Monday, 12 July 2010

How much did they really spend?

This month, on his BBC blog, Graham Smith has inspected the declared returns of General Election candidates in Cornwall and posted a number of blog entries on how campaign funds were spent.

For the St Austell and Newquay constituency, where I stood, he noted the following:

Dick Cole (Mebyon Kernow) spent £4,708.20 for 2,007 votes - £2.35 each
Caroline Righton (Conservative) spent £40,968.07 for 18,877 votes - £2.17 each
Steve Gilbert (Liberal Democrat) spent £33,852.39 for 20,189 votes - £1.68 each
Clive Medway (UKIP) spent £947.50 for 1,757 votes - 54 pence each
James Fitton (BNP) spent £400 for 1,022 votes - 39 pence each
Lee Jameson (Labour) spent £1,208.75 for 3,386 votes - 36 pence each

The above figures relate to the ‘long’ campaign – January 1st 2010 to polling day on May 6th 2010. Graham also blogged that in the ‘short’ campaign (the three weeks after the election was called officially) Stephen Gilbert spent £12,375.42 while Caroline Righton spent £12,344.97.

But is this the full story? Of course not!

My expenditure was primarily two A3 full colour leaflets (my election communication delivered by Royal Mail as is the case for all candidates, and one hand-delivered by supporters), some black and white A4 leaflets, posters and timber for boards.

This is quite a contrast to what was spent by, for example, the Liberal Democrat victor in St Austell and Newquay Stephen Gilbert.

As well as the ‘election communications’ allowed to all candidates during the main election period I have received at least eight leaflets and two 12 page booklets from Stephen during a period of 18 months. All were delivered by the Royal Mail. This year, we also received three targeted letters, again all delivered by the Royal Mail, and – 48 hours after polling day - I received a further hand addressed envelope (second class stamp).

For the purposes of the return, I understand that expenditure prior to 2010 did not need to be recorded. There were, of course, also Lib Dem leaflets that were delivered around the seat by hand and then there is the costs of posters and other campaign ephemera.

My household also received a further letter in the name of Vince Cable, while my parents received two communications from Nick Clegg – all again via Royal Mail. I also understand that this expenditure does not need to be recorded as the candidate’s name was not mentioned.

It will come as no surprise that I believe expenditure recorded by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives is much less than what they actually spent.

The main parties were also given enormous amounts of coverage on UK-wide television including the leaders’ debates, parliamentary broadcasts, features on local TV, as well as UK-wide newpapers. Just think what that was all worth to them!

MK on the other hand was denied our own election broadcast and even excluded from fair coverage on local TV. But, before Graham says anything, I think Radio Cornwall treated my campaign in St Austell and Newquay fairly.

Note: I have concentrated on the Liberal Democrats for this blog entry as I have mislaid some of the Conservative leaflets that I received. But suffice to say, I think the same applies to them. They sent out a number of leaflets via Royal Mail, including letters from senior Tories such as George Osborne, and spent loads on billboard advertising throughout Cornwall which is not linked to any individual campaign because the actual candidates were not featured.

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