Election 2015: the most expensive poll on record?

16 June 2015

"The general election battle between David Cameron and Ed Miliband triggered a huge surge in political donations, with more than £100m in reported gifts over the last year making it the most expensive UK poll on record." - The Guardian

This claim has recently been described as "utter nonsense" by Dr. Stuart Wilks-Heeg of Liverpool University.

It's correct that £100 million was donated to parties in the run-up to the 2015 election (the 2014-15 financial year plus the election campaign period), and this is much larger than previous elections. But donations aren't the same as spending, which is subject to limits during election time.

We won't know how much the parties spent on the campaign until data is published by the Electoral Commission—which won't be until the end of this year. Even then, it will fall within the limits set out in legislation.

Since April 2014 and up to election day this year just over £100 million was donated to political parties, as recorded by the Electoral Commission. That's much more than recorded before previous elections, even taking into account the Scottish referendum campaign last year.

But that much will never have been spent on the election as parties must limit their spending according to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Spending registered with the Electoral Commission peaked at £42 million for the 2005 election, for instance, with Labour and the Conservatives spending near to their limits anyway.

We'll have to wait and see how much the parties actually spent this election.

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