4 Observations from the General Election Spending Data

The Electoral Commission has just published the spending of the main political parties for the 2015 general election last May. I had a brief look at it earlier today, but I thought I’d go back to it and pick out a few interesting tidbits.

1. Conservatives dominate social media

social media spending

This pie chart tells the story. The Conservatives trounced their competitors in spending on social media and Google ads in May.

Labour were a distant fifth, behind the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Ed Miliband’s former party spent much more on social media marketing companies, such as £155,611.20 on Experian Ltd and £74,400.00 on Alchemy Social, which also features on Experian’s website.

2. Travelling in style

The Tories spent a hefty £119,634.48 with Sovereign Business Jets. Based in Biggin Hill, Kent, they offer private jets and helicopters to charter. David Cameron’s party also spent another £14,688 with Eastern Atlantic Helicopters Limited.

They weren’t the only ones to take to the skies. The Scottish National Party spent £35,450 with PDG Helicopters, while UKIP spent £16,055 with Jota Aviation.

There was no sign of air travel in the Green Party’s records. The pro-environment party’s largest transport expenditure was £13,000 with The Big Red Bus.

3. Starting early

2014 campaign spend

Not only did the Conservatives outspend their rivals overall, they also started much earlier. This chart looks at the dates that expenses were marked ‘paid’. By the turn of last year, the Conservatives had already spent almost a fifth of their final total. Labour had spent just 1.8%.

Getting off to an early start wasn’t essential for success. The SNP spent all their money in 2015 and virtually swept the board in Scotland.

4. Value for money

Cost per seat, 2015 general election
Cost per seat, 2015 general election

The first-past-the-post electoral system rewards parties that have concentrated support in certain areas and makes life difficult for parties whose support is spread out around Britain.

UKIP, the Greens and the Lib Dems found this out to their cost. They spent £7.5m between them for a grand total of just ten seats.

The system is much kinder to the parties that compete in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Their support is concentrated in these areas. This means more chance of winning seats, as well as huge savings on transport costs as candidates don’t need to zip from one corner of Britain to the other. The SNP’s ‘Sturgeon-copter‘ may have looked presidential, but her party could afford to splash out – the SNP spent less than a tenth of Labour on transport.

Concluding thoughts

There is much to ponder in this data for Labour strategists trying to work out why they lost in May. The Conservatives spent heavily on Facebook and started burning through their war chest much earlier. According to BuzzFeed, the Tory focus on Facebook was deliberate – Twitter was thought to be the domain of journalists and political activists rather than undecided voters.

Coincidentally, the Beckett report into Labour’s election defeat was also published this week. Here is what Dame Margaret had to say about social media:

We should develop and promote the possibilities of social mediafor communicating with the public at large, while recognising the risk it carriesof self-reinforcing messages and assumptions.

Lastly, there was no data for the Ed Stone. The widely-ridiculed stone pledge was missing from the Electoral Commission data – an ‘administrative error’, Labour said.

The party is seeking to ‘rectify this error as soon as possible’ – no doubt political hacks will be keen to learn exactly when they do.

Here is a copy of the spreadsheet I used. You’re welcome to download it and run your own analysis.


Telegraph Technology round-up: week 2

I perused Google's map of North Korea for one story
I perused Google’s map of North Korea for one story

On Friday I finished my second week at the Telegraph on the Technology desk. Happily I got just as much on the website as I did in week one. I’m very grateful to Matt Warman and Chris Williams for allowing me to come in and for all their help over the last fortnight. Continue reading “Telegraph Technology round-up: week 2”

Telegraph Technology round-up: week 1

Mark Zuckerberg. Kind of a big deal, so I've heard. Image: SOCIALisBETTER
Mark Zuckerberg. Kind of a big deal. Image: SOCIALisBETTER

This week I’ve been lucky enough to spend the first of two weeks at The Telegraph on the technology desk. Matt Warman, the Consumer Technology editor, and Christopher Williams, the Technology Correspondent, have given me lots of things to do, which is exactly what I wanted. Continue reading “Telegraph Technology round-up: week 1”

Spotify removes five track limit as it searches for the Goldilocks model

Business decisions at Spotify. Image: Jon Åslund
Business decisions at Spotify. Image: Jon Åslund

Spotify has removed its limit of five plays of a particular song for British users. It was launched in April 2011 and affected Britons who had signed up to the music streaming service for more than six months. The aim was to try to nudge users towards subscribing to its paid-for services.

“Great news about the 5-play limit!” was how Spotify announced the decision on their website, as if it had found out from an excited neighbour rather than, er, making the decision itself.

Why? Who benefits?

For free users, it’s obviously great news. They will still have to put up with the ads, but at least their favourite Lady Gaga track won’t grey out after a frustratingly fleeting five listens. Free users in the UK will be nudged to subscribe by the cap on listening to free music that comes in after ten hours.

Stuart Dredge at Music Ally notes that Spotify varies the limits on its freemium services in different countries. O’Hear calls this creating “false scarcity” because hearing Jonathan from Spotify every two or three songs was not convincing enough users to pay to make them go away.

Spotify seems to be trying out different models in different countries, trying to settle on a model that will, presumably, convert the most users into subscribers. In the meantime, students at schools at universities around Britain can bask in more free music, at least for now.

Microsoft and a left hook to the language barrier

C-3PO was “fluent in over six million forms in communication”. Is Microsoft getting nearer?Image copyright Mark Menzies, reproduced under Creative Commons

Yesterday I read this article in the Telegraph that reported Microsoft’s development of translation software. If you watch the embedded video (also available here), you can see the new software in action. Last month Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer, spoke in English and the program computed his voice and presented it as English subtitles on the screen behind him. The subtitles weren’t perfect – some words are wrong and the grammar is shaky – but the meaning is by and large conveyed. Continue reading “Microsoft and a left hook to the language barrier”

Google and newspapers share the same bad mobile connection

Newspapers: trying to stay afloat with online advertising
Copyright Kevin Lim, reproduced under Creative Commons

It was an awful week for Google. On Tuesday it took some stinging criticism from European data protection commissioners who accused Google of providing “insufficient information to its users on its personal data processing operations”. Then, on Thursday its third quarter results were accidentally released a few hours early without a reassuring explanation from the chief executive officer, Larry Page. Shareholders bolted to the tune of $45m per second before Google managed to suspend trading. Continue reading “Google and newspapers share the same bad mobile connection”

Collaborative Consumption – Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Share Our Stuff

credit to Flickr user "Images_of_Money"
People are swapping their car keys for cash via sites like Getaround and Whipcar (Copyright Flickr user “Images_of_Money”, reproduced under Creative Commons”)

What would you do if you wanted to go to Liverpool next weekend and needed a place to stay? Or perhaps you’re in San Francisco and you want to drive around bohemian Haight-Ashbury, but you’re new in town and have no car?

The conventional answer would be to book a hotel or go to a car rental service, but these businesses have been challenged since around the beginning of the financial downturn by a new form of hiring and renting: collaborative consumption. Continue reading “Collaborative Consumption – Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Share Our Stuff”