Buying the election: the cost of votes in South East Essex


Some interesting numbers in yesterday’s Southend Echo, pertaining to the spending of each of the parliamentary candidates in the recent elections.

Given that all candidates have to file election expenses by law, it makes for quite an interesting look at how each campaign was financed. The accompanying article in the Echo highlighted concerns about the Conservatives buying the election, and having seen the eye-watering numbers they spent across the whole of south Essex, there’s some cause and justification I think.

So letting out my inner stats wonk, I decided to have a look at how each candidate’s expenditure stacked up compared to the votes they won, in the three south east Essex seats.

Rochford & Southend East

Candidate Party Expenditure (£) Votes Cost-per-Vote (£)
Floyd Waterworth UKIP £1,454 8,948 £0.16
James Duddridge Conservative £7,877 20,241 £0.39
Ian Gilbert Labour £4,643 10,765 £0.43
Simon Cross Green £1,075 2,195 £0.49
Peter Gwizdala Lib Dem £891 1,459 £0.61

Starting with my own constituency, the most notable thing is how (Comparatively -Ed) little James Duddridge spent. UKIP votes look to be quiet cheap, though given the utterly lacklustre campaign Floyd Waterworth ran, and the fact that he seemed to alienate a good portion of his activist base, it can’t be much of a surprise that he didn’t burn through the money.

The Labour vote was more expensive than I was expecting, but given a) the amount of glossy literature we put out, and b) the fact we held our own despite an unfavourable national picture, it isn’t actually that surprising. In the case of the Greens and the Lib Dems, winning very few votes whilst spending some thousand pounds apiece means a higher cost-per-vote.

Southend West

Candidate Party Expenditure (£) Votes Cost-per-Vote (£)
Brian Ottridge UKIP £1,043.00 7,803 £0.13
Julian Ware-Lane Labour £1,522.00 8,154 £0.19
Jon Fuller Green £754.00 2,083 £0.36
Sir David Amess Conservative £10,605.00 22,175 £0.48
Paul Collins Lib Dem £5,525.00 4,129 £1.34

I do wonder how much of Sir David Amess’ £10k was spend on that ridiculous horse and cart. His inflated spending made the Tory vote in Southend West a good deal more expensive than in Rochford & Southend East. Austerity for the country, but not for Sir David’s re-election campaign.

Again UKIP’s low spending gave them an inexpensive vote, but I’m particularly proud of the Labour numbers. We made a conscious decision in Southend West to fight smart, rather than expensive. We relied on hard work more than we did spending money.

The Greens did a little better in Southend West than in Rochford & Southend East (Though, actually, they lost their deposit, so… -Ed), whilst the Lib Dems spent a whopping £5.5k. I mean…wow. £1.34 per vote seems like a pretty terrible investment…

Rayleigh & Wickford

Candidate Party Expenditure (£) Votes Cost-per-Vote (£)
John Hayter UKIP £488.00 11,858 £0.04
David Hough Labour £1,144.00 6,705 £0.17
Mark Francois Conservative £10,024.00 29,088 £0.34
Mike Pitt Lib Dem £1,000.00 1,622 £0.62
Sarah Yapp Green £1,265.00 1,529 £0.83

I had no involvement with the Rayleigh & Wickford, and am mostly including it here for sh*ts and giggles completeness’ sake.

Mark Francois’ cost-per-vote is the best of the three Tory candidates in south east Essex, largely because he got so damn many of the things. His spending is more in line with Sir David’s than Mr Duddridge’s, but he won nearly 30,000 votes.

UKIP’s John Hayter, though, has an astoundingly impressive cost-per-vote of 4 pence, reflecting — presumably — a lack of investment generally with a larger natural body of UKIP voters. The fact that Mr Hayter is a Rochford District councillor probably gave him greater profile.

The Labour candidate’s spending is in line with that in Southend West, but without the votes we managed, whilst the Lib Dem performance looks positively brilliant next to Paul Collins’.

Poor Sarah Yapp, though. I’m sure her low vote is a result of doing next to no campaigning work, but £0.83 per vote is a pretty high price to pay. She had the highest expenditure of all three green candidates, and the least to show for it. Not even a deposit.


  1. i am surprised given the lack of literature or anything from the lib dem candidate in RSE that he spent that much money! I thought the article was interesting but not sure about the claim of buying the election given in thurrock lab and ukip spent more than conservatives and lost and in castle point ukip spent more than conservatives and lost. I was surprised hopw much Sir David Amess spent in what was always a safe seat though!


    1. You know, my first thought was, “What the hell are the Lib Dems spending all of that on?” too. Closely followed by, “Where are they getting it from?”

      The ‘buying the election’ but was slightly tongue in cheek. Given the national swing, I don’t think any of the three seats could be said to have been at risk. But nearly £10k a pop is an eye-watering figure, and in another year could have been argued to have had a disproportionate effect.

      I think I would be in favour of some sort of tightening of the spending limits.


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