Thursday, June 29, 2006

How to Stop Candidates Going Bust

Rory Knight Bruce has written an article for this week's Spectator proposing that candidates should be paid. Click HERE. I don't agree with some of the specifics in Rory's piece, but I do agree with the general thrust. And the points he makes apply to candidates of all parties, not just mine.

Robert Halfon, our candidate in Harlow, has already written on this subject HERE. It's something I talked to David Davis about last year and we floated along with several other Party reforms. Sadly this got eclipsed by the wish to hold the Party conference at weekends and in towns other than Blackpool or Bournemouth.

Until you've been a candidate, you have no idea what you are letting your bank balance in for. If you're well off, all well and good, but if you're not it's very very easy to let things run away with you. Naively I had reckoned it would cost me £10,000 to be the candidate in North Norfolk. In the end I reckon it was closer to £40-50,000. If the election had been delayed beyond May last year I couldn't have continued. And those candidates being selected for seats now face three years of commitment to their seat. Many will be able to afford it, but some won't. Those who can't afford it won't be applying but some will ignore the sioght doubt in the back of their minds and will apply anyway. But once the realisation dawns on them what they have done, they may face no option but to stand down, as Rory Knight Bruce did in North Devon in 2003.

Robert Halfon is right. The Party should be looking at providing bursaries so that no one is put off becoming a candidate because it's beyond their financial reach. Rory Knight Bruce is wrong to say that Party funds should be used to pay EACH candidate an annual allowance of £40,000. That's simply mad. But for those in need, there should be a fund - perhaps run separately from the Party - for them to access. Over to you, Bernard!

16 comments:

EdR said...

Perhaps some of the funds for PPCs should come from MPs' pensions. An investment in the future, not the past!

Cranmer said...

Hmmm...

For the Conservative Party, I thought that was the purpose of Lord Ashcroft's intervention...?

Didn't he pour millions into 'target seats'? Why did this not assist impoverished candidates? It would have been absurd for you to have been forced from North Norfolk on financial grounds.

Still, money is power...

Iain Dale said...

Cranmer, believe me, you will want to listen to My Widdecombe Podcast, recorded yesterday. You played a large part in it...

Tim Montgomerie said...

I'm currently collecting (anonymous) accounts about the costs of being a candidate (for ConservativeHome.com). If anyone can help... please email me: tim@conservativehome.com

Thanks.

Hayek's Grandad said...

Forget the costs of being a candidate, it's how you survive on the pitiful income after you get elected that I want to know.

Johnny K said...

I don't wish to intrude, but the cost of a campaign has always puzzled me.

Do you mean it cost you personally 40k as you effectively were unemployed whilst campaigning?

Do you mean you had to raise (from various sources) 40k to fund the campaign, leaflets etc?

Or do you mean you personally had to contribute 40k to fund the campaign, leaflets etc?

Please don't think I'm prying.

Iain Dale said...

Johnny, more the first one. Petrol cost me about £100 quid a week alone. Had to buy a house, although I recouped the cost of that in the end. It was really a huge amount of little bits of expenditure which adde dup to a lot. Also, I couldn;t really work for the last 6-9 months, Had to give up broadcasting etc. I;m not whining about it. Just pointing out what it can cost.

Cranmer said...

Mr Dale,

Cranmer would be immensely interested to listen to your podcast with Ms Widdecombe, but five centuries of technological obscurity leaves him a little in the dark. Would you mind providing a link?

Inexplicably, traffic to Cranmer's blog has quadrupled recently... is he hitting a nerve?

Peter Hitchens said...

You cheeky get!
If you don't like it don't bother
politicians don't try and get elected because they "want to make a difference" they do it to massage their ego.
If I had my way no politician would receive a salary, that would make them have to earn a living and spend far less time sitting on their arses thinking of ways to interfere with my life.

Margaret on the Guillotine said...

Good Lord, did not M'Lord Woolton deal with this sort of thing back in the day?

Looks like the Tory Party needs another kick up the arse - if it's not going to free its candidates from the expense of running, then it's not going to get MPs representative of Britain, then it's going to be labelled a rich boys' club, then it's not going to get into Government. And its failed candidates will be the only ones really hit in the pocket.

Verity said...

I agree with Peter Hitchens Part Deux. Why are we paying them? Why aren't they out in the world earning a living and responding to life outside Westminster Village?

I'm all for zero pay and only people who can support themselves sitting in Parliament. If they can't support themselves in the real world, why should they be deemed competent to legislate ours? No daily alms for the Lords, either.

WmByrd said...

Iain - just look at the MP's gold-plated salary, expenses and pension scheme, and think of it as the glittering prize of a senseless lottery. Tough if one loses, I agree.

Michael Oakeshott said...

Or maybe candidates should stop sending a load of pointless guff through the post every day of a campaign. I frankly don't care. It is often better to have people running for Parliament who have a little extra money. Just as long as the beleaguered taxpayer isn't clobbered even more.

jgc said...

Those who think that MPs are overpaid getting vast sums at the tax payers expense should really learn to live in the real world. MPs get paid approx £60k a year ( ministers get more but not that much more ). £60k may sound a lot but it is a very average salary for working in central london and for many MPs will represent a drop in salary over their previous jobs.

Contary to popular legend the expenses are not that generous. Up to 20k is available for those who live outside london to cover the cost of living in London. The odd person has abused this and some have made reasonable sums from having the costs of a central london flat paid for and then profiting from the increase in capital value ( subject to capital gains tax ) but many just rent a nearby small flat ( which is likely to cost around £1000 per month ). The MP's pension scheme is good but this hardly makes up for the rest.

A few well known MPs do rather well from media appearances etc but again this is the exception rather than the rule.

Being a candidate for whatever party is expensive and the financial rewards of being a backbench MP are unlikely to pay back this cost. Whilst I am not sure that paying candidates is either practical or desirable it is unlikely that a career in the house of commons will make you rich. Most MPs of all parties are hard working responsible people and do not abuse the system.

bt said...

To a certain extent I agree with Verity.
When this representation thing all started, boroughs were enjoined to send two Aldermen (i.e. loaded) to present petitions, provide feedback, etc.

This concept was emphasised in the Putney debates, in that only those who have real property or a substantial investment in the country should have a say in how it's run.

Now we've got 'professional' politicians who expect to get paid, a political career structure ensures supine obedience to party dictat, and the whole thing is going to hell on a handcart.

Where's our saviour in the form of a latter-day Cromwell? ""You have sat too long in this place...."

Will Parbury said...

I was a Labour parliamentary candidate in the last general election. At the time I was working in a call centre so I was earning what a tory spends on a good dinner. Still managed ok even on a threadbare shoe string as it wasn't exactly the most marginal seat. But if it had been a marginal seat or if I had kids to look after then it wouldn't have been possible.

I don't think PPC's should all get paid but I think the parties should look at the situation before we end up being run by identikit middle class professional politicians. If we're not there already.

PS on Hitchens: politicians don't try and get elected because they "want to make a difference" they do it to massage their ego.

This is complete bull. And so hypocritical from a member of the meedja class.

If I had my way no columnist ( except Polly Toynbee) would receive a salary, that would make them have to earn a living and spend far less time sitting on their arses thinking of ways to interfere with my life.