Theresa May’s decision to call a surprise General Election in June is likely to have one benefit: it will cost millions of pounds less than last time.
The 2015 election cost the various political parties just over £39 million – and the EU referendum vote cost the public purse a whopping £142.4 million, according to the Cabinet Office.
So, as candidates and parties get up to speed for the June 8 vote, here’s how a General Election works and who pays what for it…
How much will the 2017 General Election cost?
According to a written parliamentary answer, the 2010 national election – which resulted in the David Cameron-Nick Clegg coalition – cost taxpayers £113,255,271.
Some £28.6m of that was spent on distributing the various leaflets and flyers produced by the candidates and £84.6m on actually organising the vote – printing ballot papers, postal votes, manning polling stations and the counts etc.
While there has been no definitive figure supplied for the ‘long’ campaign in the run up to the 2015 election, the cost is thought to be in the same ball park, so it’s safe to assume the cost for organising the 2017 vote will also be similar.
What about the various political parties?
Thanks to scrutiny by the Electoral Commission watchdog, we have a very accurate picture of what the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, indeed all the various parties, spent on their campaigns in 2015.
Parties are given a budget for national campaign materials based on how many constituencies they chose to fight. Individual candidates are given a separate spending limit for their local campaigns.
In 2015, £39,023,564 was spent by 57 parties and 23 non-party campaigners.
The Tories splashed out £15.6m, outspending Labour by more than £3m, with the Lib Dems spending less than £5m.
Details from the Electoral Commission shows that the Tory party spent £1.2m on Facebook advertising during the 2015 campaign.
The party also splashed out £29,000 to fly then leader David Cameron to visit every constituency in one day.
Lynton Crosby, their campaign chief, cost £2.4m – and he’s been hired again for this summer’s election.
The Labour party spent £5,400 on the (in)famous ‘Ed stone’ of pledges that quickly became a Mil-stone – and Harriet Harman’s pink election bus cost the party £4,742 for the respray.
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg’s suitably yellow battle bus in which he toured the country cost £80,767 – ultimately, it was not enough as the Lib Dems were routed at the polls.
Nigel Farage, then leader of UKIP, is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is why he went everywhere with a team of bodyguards – at a cost of £6,363.
That’s a lot of cash, where do they get their money from?
While the Electoral Commission will award a level of state funding, depending on the number of MPs a party has, much of the election ‘war chest’ is generated through private fundraising.
Leading business people are known to back various parties with hard cash. Grassroots members of each party will hold fundraising events, pay fees and subs to be members of their local Conservative Association or Labour Party, for example.
The Labour Party also relies heavily on the unions to provide the bulk of its fighting fund – more than 2 million union members contribute to the party annually, amounting to about £5.5m.
Historically, unions also dip into their political funds to provide one-off donations during elections, raising £10m-£12m.
Once the votes are counted, is that it?
Not quite. There are going to be winners and losers – and it costs money to move new MPs and losing MPs in and out.
MPs who lose their seats are allowed to claim two months’ expenses to get their affairs in order – which includes paying off staff and even hiring removal firms.
According to the parliamentary spending watchdog Ipsa, more than £9m was claimed by losing MPs after the 2015 election. New MPs were given £771,000 to help set up their offices.