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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