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The Conservatives spent twice as much as Labour in the 2010 election campaign, it was revealed today.

The figures, published by the Electoral Commission, show that while the Tories spent £16.7 million, Labour spent just £8 million. The Liberal Democrats spent £4.8 million.

Particularly noteworthy is the fact Labour spent £10 million less than in 2005.


The total spend by the 43 political parties who contested the 2010 general election was just under £31.5m, a significant drop compared with the £42.3m spent in 2005. No party spent the maximum of £19.5m, the cap set by the Electoral Commission for any party fighting all seats in a general election.

UPDATE: The Independent calculated how much it cost the parties to win a vote. While each vote cost Labour an average of 93p, and the Lib Dems 70p, the Tories gathered only one vote for every £1.54 spent.

It was a pricey campaign for the Conservatives. They spent £5,532 in just one day, projecting a picture of David Cameron onto London’s Battersea Power Station.

They also invested thousands of pounds in ideas that were dropped before the public had even heard about them. M&S Saatchi billed them £3,466 for a poster to warn the public about the pitfalls of a hung Parliament.

They also spent £2,500 on ideas featuring a “double-headed donkey” – a reference to a famous cartoon by David Low ridiculing the Coalition Government of 1922.

Similarly, Labour spent more than £1,600 on gas and inflator equipment for campaign balloons and £351 on six boxes of 60 bars of rock with the campaign slogan “A Future Fair for All” running through them.

The Independent also reports that another £360 went on hiring a Mercedes S class limousine for a day for Alastair Campbell, who was also put up at Labour’s expense for one night in a £340 hotel room. Everyone else in the Labour campaign team, apart from Gordon Brown, had to settle for a £118-a-night room that night.

The Electoral Commission figures also reveal a shift in the types of advertising the parties used. There has been a gradual move away from traditional party rallies and road tours, and big bucks spent on TV advertising, leafleting and web campaigns.

This trend was underway during the 1997 election, which saw the Independent run the headline “Britain on-line for the first election on the internet”. Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown participated in an online Question and Answer session, and over 50 MPs were accessible via email. It is worth noting of course that only 10% of the electorate could have accessed the internet, so the impact was minimal.

The Conservatives’ 2010 receipts reveal the cost of their TV and billboard campaign. They paid M&C Saatchi £43,909.75 to produce the “Manifesto” TV commercial, plus £42,782.34 for “additional” filming for the same advert. The hung parliament commercial, warning of the dangers of an inconclusive vote, cost £36,757.21. They also paid Saatchi £5,287.50 a week to have a retoucher on call for two weeks running.

Rally in Loughborough

In January this year, David Blunkett told the Times Labour would face bankruptcy if it tried to spend as much as the Tories in the election campaign. Speaking as chair of Labour’s general election development board, a body responsible for fundraising, Blunkett said the party did not have the “big money and big charisma” it used to enjoy when Tony Blair was leader.

“We are trying to be careful so we don’t end up bankrupt after the election if this all goes pear-shaped,” he said.


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