Did Blair get value from the controversial election loans?
How much did the bill-boards help Labour to victory?
There is something rather ironic about the fact that a big part of the money Labour borrowed in the run-up to the 2005 General Election was spent on bill-boards like the one above promoting the Government’s successes with the economy and interest rate policy.
This was a key theme in the huge advertising blitz in the run-up to May 5th and on which a large part of the borrowed money was spent.
These are the loans, of course, which are at the heart of Labour’s current financial crisis and, possibly even more seriously, are central to the Scotland Yard’s “honours” inquiry.
But were the financial consequences that we are now seeing and having to deal with the police investigation worth it? Will Labour’s reputation for economic competence be affected by the party’s current financial turmoil? Were those posters really worth the price?
Compared with the election land-slides of 1997 and 2001 the 2005 General Election was a close result. Labour lost one in seven of its 2001 votes and ended up with a margin on votes of just 3%. Yet in terms of seats the 36% national vote share produced an overall Commons majority of getting on for 70.
It is hard to say, of course, what finally caused the electorate to vote in the way it did. But one thing seems certain after the party funding row – billboard campaigns like the one featured will not be used on anything like the same scale next time.
If strict national spending limits are imposed, as Labour is reported to want, then the big poster campaigns will surely be the first casualty.
The best way to invest precious campaigning cash is probably on things like the centralised direct marketing operation that the Tories established and utilised so well in 2005. They were able to supplement weak local parties in key seats and target spending where it was going to be most effective.
A good measure of the effectiveness of this approach was that the Tories ended up with 15-20 more seats than the seat predictors were suggesting and those who “bought” Tory seats in the final week on the election spread markets made nice profits.