Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Labour Cuts the Posters, Not the Messages

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Labour Cuts the Posters, Not the Messages

Article excerpt

Chicken donors

Labour may have been enjoying a boost in poll ratings lately, but the Conservatives still have a huge financial advantage. The latest figures from the Electoral Commission show that the Tories received donations of nearly [pounds sterling]10.5m in the last three months of 2009, dwarfing the [pounds sterling]4.9m given to Labour.

Tory donors gave more than [pounds sterling]27m last year, the largest total received by any party since 2001 (see graph). The fundraising lead once enjoyed by Labour has been eroded as big donors such as Christopher Ondaatje--who bankrolled the party under Blair--have been lost.

The Tories do not depend on Michael Ashcroft--who last year gave about [pounds sterling]330,000 through his firm Bearwood Corporate Services--as heavily as they did. But the Tory peer, who has given the party [pounds sterling]6.8m since 2001, retains a controlling influence over its marginals strategy. He and other donors may start to question how their funds are used. That airbrushed Cameron poster and macabre tombstone ad were not examples of money well spent.

While Cameron plans to spend the legal maximum of [pounds sterling]18m on the election, Labour, fearful of bankruptcy, will run a lean, [pounds sterling]4m campaign, eschewing ordinary advertising in favour of modern techniques such as "crowdsourcing". Things may change in coming weeks, but so far fears the Tories might "buy the election" seem overstated.

Duty free

The Conservatives are fond of claiming that more people than ever are caught in the inheritance-tax net, but do the figures bear them out? The "death tax" (a phrase borrowed from the US right)--or "death duties", as the inheritance tax's predecessor was known--was introduced in 1894. The earliest available records date from 1939, by which time about 30 per cent of estates were paying the tax. …

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