Is it me, or is John Prescott everywhere at the minute? You don’t seem to be able to turn on a news programme, open a paper, or even take refuge on a desert island without bumping into him. Can he keep this up for 9 months till the election? Can the media put up with him for that long? Can we?
It’s likely that we won’t have to. Prescott may give the impression of running for the November election, but the real electorate he’s interested in are the Labour party members in Humberside, who he has to convince to pick him from a range of other candidates in the next few months. Given the nature of that electorate, we can also expect a degree of partisanship over the next few months until the nominations are resolved, despite that likely being an unpopular approach with the public for the actual election.
If you can stomach a little more Prescott, it’s probably worth a read of this interview in the Hull Daily Mail, which covers his age, his motivation for running, and one important item generally overlooked, namely campaign finance, which in Prescott’s case will be part of the money he got from Murdoch for being targetted in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
In particular he says “…the reality is that money will be needed for the campaign. This election is not going to be cheap. You have to raise a £5,000 deposit just to stand as a candidate and the Government isn’t even paying for one free leaflet like they do in general elections. The Labour Party has also made it quite clear it will not be providing any funding.“
This is not quite right. In general elections, the leaflet is not free, the delivery of it is, and the decision about leaflets has apparently not yet been made. That, however, is not the important part, which is that John Prescott clearly believes he’s going to have to pay for his campaign as a Labour candidate.
Compare that then with what Michael Crick had to say last month about candidates, and in particular his comments about Nottinghamshire County Councillor Bruce Laughton who is unsure about standing as “a big problem is cost. The Tories are asking candidates to raise their own funds, and he isn’t sure if he can raise the necessary £5,000 for the deposit or the estimated £80,000 needed to run a county-wide campaign.”
These are the only reports I have seen that suggest that official party candidates for either major party would be expected to raise or otherwise provide their party’s campaign costs. These conditions are not mentioned on the party’s websites, but Lord Prescott and Michael Crick are reasonably well placed to know what is going on. Also we should note that the timing of elections is fairly predictable. Get elected to a Council or Parliament, and you have four years to build up the campaign fund for next time. This election was not like that. No-one, not even the Conservatives who wanted it, knew that it would really happen, and one is left with the impression that no-one has been saving for it. This fact alone could provide a motivation behind the Liberal Democrats possibly sitting out this election.
So, is this true? Will the race be limited to the UK’s answers to Mitt Romney, or fundraisers so effective they may be better employed working for a charity? Do we want a powerful bias toward the wealthy in the choice of candidates for these important posts, and what does that mean for the public whose interests they represent? Do we want the people who the Chief Constable answers to being privately answerable to wealthy donors who stand invisibly behind them? At least party funding is reasonably well-regulated. Such a shift to individual funding of campaigns surely has profound implications.
The Huffington Post suggests that the Conservatives are expecting £5,000 from each Constituency Association, which the Associations are not happy about (do they even have it) but Labour’s position remains in question.