Spotlight on Campaign Finance: U.K.

Following up on our exotic journey into Australian campaign finance laws, today, we’re taking it across the Atlantic in order to suss out campaign finance in the United Kingdom. Those only ever exposed to the American variety of elections will be shocked and awed by crazy short campaign seasons and a ban on media spending. Other parts of Britain’s campaign finance laws will look familiar (but still taste weird).

One of the biggest differences between U.K. and U.S. campaign finance is where the limitations are placed. In the U.S., limits are placed on the amount of contributions received. For example, an individual may donate $2,700 to a Federal candidate during each election. In the U.K., on the other hand, there is no limit on the amount of the contribution. The limits are placed on how much candidates and parties actually spend.

As alluded to earlier, media spending is another major difference. Total media spending for the 2016 U.S. presidential election was down this cycle, at only $9.8 billion. Media spending in the U.K. is not allowed. Let’s say that one more time for emphasis. Campaigns and parties cannot advertise on TV in the U.K. As a result, elections in Britain are mind-bendingly less expensive than they are in the colonies.

Another reason for elections costing so much less in the U.K. is that they are short, typically six weeks or so, though there is some controversy in Britain about when elections truly begin. The electoral spending limits are not put into place until the election officially begins. Astute politicians have been known to take advantage of this fact by reading between the lines and starting their spending ahead of schedule.

There are far too many nuances of political systems to discuss in a single blog, but stay tuned to Raise The Money for future adventures into the confusing and drastically less expensive world of international campaign finance.