Sunday, October 28, 2007

Parbury Politica: Increased Use of PCs and 'Phones

Will Parbury has produced a tabulation of campaign modernity tracking the increased use of computers, 'phones and direct mail shots over the past four General Elections. Clearly this will mean increased figures in campaign expenditure returns for these elements. And the Electoral Commission will surely be able to confirm this with a quick search on their database. Actually I doubt it.

Perhaps by now the Electoral Commission will have found out whether they themselves are analysing the shape of expenditure returns and seeing if this helps them in their job of keeping the parties on the straight and narrow. I asked the question in September 2005.

John Leech's return of expenditure in Man Wit that May showed just £17 for telephones for his whole campaign. Even though my moles tell me he had THREE landlines BUSY in his committee rooms for most of the election period, that his own mother was on one of them "knocking up" for most of E Day, and that at least 30 other 'phones were involved.

SEVENTEEN POUNDS? This is clearly not an honest line in a honest return. It is just one person's mobile use. It is 5% of the Labour figure. Absolutely ridiculous.


Iain Lindley said...

Funny thing for filling in election returns, phone expenditure. Most home phone packages (and many mobile packages) have unlimited evening and weekend calls - the commercial value of making hundreds of calls from my own mobile is negligible.

Chris Paul said...

Mmmm. That's as may be Iain. I can't say I've looked at more than half a dozen to a dozen returns for GEs. And mobiles aren't a great part of any of them.

The funny thing was the only 'phone costs included on Leech's expenses return were a solitary mobile for some volunteer. And as I said that was £17.

If you are on contract there may be no marginal cost if you have enough minutes but that doesn't mean there is no cost. The correct way to cost it would be to pro rata between campaign, work and private calls in each month straddling the election period and charge the account accordingly.

But we can ignore mobiles and the point stands.

Mobiles aside Leech had people working from landlines at home and the three landlines he'd have had to get activated at his HQ. No charge whatsoever for these although the impression is from volunteers/moles that they were busy making calls for much of the time. With no regard for when any free call period kicked in.

Leech also had virtually no postal bill. He allegedly shared his HQ cost with another constituency (Manchester Central). He split the cost of one item of print three ways (with Gorton and Central) this being a student newspaper. It was not seen in the City Centre halls in Central constituency.

They also burnt a complete print run of leaflets. And even so they dished out an absolutely phenomenal amount of different leaflets. Many of them commercially printed in full colour.

The expenses return was in my view completely bent. It was reported - not by me - but I'm told that there has scarcely been an acknowledgement. The Electoral Commission are clearly not providing an adequate or assiduous checking service.

Just for the record the Tory candidate in the seat (K Bradley vs our K Bradley) only returned the cost of print and mentioned nothing else. But as Karen was approximately £7,000 inside the limit and finished a distant third we can forgive this.

Leech was about 7 pence inside his limit and he won.

I really think the system needs to be changed to stop this kind of blatant abuse. And that obviously goes for all the parties.

One of these days we'll scan all the leaflets and the election expenses return and see if any one else can make the cost seen on the streets tally with the cost on the sworn, signed election return.