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Friday, August 31, 2007

It's only money

The publication of party spending details from May's Assembly elections serves to underline my point about the ineffectiveness of the Welsh Liberal Democrat campaign.

One of the reasons why I described that campaign as professional was he huge amount of money we spent that meant we were able to produce a lot of literature, direct mail and a high quality party political broadcast. Unfortunately, we forgot to factor in the need for a message that would resonate with the electorate into this equation.

The Electoral Commission reveals that the Welsh Liberal Democrats spent £239,799 on the national and regional campaign and £167,608 in the constituencies. That is a total of £407,407. Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice argues that in terms of expenditure per vote we got good value for money. He has calculated that in 2003 we spent £1.63 per vote whereas this year our spend was £1.57 per vote. I am not so sure that I view it in the same way.

Although our constituency vote went up, in the regions we slipped back and there was a marked failure to carry over support from one ballot paper to the other. Accuse me of only seeing a half full glass if you wish but my reading of these figures is that in 2003 we spent £62,115.83 per elected Assembly Member, whereas in 2007 that figure was £67,901.17. It is difficult to justify that as an effective use of resources.

The £per elected member equations everywhere are very poor ways to measure success as they don't take into account anything else e.g. what others spent, national trend for parties etc. etc. I know the lib Dems were trying to win more seats but do you not think that say £50,000 for strong campaigns in target seats would have been enough for you to hold 6 seats? If so you pretty much wasted £200,000.
Peter, I am sure that you would agree that the publication of spending figures (and seperately of major donors) has been a major advance in transperency over the past decade.
There is a gap though in the information available to the public. While assembly election spending figures are published on a Welsh basis, the party income figures are UK-wide.
There is of course NO reason why a party that believes in the Union shouldn't cross-subsidize from one part of the UK to another but do you think that information should be available to the electorate?
It seems to me that the sources of funds are relevant information. In the US, for example, candidates have to declare donations as being in state/out of state.
I think I did see a report somewhere showing the £/vote costs for the other parties - ours was much the highest, which again underlies your point Peter. In the past we've tended to blame respurces (or rather the lack of them) for constraining our activity, but this time something much more fundamental seemed missing.

Please keep plugging away at this - many of us agree with you. Meantime, enjoy your trip!
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