Revealed: The cost of winning - and losing - South Shields by-election

INFLATED COST? ... Emma Lewell-Buck on the campaign trail with her 'Vote Labour' balloons.
INFLATED COST? ... Emma Lewell-Buck on the campaign trail with her 'Vote Labour' balloons.

MONEY talked in the South Shields Parliamentary by-election, financial figures published today prove.

The Gazette has analysed the amount of cash the nine candidates spent fighting for your vote at the poll on Thursday, May 2.

And it shows that the biggest winners were generally those who forked out the most dosh.

Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck emerged victorious with just over 50 per cent of the votes cast.

Her campaign cost £81,688 – the majority spent on staffing costs (£48,786).

The figures, available now from the elections office at South Shields Town Hall, also reveal the campaign wasn’t short on hot air – as Mrs Lewell-Buck spent £50 on ‘Vote Labour’ balloons, and £347 on the helium needed to blow them up.

UKIP, whose candidate Richard Elvin finished second, was the next biggest spender on £47,704 – including £3,000 to rent a campaign office in the town’s King Street.

The Conservatives, who came in third, proved the most frugal spenders at just £5,292.

But the biggest loser in terms of cash spent to votes won were the Liberal Democrats, who finished seventh – with candidate Hugh Annand losing his deposit in the process.

Mr Annand polled a miserly 352 votes – despite being the third biggest spender at £6,302. In real terms that meant every single vote won cost a whopping £17.91.

That compares with £6.54 for each vote won by Mrs Lewell-Buck, £7.97 for Mr Elvin and just £1.85 for every vote gained by Conservative candidate Karen Allen.

All by-election candidates are required under law to make their campaign expenses available for public scrutiny.

Labour’s costs were met through donations from the Labour Party nationally (£48,529) and Labour North (£28,688), in addition to contributions from the Unite and Unison unions.

The expenses cover everything that was spent during the three-week campaign, including the £63 on Labour election stickers and the £2,748 on telephone calls – at 32p a time – made in a bid to drum up support.

They also reveal the amounts spent on accommodating Labour North staff in and around the town during the campaign, including 27 nights – from April 7 to May 4 – on self-catering accommodation for three people at the cost of £650.

UKIP’s Mr Elvin said: “Obviously the Labour Party is in the very fortunate position of being able to have that sort of money at their disposal to fight a by-election, but I’m very surprised that they had to spend that amount of money to fight what is one of the safest Labour seats in the country.

“You have to ask yourself why they felt the need to do that.”

George Smith, president of South Shields Conservative Association, said: “The amount of money Labour spent is incredible. If they’re spending this much on a by-election, how much will they spend at a general election?

“Ed Miliband is saying he doesn’t need money from the trade unions, but this amount of money being spent at a by-election suggests they do.

“At the General Election in South Shields 40 years ago the turnout was 71.6 per cent – as against this by-election of only 39.2 per cent. This is in spite of the thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent on over 21,000 postal votes, when over 36 per cent of these still do not bother to vote.”

Ms Allen said the party locally had ran a “frugal” campaign.

She added: “We didn’t have a lot of money to spend but we knocked on a huge amount of doors. We wanted to have a presence in South Shields every day and we achieved that, despite a lack funds.

“I was more than happy with the campaign we ran, but who knows what we could have achieved if we’d had £40,000 or £50,000 to spend.”

All the candidates’ election expenses are available to view at South Shields Town Hall.

Anyone wishing to do so is asked to book an appointment.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said the cost of the by-election to the local authority had not yet been established.

But she said whatever the amount it can be reclaimed from central government.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul



Won with 12,493 votes (50.51 per cent)

TOTAL SPEND: £81,688.92

Advertising: £1,531.67

Unsolicited materials £25,293.64

Transport: £1,080.61

Agents/staff: £48,786.88

Accommodation/admin: £4,996.12

* Costs included £5,122.33 on postage and £2,343 on envelopes. £50 was spent on balloons and £347.43 on helium to blow the balloons up.


Finished second with 5,988 (24.21 per cent)

TOTAL SPEND: £47,704

Advertising: £7,467.55

Unsolicited materials: £33,485.61

Transport: £1,243.14

Public meetings: £50

Agent and other staff costs: £4,800

Accommodation/admin: £658.65

* Costs included £3,000 to rent campaign office at a retail unit in King Street, South Shields, £118 for a night spent at the Sir William Fox Hotel in Westoe Village and £46.85 on a meal at Coffea Caban in South Shields’s Market Place.


Finished third with 2,857 (11.55 per cent of the vote)

TOTAL SPEND: £5,292.45

Advertising: £96

Unsolicited materials to electors (election leaflets/pamphlets etc): £4,315.99

Agent/staff: £740

Accommodation and Administration: £140


Finished fourth with 1,331 votes (5.38 per cent)

TOTAL COSTS: £587.95

Unsolicited materials: £2,602


Finished fifth with 750 votes (3.03 per cent)

TOTAL SPEND: £1,058.99

Advertising: £71.99

Unsolicited materials: £987

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY: Dorothy Macbeth Brookes.

Finished sixth with 711 votes (2.87 per cent)

TOTAL SPEND: £399.99

Unsolicited materials: £399.99


Finished eighth with 197 votes (0.80 per cent)


Costs included £243 on accommodation at Douglas Vaults pub in South Shields – his campaign headquarters.


Finished last with 57 votes (0.23 per cent)

TOTAL SPEND: £2,701.91

Advertising: £1,181

Transport: £400

Accommodation/admin: £1,120.91

Personal expenses: £400