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Revealed: £90 to £12k - what Norwich election candidates spent to win your vote

PUBLISHED: 13:29 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:41 04 February 2020

Candidates who stood for Norwich North and Norwich South in the December 2019 general election. From left to right, top corner down. James Wright, Liberal Democrat, Karen Davis, Labour, Clive Lewis, Labour, David Thomas, Liberal Democrat, David Moreland, UKIP, Michael Spencer, Conservative, Chloe Smith, Conservative, Sandy Gilchrist, Brexit Party, Adrian Holmes, Green Party, and Catherine Rowett, Green Party. Photos: Various

Candidates who stood for Norwich North and Norwich South in the December 2019 general election. From left to right, top corner down. James Wright, Liberal Democrat, Karen Davis, Labour, Clive Lewis, Labour, David Thomas, Liberal Democrat, David Moreland, UKIP, Michael Spencer, Conservative, Chloe Smith, Conservative, Sandy Gilchrist, Brexit Party, Adrian Holmes, Green Party, and Catherine Rowett, Green Party. Photos: Various

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Election candidates hoping to win the votes of people in Norwich spent from as little as £90 to as much as £12,000 on their campaign, returns reveal.

Adrian Holmes, who stood for Norwich North for the Green Party. Pic: Green Party.Adrian Holmes, who stood for Norwich North for the Green Party. Pic: Green Party.

The election returns, which are available to view at district councils, break down what candidates in the 2019 general election spent on their campaign, how much they claimed in expenses and how much they were given in donations.

In Norwich North, Adrian Holmes, who stood for the Green party, spent the least, at £90.23 - less than 1pc of the sum spent by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, whose figure was £12,505.50.

She was closely followed by Labour candidate Karen Davis, on £11,766.15, in what was a closely-watched battle for the marginal seat.

Across the border into Norwich South, Green party candidate Catherine Rowett spent the least, £1,314.16, while MP Clive Lewis spent £9,665.60, followed closely by Brexit Party candidate Sandy Gilchrist on £8,253.97.

Mr Holmes said it made sense, under the first past the post voting system, for parties with a realistic chance of taking marginal seats to spend as much as they were allowed.

"The Green Party vote has been squeezed in successive elections and with the limited resources we have, it makes no sense to throw money down the drain," he said.

He said the campaign focus for him was being available to people during the campaign, to answer questions on policy.

"I was particularly interested in highlighting climate change and the effect it will have on Norwich and Norfolk," he said. "I attended all the hustings and events that I was invited to and also tried to answer every email that I received during the campaign. So although we didn't spend much money, I believe we put in a decent effort."

He said he believed the spending figures highlighted issues with the first past the post system, and said proportional representation would mean everybody's vote would be equally important.

Candidates must declare their spend in various categories - in Norwich, 'advertising' spend usually covered posters, rosettes and balloons, while 'unsolicited materials to electors' mostly included leaflets and flyers.

Other categories were staff costs, public meetings, transport - such as travel to and from constituency - and accommodation/administration.

Ms Smith's spend included £125.41 on a visit by prime minister Boris Johnson in Norwich in November, a cost which in the past would have been covered at a national party level.

Ms Smith said: "I like to run a campaign that works in lots of different ways to reach out to people. I use a combination of paper leaflets and social media for example, because I like to try to get my message across to people in a way that works for them."

She said the returns increased "transparency and accountability" in politics.

Milly Hartley in her best Christmas jumper outside New Buckenham Polling Station during the December 2019 election. 
Byline: Sonya DuncanMilly Hartley in her best Christmas jumper outside New Buckenham Polling Station during the December 2019 election. Byline: Sonya Duncan

Of the candidates who claimed expenses, most did so for petrol and transport. Ms Smith claimed £747.34 in total, including £592 for car hire.

Expenses are not regulated or capped as with election spend, and Ms Smith said the car hire was needed because of a very "human reason" - her car broken down just before the election.

When it came to donations, the majority were just given enough to cover their spend from local and national arms of their political parties. Some received non-cash donations - Mr Gilchrist was given an upstairs room at a bar in Norwich worth £400 for a meeting in November.

Only the two Labour candidates received more money than they spent.

Ms Davis received £20,056, having spent just over £11,700, while Mr Lewis received £19,160 and spent £9,665.60.

Mr Lewis' office said leftover donations were ring fenced for campaign funds, with the majority saved for campaigning or left in the pot until the next general election.

If a donor specifies it may only be spent with a specific candidate, and that isn't possible, it can be returned.

MORE: General election 2019 - all our coverage in one place



The battle for Norwich North

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Norwich North in particular became a key battleground during the election.

Having seen her majority decrease in 2017, Ms Smith was determined to hold onto the seat, while Labour eyed it as a target to turn red.

The high-profile contest saw non-stop campaigning, door-knocking and election material landing on householders' doormats.

And the competition was reflected in the figures, with other candidates spending a maximum of £24 on advertising, compared to £3,120.79 by Ms Smith and £1,492.81 by Ms Davis.

Dave Thomas, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in Norwth Norwich. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Dave Thomas, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in Norwth Norwich. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

And for materials sent to electors, Ms Smith spent £7,741.71 and Ms Davis £6,660.07. The next highest sum was £2,837.70, by Liberal Democrat candidate Dave Thomas.

The papers give a breakdown of the number of leaflets - the Labour candidate paid for 50,000 final week leaflets, 40,000 targeted leaflets and 40,000 'flying start' leaflets at the beginning of the campaign.

And Ms Davis issued 35,000 endorsement leaflets, 22,500 polling day leaflets and 20,000 'calling cards' among others.

How does election spending work?

Spending limits are put in place during elections to keep the battle fair.

They apply to candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners and vary for different elections.

Dr Mike Spencer, Conservative candidate for Norwich in the December 2019 general election. Picture: Kate WolstenholmeDr Mike Spencer, Conservative candidate for Norwich in the December 2019 general election. Picture: Kate Wolstenholme

Individuals hoping to become MPs must also keep an eye on their spending, with candidate spending limits differing at a local level.

It is worked out by adding together a fixed sum of £8,700, plus 9p or 6p per registered voter depending on the location.

In Norwich South, for example, it was £13,370.70 and in Norwich North it was £12,730.32.

Candidates and parties must record what they spend during the election campaign and report it to a returning officer.

It includes money spent on advertising - from YouTube to banners - leaflets or letters sent to homes, transport, public meetings, cost linked with staff and any other administrative or accommodation-based costs.

Social media use

The use of social media to target voters has been given particular scrutiny in recent elections.

Experts believe it is an increasingly decisive factor in elections around the world, though its exact impact can be difficult to pin down.

While the returns were not always specific on how much had been spent on social media, or how exactly how the money had been spent, they gave an insight into whether candidates used the tool in some form.

For Norwich South Conservative candidate Michael Spencer, Facebook advertising accounted for £76 in his papers.

And for Sandy Gilchrist, the Brexit Party candidate, of the itemised entries listed in his advertising spend, many related to Facebook adverts.

For Norwich North Labour contender Ms Davis, a social media heading within advertising was listed as £1,000.81, while Ms Smith included a category called "digital advertising", on which £1,003.65 was spent.

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