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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Election Expenses

The Electoral Commission who, in my experience, actually know very little about elections, published the amounts of money spent by each of the political parties during the Assembly elections. Two were missing, the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Labour, as both have spent more than £250,000. The press made a great deal out of the amount of money that the Welsh Liberal Democrats had spent and how despite all that largesse we had still only got six seats. Some of them were hinting at a big time donor lurking in the background - if only! However, for me the surprise was how little had been spent by Plaid Cymru and the Tories.

The declared expenses are meant to be all campaign expenditure since the beginning of the year. The one thing that people do not realise is how expensive elections actually are and how much money needs to be raised just to fight a constituency properly never mind the cost of advertising (if that can be afforded), party political broadcasts, campaign staff etc. In the South Wales West region we raised £25,000 locally largely through fundraising events and individual donations. On top of that we had about another £21,000 from the Welsh Party. We must have spent £6,000 in each of the seven constituencies on printing the full colour leaflets that are delivered free by the Post Office for both the constituency and the regional list and having them overprinted with names and addresses. We also produced other literature, posters and poster boards. I have been told that the Green Party spent about £10,000 on producing their party political broadcast which gives some idea of how much one of these can cost. I believe that the four main parties produced about three or four election broadcasts each. Money was also spent in the run up to the contest and we have included quite a bit of expenditure from that period including the cost of part of our conference.

The question then is given the cost of printing, broadcasting, staff and other expenditure how did the Tories manage only to spend £80,788 and Plaid Cymru £72,976 and what did the UKIP buy for £62,631? These figures do not add up for me and if the Electoral Commission and the press had a better idea of what they are talking about they would be asking more detailed questions rather than accepting them at face value. Not that anybody gains anything by hiding things, just that if this declaration has to be done then it might as well be done properly.

I suppose it is fair comment to snipe at the Welsh Liberal Democrats expenditure and compare it to our result. However, we are in a four party contest, we need to work harder to make an impact and we need to use the latest techniques to get our message across. Our problem was that our tactics were misplaced and so our expensive literature did not have the impact we had envisaged. That is something we will have to address next time.

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