Town with Primrose Hill / £395.18 / £255.92 / 3 Lab
Cantelowes / £365.69 / £55.43 / 3 Lab
Fortune Green / £634.49 / £593.99 / 2 Lab, 1 LD
Frognal & Fitzjohns / £463.86 / £714.26 / 3 Con
Gospel Oak / £348.29 / £45.66 / 3 Lab
Hampstead Town / £440.15 / £734.75 / 3 Con
Haverstock / £396.16 / £44.46 / 3 Lab
Highgate / £574.52 / £237.20 / 2 Lab, 1 Green
Holborn and Covent Garden / £366.13 / £45.66 / 3 Lab
Kentish Town / £348.29 / £44.46 / 3 Lab
Kilburn / £494.21 / £47.82 / 3 Lab
King’s Cross / £335.10 / £57.75 / 3 Lab
Regent’s Park / £404.34 / £45.66 / 3 Lab
St Pancras and Somers Town / £410.26 / £43.66 / 3 Lab
Swiss Cottage / £698.90 / £771.10 / 3 Lab
West Hampstead / £678.85 / £665.60 / 3 Lab