by Peter Watt
The next election is going to be tight. We all know that the polls are in our favour at the moment but in all likelihood they will be considerably closer come the start of the short campaign in 2015. And along with death and taxes the only certainty in life is that elections cost a fortune. In fact if it wasn’t for the occasional aberration (possibly in 1997 and definitely in 2005) then the other certainty is that the Tories significantly outspend Labour at elections. If you take the 2010 election then the Tories spent £18m while Labour spent £8m!
Now let’s assume, quite reasonably, that Labour is still pretty broke at the next election. Let’s also assume that the unpopularity of the Tories impacts on their funding a bit and that Labour is conversely able to raise a bit more. But given this, it is an odds on assumption that the Tories will still outspend Labour once again.
And in a tight race, extra funds in the right places could really make a difference to the outcome. Now we could sit around and hope that the parties sort out the issue of party funding in time for the next election. But if a Labour victory depends on that, then then we are screwed.
Traditionally the Labour Party raises most of its money centrally. That’s not to say this money isn’t raised locally because it clearly is. But the bulk is raised centrally with the big trade union money and high-value donations going into the central campaign pot.
And then marginal seats are effectively subsidised in the long months leading up to the short campaign by the central pot. With the marginal seats being expected to raise a fair old whack themselves of course.
Other local parties support the efforts in marginal seats by sending in activists and by not receiving as much central subsidy. So a relatively large and professional central and regional campaign team ensures direct mail, leaflets, staff and so on is all targeted on the marginal seats.