Political parties are crucial to British democracy, providing the foundations for mobilising voters. Their constituency branches are key links between voters and Parliamentary candidates and their activities require two vital resources – people and money. Much has been written on the decline of party membership but far less on money.
In this much-needed new book, Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie use the latest research and hitherto unpublished material to explore financial differences across the UK’s three main parties in the four years leading up to the 2010 General Election. They look at how much local parties raise for election campaigns and find that the more money candidates spend then, the better their performance. Analyses of their annual accounts, however, show that many local parties are unable to raise all of the money that they are entitled to spend on such campaigns. This reveals an unhealthy picture of grassroots party organisation in which the capacity to engage effectively with many voters is concentrated in a relatively small number of constituencies and is likely to remain so.
This timely and essential book will make a major contribution to the literature on British elections and parties, especially to continuing debates regarding party funding. It will make important reading for academics, students, politicians, civil servants and others interested in this topic.
"...An interesting new twist on the debate...[Johnston and Pattie] suggest that the poverty of local campaigns is as much a symptom as a cause of democratic malaise, and that while more money would help increase contact between parties and voters, it is not a simple solution to political disengagement." LSE Review of Books Blog
“A timely and forensic examination of one of the hidden corners of the British political system which raises key practical and normative questions about how we do and should pay for democratic politics.” Colin Rallings, Professor of Politics, University of Plymouth
“Debates about political finance are ones that frequently generate much more heat than light. Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie’s rigorous empirical study exposes myths and provides a genuine advance in our understanding of this important area.” Justin Fisher, Professor of Political Science, Brunel University
Ron Johnston (1941-2020) was a Professor of Geography at the University of Bristol.
Charles Pattie is a Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield.
Follow the Money: Cash, Party and Electioneering in Britain;
Money Matters: Local Campaigns at British General Elections;
The Financial Health of Local Parties: the Key to Electoral Success?;
Raising the Money: Donations to Local Parties;
Party Funding Futures;