The cost of getting elected to the NI Assembly

Two reports came out yesterday morning from the Electoral Commission pertaining to the May elections in Northern Ireland. The first report gives a breakdown of Assembly candidate expenses. (Overall party expenditure was reported at the beginning of September.) [Click on the graphs to enlarge them.]

The six winning candidates spent more than twice as much in South Down, Fermanagh and South Tyrone and West Tyrone as they did in Belfast West or Belfast North.

South Down and East Londonderry were the most expensive constituencies to lose an election. Candidates spent least losing in Mid Ulster, Lagan Valle, and Newry and Armagh.

As the recent boundary commission proposals have reminded us, not all constituencies are the same size. So if we look proportionally at the amount spent per potential voter in each constituency, West Tyrone, South Down and Belfast South hurt the pockets most of the winning candidates.

In fact, just under £1 per potential voter was spent on the campaign in Belfast South (97p) and Belfast East (93p), with Mid Ulster (49p) and Belfast North (44p) the real bargain buckets.

In terms of overall party spending, while the DUP reported the highest overall spending (£185k), it only spent £28k on candidates who failed to be elected.

The Progressive Unionist Party only reported spending of £5451 for their single Assembly candidate (Brian Ervine, East Belfast). In comparison, independent Dawn Purvis spent £8052 in her failed bid to keep her Assembly seat in the same constituency.

I’ll do some analysis on the cost per first preference vote next week, but in terms of cost per eligible electorate, UKIP’s Fred McGlade (North Down) and Henry Reilly (South Down) came out the most expensive at 18p and 15p, with UUP’s John McCallister (South Down) and independent Dawn Purvis (Belfast East) spending 13p each.

Dolores Kelly (SDLP, Upper Bann) was the elected MLA who spent least on her campaign, a mere £480 (or 0.6p/potential voter). Fiscal prudence sounds just the ticket for the SDLP’s next deputy leader!

While the Green Party spent least per successful candidate (Steven Agnew), winning was a lot more expensive for Jim Allister (TUV and David McClarty (Independent). The UUP spent the most on getting their team of MLAs elected. Of the unsuccessful parties, UKIP wasted the most money per candidate, followed by the PUP and Socialist Party.

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  • FuturePhysicist

    DUP spend more on unelected candidates than elected ones? … apart from maybe Ruth Paterson and Billy Walker I don’t know if they really had a realistic chance with those who failed to get elected.

  • RyanAdams

    Its probably driven by the fact the DUP were throwing the kitchen sink at these candidates to help them get elected. They pushed for all seats they were fielding, conversely Sinn Fein spent £0 in North Down.

  • aquifer

    The parties that already have elected members and income streams from developers etc have too much of an advantage. Why not award funding to repay expenses on the basis of £1 per vote? The public should pay if they really want their interests represented instead of favours for business cronies.

  • I know that donations are not made public for obvious(?) reasons, but how much are individuals or organizations allowed to donate to specific candidates or political parties?

  • FuturePhysicist

    The parties that already have elected members and income streams from developers etc have too much of an advantage. Why not award funding to repay expenses on the basis of £1 per vote? The public should pay if they really want their interests represented instead of favours for business cronies.

    It almost borders on a poll tax that reasoning, the belief that those who have next to nothing but still could vote is fundamental to democracy. People whinge about the middle classes having too much voting power, yet they make up probably the broadest part of the tax bracket.

  • There is something wrong with the second graph. The cost per potential voter/candidate for all candidates is around twice as high as the cost per potential voter/candidate for those who succeeded and those who failed. Logically it should like between the values for elected and unelected candidates.

    It looks like the cost hasn’t been divided by the total number of candidates (elected + unelected) for the blue line.

  • The fourth graph shows average spend of a party for a candidate elected, and a candidate not elected.

    The DUP contested 44 seats and won 38 of them.

    So the DUP had a lot more candidates successfully elected then not, so although the unelected ones were individually expensive (fourth graph) overall the *total* spent on unelected ones was dwarfed by their successful ones (third graph).

  • the wrong side of 40

    It would be interesting to see the bank balances of each parties. I would imagine that some of them have been spending money that they simply don`t have.

    I know the SDLP`s finances at the moment are a major concern and something that the new leader is going to have to address very quickly.

    Are any of them addressing that through the leadership campaign?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Attend a hustings or ask.