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Money and electoral politicsLocal parties and funding at general elections$
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Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447306320

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447306320.001.0001

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Money Matters: Local Campaigns at British General Elections

Money Matters: Local Campaigns at British General Elections

(p.33) Two Money Matters: Local Campaigns at British General Elections
Money and electoral politics

Ron Johnston

Charles Pattie

Policy Press

The legal rules surrounding constituency campaigns in the UK set very tight limits on candidates’ permitted campaign expenditures. Even so, most major party candidates spend far less than their allowed maximum. There is variation between each party in how much its candidates spend: at recent elections, average Labour and Conservative candidate spending has outstripped the Liberal Democrats by considerable margins, though in the 2010 election Labour’s ability to spend fell markedly. But local campaign spending is not randomly distributed. Parties spend little in seats where they stand little chance of winning, and only relatively small amounts in seats they are bound to retain, focussing their efforts instead on the more marginal constituencies where relatively small shifts of support might alter the result. More spending in these seats supports more intensive campaigns there, and evidence shows that such campaigns can and do pay electoral dividends: other things being equal, the harder parties campaign locally, the bigger their share of the vote there is likely to be and (in a close national election) the more likely they are to win sufficient seats to emerge as overall victor.

Keywords:   Party finance, Campaign expenditure, Target seats, Campaign effects

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