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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 19:22 GMT
How to win: Spend, spend, spend
Tony Blair
Tony Blair's New Labour promised to banish sleaze
A vital element of the secret of electoral success is quite simply to spend, spend, spend - as a look at the accounts of the main political parties will show.

Labour donor income
1992 - 3.5m
1993 - 3m
1994 - 3.7m
1995 - 4.2m
1996 - 10.1m
1997 - 15.6m
1998 - 7.9m
1999 - 8.9m
The year 1997 was a bumper one for spending with the Labour Party splurging 16.6m and the Tories 10.1m.

But even those figures are dwarfed by the outlay on general elections, which not only includes cash for the campaigns but also longer term election spending.

As the committee on standards in public life noted when it looked into the subject of party funding after the 1997 contest, "there has in the past been little information about the parties' income and expenditure and no standardised categorisation of either area".

Party funding is often a murky area and only in recent years has light increasingly been shed on the issue - often only by the parties themselves when it has been deemed politically advantageous or necessary to do so.

As the committee went on to point out, "we have therefore had to rely on the parties' responses to our requests for information".

The Conservative Party's election spending is put at 28.3m for the 1997, compared with Labour's campaign spending of 14.9m. In comparison, the Liberal Democrats fought the campaign on the cheap with just 2.3m.

Tory donor income
1992 - 20m
1993 - 7.8m
1994 - 9.4m
1995 - 12.7m
1996 - 18.6m
1997 - 38.2m
1998 - 9.7m
1999 - 6.4m
For the previous contest in 1992 the Tories spent 11.2m; Labour 8.4m and the Lib Dems 1.5m.

The ever-increasing amounts have led advocates of state funding and others to complain of an escalating "arms war" between the parties, in effect pricing national political participation out of the reach of all but those whom the super-wealthy will choose to bankroll.

As the war-chests have grown, so the parties have sought more wealthy one-off backers to fill them.

In 1992 Labour listed its inome from donations - small and large - as 3.5m. The real leap came after Tony Blair's new business-friendly leadership was installed at the head of the party: in 1996 it listed 10.1m in donations (compared with 4.2m the previous year); by 1997 it was up to 15.6m.

The Tories, more traditionally the party of the big donor, listed a whacking 20m of its income as having come from donations in 1992. By 1997 this had climbed to 38.2m.

The Lib Dems, in contrast to their bigger rivals, declared 2.1m in donations for 1992 and 2.5 in 1997.

Campaigners alarmed at the ballooning size of campaign expenditure can expect some relief at the next election: for the first time, a cap has been put on spending.

That relief may not be great, however, as the cap is set at 20m.

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See also:

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Labour's 11 ennobled donors
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Sainsbury pledges Labour 2m
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