Running a political campaign is an expensive proposition. As with many things on the other side of the pond, election campaigns in the US are big, and their budgets are even bigger. The 2012 presidential campaign in the USA was the most expensive in history with Romney and Obama raising $2 billion between them. In the UK, the sums dealt with are not quite so colossal, but when it comes to running a general election campaign, money still talks.
Funding is always a controversial component of an election campaign, often used as a source of ammunition for pre-election mudslinging. The Tories accuse Labour of being in the pockets of the unions and Labour accuse them back of being in the pockets of the bankers. With the Unite union pledging not to let Labour fight with “one hand behind its back” and details emerging of the Conservatives’ banker-filled fundraising party last year, these particular sources of mud for slinging may well carry some weight. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the 2015 election could still be wide open and in order to get ahead the parties need cash.
As it stands on the money front, the Conservatives are in a far more comfortable position than Labour, with expectations that the Tories will be able to spend the full £19.5 million permitted for campaigning in the year prior to the election. Labour, on the other hand, are hoping to be able to spend a little more than the £8 million they spent on the 2010 election. So with the Conservative war chest looking rather healthy, and the Labour purse looking decidedly light, the strategy employed by the two parties will undoubtedly be radically different.
Labour are beaten on the cash front. They will need to employ brains rather than brawn to make every penny count over the next year if they want to compete with a Conservative cheque book that is three times larger than their own. According to a Labour spokesman the campaign will focus on “field operations and digital” rather than the more traditional “flashy poster launches”, targeting 106 key battleground seats.
Labour seems to be taking a few more cards out of Obama’s rolodex too; having hired David Axelrod earlier this year, they have now brought Blue State Digital on-board, the agency behind Obama’s 2012 online presidential campaign. Labour’s ‘Digital Task Force’ headed, up by their Head of Digital John Miles, will have its work cut out for it over the next year if they are to maintain or increase Labour’s thin lead in the polls.
The Conservatives may be sitting pretty financially but they cannot afford to get complacent. Labour are still stubbornly sitting four points ahead in the polls and the Tories will need to pull something out of the bag if they want to close the gap. David Axelrod’s opposite number, Lynton Crosby, did not gain the nickname ‘the Wizard of Oz’ for nothing, although his strategy for the upcoming campaign is yet to be revealed.
All the parties will need to think outside of the box if they are to make significant gains next May and with the running still wide open, the Liberal Democrats, and possibly even UKIP, could still have a large hand to play.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
Latest posts by Jake Rigg (see all)
- Keene responds to the Budget - July 8, 2015
- The Northern Powerhouse & Pre-Budget Briefing - July 6, 2015
- The emergence of a green superpower on the back of G7 climate deal - June 16, 2015