Earlier this week the Electoral Commission released information on the money spent by Police and Crime Commissioner candidates in their election campaigns last year. On the face of it the contents are not that surprising. In the majority of constituencies, 24 of the 41 police force areas, the candidate who spent the most money won. Money talks. But on closer inspection the picture that emerges from the data is somewhat more nuanced.
Firstly, big spending was no guarantee of success. Of the seven candidates who spent more than £40,000 on their campaign, only two won. The candidate who spent the most Craig MacKinlay, who spent nearly £100,000 attempting to become PCC in Kent was not successful. It clearly took more to win than just having money to burn. In addition, you could win without spending huge sums of money. In Lincolnshire Alan Hardwick won despite having spent only £394 on his campaign, while seven further candidates won despite spending less than £10,000.
Secondly, the widespread concern that independents would be heavily outspent by candidates representing political parties was only partially born out. On average, Conservative candidates spent by far the most (£21,916 per candidate), but independent candidates (£9,296) were not that far behind Labour (£12,858) and spent more on average than Liberal Democrat (£4,823) and UKIP (£3,605) candidates. Moreover if you look only at the best funded independent candidate in each constituency, their average spending was even closer to Labour at over £12,000.
It does appear, however, that independents ended up funding their own campaigns. While 91 per cent of the money spent by candidates representing a political party came from donations over £50, the equivalent for independent candidates was just 33 per cent. Either their funding came from a significant number of small donations or, much more likely, most of it came from their own pockets. Ann Barnes, for example, spent £50,000 of her own money on her campaign in Kent.
The next PCC elections are not until May 2016 and by then changes may have been made for example introducing centrally-funded candidate mailshots that would lessen the financial burden on candidates. But those hoping to stand as independents should start thinking now about how to raise money, unless they are willing and able to fund their campaign themselves.