I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Money Talks (Doesn't it?)

Money is the political topic of the year so far, mainly due to Hain following on from Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander in breaking donation laws. Many people, most notably today Adam Price in the Western Mail, are lamenting about the "Americanisation" of UK politics. What they mean by this is that they fear that raising (and spending) money is getting more important than anything else in elections. The worry is that the person (or party) who has cash to spend will always win the day.

The Hen Ferchetan thought she'd have a look at just how Americanised our politics really is. Do we Welsh people really end up voting for the person who spends most? I'll be honest here and say that I expected the answer to be a big fat yes. There's a reason for my confidence in that hypothesis that goes further than "Money Talks". When looking at spending in different constituencies it is important to remember that parties spend more where they think they will win. Where they know they won't win they spend much less. So it should make sense for the big spending to be done by the winner.

A detailed look at spending in the 2007 Assembly Election however suggests otherwise. In 20 of the 40 constituencies, the winner did not spend the most money. Losers in Carmarthen West & penbrokshire (Plaid and Labour), Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (Labour), Cardiff West (Lib Dem), Cardiff South & Penarth (LD), Cardiff North (Labour and Lib Dem), Bridgend (Tory), Blaenau Gwent (Labour), Arfon (Labour), (Vale of Glamorgan (Tory), Vale of Clwyd (Tory), Torfaen (Lib Dem), Rhondda (Plaid), Preseli (Labour), Newport West (Lib Dem), Newport East (Lib Dem), Montgomeryshire (Tory), Islwyn (Plaid), gower (Tory) and Delyn (Tory) all spent more than the current AM's.

As you'll note from that list, in two seats, Carmarthen & Pembrokshire and Cardiff North, the winning candidate was actually the THIRD highest spenders!

One interesting bunch of figures come from Llanelli. It's no surprise to see that Labour and Plaid spent pretty much the same amounts in a hard fought race, what is interesting is the spending by the Lib Dems. On election night you will remember Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli, saying that people had "ganged up" on Labour in Llanelli. I remember people pointing to the Lib Dems poor showing, saying that they had not campaigned much, leaving the anti-Labour vote to Helen Mary Jones. Financial figures suggests that Nia was not just paranoid. The Lib Dem spending in Llanelli in 2007 was...wait for it...£0!

Other figures which raised an eyebrow for me was Lord Dafydd (the current one not the soon to be one) spending £10,304 in the ultra-safe Plaid seat of Dwyfor Meirionydd (more than fellow Plaid AM Gareth Jones did in the hard fought battle in Aberconwy) and Chrstine Chapman in ultra-safe Cynnon Valley spending £8,787 to everyone else's combined total of £1,843!


Rob Hopcott said...

Money talks so strongly because the people can't.

Money buys lobby power in all sorts of forms, legal and otherwise.

Every constituency should have an open forum where the people can forensically examine issues that are important to them, from specific regeneration projects to broad Local Authority objectives and MPs and Councillors should be required to speak in them.

The way to take power away from those with money is to give it openly to the people. Local discussion forums are cheap and will utilise the 'collective intelligence' of the people.

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