Election expenses: The story in Greenwich and Eltham

With the recent kerfuffle over Zac Goldsmith’s election expenses, and following on from Jim Jepps’ investigation of who spent what in Camden borough, I thought I’d do the same work for Greenwich.

You’re free to do the same if you like – make an appointment with Greenwich Council’s electoral office, tell them what you’re after, and pop down to see them in Woolwich. They hold the returns for all the council election candidates (including my run for the Green Party in Peninsula ward) as well as two of the borough’s three parliamentary constituencies, Greenwich & Woolwich and Eltham. Expenses for Erith & Thamesmead are held by Bexley Council at its civic centre in Bexleyheath, so I stuck with just the two main Greenwich seats.

Having had to sign off my own expenses for the Peninsula campaign, I knew a little bit about what to expect – the job of the election agents who take charge of these things is a difficult one, and the combined general election and council election made this more so, because some of the costs are shared between the two campaigns.

The rules are fiddly, dividing elections into “long campaigns” (mostly before an election is called) and “short campaigns” (which starts a couple of weeks after, when all the candidates are in place), while if you order a load of leaflets but don’t deliver them, you don’t have to account for the cost of the unused leaflets. Some of this can result in some pretty creative accounting, but there wasn’t a strong whiff of wrongdoing coming from either constituency.

There are the strict spending limits that each candidate is supposed to adhere to – again, divided between “long” and “short campaigns”. Plus wannabe MPs have to find £500 for their deposits – figures I’ve not included in the tables below. In both constituencies, only the big three parties’ candidates kept their deposits.

I’ll start with Greenwich & Woolwich, where Labour’s Nick Raynsford romped home…

Party Candidate Amount spent Votes cast Cost per vote
Labour Nick Raynsford £14,815.68 20,262 £0.73
Conservative Spencer Drury £4,180.70 10,109 £0.41
Liberal Democrat Joseph Lee £1,552.44 7,498 £0.20
BNP Laurence Rustem £400.00 1,151 £0.34
Green Andy Hewett £752.00 1,054 £0.71
Christian Edward Adeyele nil 443 nil
Eng Dem Raden Wresniwiro nil 339 nil
TUSC Onay Kasab £1,977.70 267 £7.40
Independent Tammy Alingham £1,061.49 61 £17.40

Cynics would say Labour put its feet up during the Greenwich battle – but the party actually spent a great deal on election leaflets. Indeed, publicity including literature and rosettes came to £7,180 in the last few weeks of the campaign alone. Other costs involved in getting Nick Raynsford back into Westminster included £135 spent on helium gas for balloons, and £237.83 on the band which played outside the party HQ in Greenwich on the morning of the London Marathon. 73p per vote might sound a lot – but it worked.

Conservative
Spencer Drury also spent most of his money on leaflets, although there’s an interesting £100 nominal donation from Starkey Financial Planning of Blackheath – who offered local Tories some office space as they beavered away on polling day. The Lib Dems‘ low key campaign seemed to pay off in the fact that it only cost them 20p per vote, the Greens hoped for better than to spend 71p on each vote. But then again, that campaign looks a bargain compared with results elsewhere. The British National Party’s £400 paid for its infamous freepost leaflet which my postman had the good sense not to deliver.

But if the Greens are sore about spending 71p per vote, at least they didn’t throw £7.40 at each voter, which is what the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition did. Much of the tab for Onay Kasab‘s campaign was picked up by the Socialist Party and the RMT union. As for bargain campaigns, both the Christian Party and the English Democrat campaigns cost nothing beyond their lost deposits – making them decent profile-raising exercises, at least.

Finally, holding a crazily expensive wooden spoon, was independent Tammy Alingham, seen before the election telling the planning meeting into the Greenwich Park Olympics that she’d conducted her own survey into the issue at pubs and railway stations. At £17.40 for each of those 61 votes, I just hope she enjoyed the campaign.

And now to the serious money – Eltham, Conservative target seat number 68. They didn’t manage it.

Party Candidate Amount spent Votes cast Cost per vote
Labour Clive Efford £28,303.11 17,416 £1.62
Conservative David Gold £36,126.09 15,753 £2.29
Liberal Democrat Steven Toole £1,193.25 5,299 £0.22
BNP Roberta Woods £400.00 1,745 £0.23
UKIP Ray Adams £655.00 1,011 £0.64
Green Arthur Hayles £703.00 419 £1.67
Eng Dem Mike Tibby nil 217 nil
Independent Andrew Graham £688.20 104 £6.61

Compared with the Tories’ campaign, the £1.62 per vote spent on heaving Clive Efford back into his seat seems like a bargain for Labour. Among the items ordered by Eltham Labour included £260 on beer mats – not all of which were delivered. Are there Eltham pubs with stocks of Clive Efford beermats clogging up their back rooms? I’d love to know…

David Gold‘s unsuccessful campaign pushed the Tories close to the limit for campiagn spending – costs included £512 on “lifestyle magazines” sent to homes from Charlton to Chislehurst, and £2,500 on “use of Geneva premises for telephone canvassing”. This isn’t as exotic as it sounds, though – Geneva was the name of the party’s call centre operation based in London and Birmingham.

The Lib Dems also ran a low-key and cheap campiagn in Eltham, while the most worrying aspect of the British National Party’s cheap campaign is that the fascist party got 4.2% of the vote for very little outlay, coming close to the 5% threshold for saving its deposit. In that respect, it’s probably a good thing that UKIP splashed out 67p per voter. The Greens’ debut in Eltham proved relatively costly, but at least got them seen by voters. English Democrat Mike Tibby only spent his deposit on getting just 217 votes.

Independent Andrew Graham brought up the rear, spending £6.61 per vote. Still, at least it gave him the chance to have a rant at the podium on the morning of the count.

So there you have it. There isn’t the extremes of the two Camden seats, were one high-profile independent manged to blow £50 per vote on an campaign – thumping egotism or high-minded principle? You decide – but maybe the local English Democrats would have been grateful for the £25/vote lavished on their candidate in Holborn and St Pancras. For more SE London figures, Londonist and Tom Royal studied returns from Lewisham Deptford and Lewisham East a couple of weeks back.

If there’s a message from these figures, it’s that standing for parliament is an expensive business – and, sadly, maybe that anti-fascist groups would be wise to spend some time in Eltham when the next election comes along.

4 comments

  1. I quite agree with Raven, this is fascinating. I don’t really look at these figures beyond the Conservative ones and it is interesting to see how much was spent. Mainly though I want to know how other people keep the cost of their election address leaflets (the ones which are delivered by post) down so low – it cost my campaign a fortune.

  2. A perfect illustration of why local blogs are a better source of (local) news than the rest – thank you

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