money in politics

Some votes are worth 22 times more than others, new research reveals

15th August 2013
15 Aug 2013
money in politics
party funding


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 Some votes are worth 22 times more than others, new research reveals

The political parties spend 22 times more on some people’s votes than on others, according to new research by the Electoral Reform Society.

The research shows that for the 2010 general election, parties spent just 14p per individual vote in Bootle, Merseyside, whereas they spent a whopping £3.07 per vote in Luton South, Bedfordshire. And the amount that parties spend is shown to have a direct impact on the likelihood that people turn out to vote.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Elections in Britain have become the ultimate postcode lottery. The amount of money which parties spend on attracting your vote depends almost entirely on where you live. The fact that voters in Bootle are valued 22 times less than those in Luton South shows that all votes are not created equal after all.”

“If you live in a marginal seat, then parties will spend money trying to attract your vote. But if you live in a safe seat – as so many people do – then you will be all but ignored. Our report shows that where parties tighten their belts, people will be much less likely to vote.”

“In other words, the massive inequality in how much people’s votes are valued is turning people away from politics. By targeting marginal seats, parties are contributing to the problem of voter disengagement, and they are making it harder for themselves to reverse declines in party membership.”

“There are two things driving this inequality. One is the dire state of the parties’ finances, and the other is our lop-sided electoral system. Parties have scant resources and naturally want to target their spending where it will make the most difference. Our outdated voting system means that the most logical way of spending money is to target a few marginal seats. And this leaves millions of voters in the lurch.”

“If we are going to redress the imbalance, both party funding and our electoral system need to be reformed. We need properly and sustainably funded political parties incentivised to campaign across the country, not just in a few fiercely contested seats. We need a party funding system that recognises the crucial role that parties play in mobilising voters. And we need an electoral system that values each voter equally no matter where they live.”

The Electoral Reform Society’s latest report, Penny for your Vote?, also reveals that in 195 seats (30% of the total), no money was spent by any candidate on public meetings. In five seats, no money was spent by any candidate on advertising, and 348 candidates (8.6% of the total) spent no money at all on their campaigns.

The top ten most valued seats, in descending order, are: Luton South, Aberconwy, Barking, Poplar and Limehouse, Northampton North, Hampstead and Kilburn, Buckingham, Norwich South, Brighton Pavilion, and Bethnal Green and Bow.

The bottom ten least valued seats are: Bootle, Ruislip Northwood and Pinner, South Leicestershire, Halton, Sheffield Heeley, Knowsley, Leeds East, Ashton-under-Lyne, Makerfield and Beckenham.

In the 50 most marginal seats, average spending per vote was 162% higher than in the 50 safest seats, demonstrating that the main driver of inequality in spending is an electoral system that makes much of the country a no-go area even for the biggest parties.

In one seat (Motherwell and Wishaw), no money at all was spent by two of the major parties, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Financially strained parties combined with an outdated electoral system have created a situation in which half the major party candidates in a constituency spend no money on campaigning.

The research provides solid evidence that money spent on campaigning is directly correlated with people turning out to vote. This builds on previous academic research which shows that contact between parties and people through leaflets, advertising, meetings and other activities encourages people to vote.

Voters in safe seats are less likely to have resources spent on attracting their vote, and are therefore less likely even to turn up at the polling booth. As voter disengagement becomes a more and more pressing problem, so does the inequality of party spending, and so does the voting system which incentivises parties to target their resources so ruthlessly.


The report, 'Penny for your Vote?', is based primarily on analysis of the Electoral Commission's data on campaign spending for the 2010 elections.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

Spend MPs' pay rise on new research staff

11th July 2013
11 Jul 2013
mps' pay
money in politics


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Spend MPs' pay rise on 152 new research staff

The Electoral Reform Society has called on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to put the money earmarked for an increase in MPs’ salaries towards new research staff for non-government MPs.
The £3.9m per year which IPSA suggests should go straight into MPs’ pay packets could instead fund 152 full-time researchers[1] with office space in Westminster. This new research service could be dedicated to supporting backbench MPs in holding the executive to account.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“MPs don’t need more spending money. What they need is more resources to be able to do their job properly. A £6,000 pay rise will not help MPs hold the executive to account or represent their constituents in Westminster.

“If we’re going to spend nearly £4m on MPs, we should spend it more wisely. A dedicated service of over 150 research staff would give backbenchers real teeth.

“While the government is able to call on the expertise and vast experience of the civil service, MPs have much fewer resources. A new research service dedicated exclusively to backbench MPs would make a huge difference to the quality of work MPs would be able to do.

“The fuss over MPs’ pay is a sideshow. It’s time we talked about giving our MPs the support they need to represent us effectively in Westminster.”

A Yougov/Sunday Times poll has found that 50% think MPs are already paid too much, while 35% think they are paid about the right amount.
For more information, comment, or interviews, email or call Will Brett on 07979 696 265.

[1] This figure is reached by a) assuming an average salary of £25k per annum per researcher, and b) assuming the average cost of desk space in Westminster is £670 per annum per researcher (see  

The MPs' salary sideshow: let's focus on the real issues

5th July 2013
5 Jul 2013
money in politics
mps' pay


The MPs’ salary sideshow: let’s focus on the real issues

For immediate release: Friday 5 July 12:00
The Electoral Reform Society is urging politicians of all parties, as well as the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), to stop worrying about MPs’ pay and concentrate on ensuring that backbench MPs are able to do their job in holding the executive to account.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“The fuss over MPs’ pay is a sideshow. There are real and pressing problems around how our representative democracy is funded, but these don’t include the precise size of MPs’ pay packets.
“We should be focusing more on how to make sure that our representatives are able to do the best job possible. This means they need to have adequate resources at their disposal to fulfil their dual roles as both legislators and constituency MPs. Constituency work now takes up more than half their working time[1]. Considering the average MP’s week amounts to 69 working hours and 10 hours of travel[2], that’s an awful lot of casework.
“When MPs do manage to get to Westminster they find they are less supported than in many other countries. In the US, members of Congress can call on the services of three congressional support agencies. Just one of these – the Congressional Research Service – has 700 employees and a budget in excess of $100m a year[3]. Perhaps we should consider scaling up resources in Westminster.
“And finally it means ensuring that MPs are able to balance their working lives with their personal lives. For instance there is currently no provision for MPs to have maternity or paternity pay, owing to the fact they are officially self-employed.
“MPs need to be able to do their jobs properly. The fuss over their salaries isn’t helping.”