4 May 2017

The Cost of Standing Down Candidates

The cost of standing in every constituency in a UK General Election is substantial. The 573 Green candidates across the UK in 2015 put down a total of £286,500 in deposits. Liverpool Wavertree, where I was the Green candidate last time, was one of the 123 saved deposits. So the net loss on all those deposits was £225,000. A hefty hit for a smaller party.

However, the Short Money system means that we are eligible for public funding to support Caroline Lucas and the party in our work in Westminster. In 2016/17 the Green Party allocation was £212,100 plus travel. Despite that huge outlay in lost deposits, even in two years, the Short Money allocation has outweighted the loss. Over a scheduled 5 year period, it is a very effective investment for a smaller party, that can elect MPs, to stand in every constituency if it can.

So what is the cost of the Green Party standing down candidates if local arrangements are made in respect of a #progressivealliance to defeat the Tories? If we look at the seats we’ve already made that commitment in, we can calculate using our 2015 vote (rounded to nearest 200):

- Brighton Kemptown, £541.28
- Shipley, £439.79
- Ealing, £304.47
- Ilford, £169.15

So for ease of calculation, we are looking at about £1450 per year on 4 constituencies. We lost our deposit in two of these, but if we think of Parliament lasting 5 years this time, we might save £1,000 in likely lost deposits, but we miss out on £5,800 of Short Money to support the work of Green MP(s) in Parliament over that time. Imagine a situation where the Greens step down in 20 seats as part of a Progressive arrangement. We are then looking at a loss of £29,000 in funding over that Parliament.

The effect in standing down in a great many seats would also hurt the Liberal Democrats financially, although proportionately it would be much less of their post election Short Money allocation. Should Labour do the same in a number of Lib Dem seats and perhaps the Isle of Wight in favour of the Greens, they will also experience an impact financially, but it will again be a much smaller proportion of their overall party funds.

The Lib Dems have actually stood down in Brighton Pavilion, in a constituency in which they had a lost deposit in 2015, but there is a financial cost to them to do so. Labour so far, have given nothing to the #progressivealliance project. I don’t think anyone is realistically expecting Labour not to defend Bristol West with everything they’ve got. Just like Brighton Pavilion, the Greens are going to have win a campaign versus Labour. But the Isle of Wight is the obvious constituency in which both Labour and the Liberal Democrats could do something that makes the financial cost of Greens stepping aside in other constituencies worthwhile to the whole party.

Without something back from Labour, the Greens are being asked to give away tens of thousands of pounds of funding that could support the work that Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott-Cato will be hoping to do in Parliament. At what point do we say, “Ok, we’ve really tried with unilateral gestures to Labour. Despite the real costs for our party we’ve kept the offer on the table but Labour and Liberal Democrat leadership wouldn’t work with us, so let’s now work to make our small group of MPs, working with others, to be as effective as they can be in a Parliament with a big Tory majority.”

Our party leadership has done what it can to engage both Corbyn and Farron for the good of the country. Credit to the local Liberal Democrats for standing down in Pavilion and to the Women’s Equality Party for avoiding our target seats. The reality is that centre and left of centre (or in another dimension “no to Brexit” and “no to hard Brexit”) are divided, while UKIP is standing down in favour of pro-Brexit Tories. The #regressivealliance is a reality, but the #progressivealliance is not.

I would still support us trying to take the step of withdrawing in more constituencies in co-ordination with the Lib Dems, as long as something else (other than Pavilion) was coming back. I’m still hoping (and hopeful) that other local parties that have selected in marginal seats like Chester may be willing to withdraw if that single Labour gesture comes that might well unlock so much more.

I voted Green first preference but also cast a second preference today for one of the parties I mention above in the Liverpool Mayoral contest. I wanted my vote, along with many others, to show that actually we can work together. But if you are a Green, Labour or Lib Dem supporter, you’ll recognise that if the #progressivealliance is not going to be a thing, that Green members will prefer us to do what we can to help Green MPs to do their jobs as effectively as they can in the coming Parliament.

We are facing a seriously big Tory majority for another five years. It would be great for Labour to commit to Proportional Representation in its manifesto, but unless you put yourself in a position to implement it by working with others in this election, what is the point? If Labour can accept that the future of British politics is not a two party system, but pluralism, then it needs to start now at this election, otherwise promising PR manna tomorrow is pointless. If we don’t get a #progressivealliance the very real cost is going to be paid in further austerity and loss of rights and dignity for working people under the most right wing Tory government in more than a century.

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