2017 general election spending: Disney cruises, blocked urinals and a whole lot of Facebook

Posted On: 
19th March 2018

PoliticsHome has scoured party spending data for the 2017 general election so you don't have to. Here are just some of the key findings. 

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn battled it out last year... but it all cost money


The headline numbers themselves are certainly worth a gawp. The Tories spent a whopping £7.5m more than Labour during the campaign. It goes to show that the old trope about whoever has the cash wins the vote contains little truth. The Tories did win the election – but not especially well. And in terms of seat share it was Labour who made the big strides forward.



One area where the Tories found their cash better spent was in Scotland. They were the biggest spenders north of the border too – just pipping the SNP to the post by about £100,000 after they spent £1.73m compared with £1.62m for the nationalists. But the SNP dropped 21 seats on polling day while the Tories picked up 12 – its best performance north of the border for decades. Don’t forget it was those Scottish seats that stopped Jeremy Corbyn winning the keys to Downing Street.



Much is made of the relationship between the Tories and supposed election supremo Lynton Crosby. And the election expenses data show just how much the party values (or valued) his expertise. His firm CTF Partners Limited pocketed a whopping £4m for helping the party rid itself of a Commons majority – while data guru Jim Messina enjoyed a tidy £544k for his services. Shame the data was all faulty.



The online war is the new front in election campaigns. Now we can get an idea in numbers of just how differently the two main parties reach out to potential supporters in the ether. The Tories outspent Labour on Facebook advertising (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) by a huge £1.5m; on Google (which owns YouTube) by £300k; and on Twitter (at least through direct spending) by £24.6k. Labour did outstrip the Tories on Snapchat spending, dropping an impressive near £64k compared with almost £18k.

NOTE: These could be far from definitive figures as much will be spent through third party firms. If we manage to fine toothcomb the whole thing we’ll let you know.

Either way: The consensus has it that Labour won the social war despite appearing to spend less. How? Because passionate campaigners shared their videos and memes far and wide.



A tough election campaign can be a drag on staff morale – especially when your party leader is struggling to get his message across. Tim Farron got stuck for days during the campaign over whether he thought gay sex was a sin. But Lib Dems sought to give the troops regular pick me ups which they billed to central office. They out-claimed other parties on burgers, cakes and Krispy Kreme donuts, among other things. Someone was even treated to a nice new Moss Bross suit. And they even won four extra seats at the end of it all.



If one party knows how to travel in style it's the Tories. Not only did they go pretty wild on the taxis with an apparent £70k spend compared with £20k for Lib Dems and a puzzling £134 for Labour (there must be some firms I don't know about) but they also splashed out more than £360,000 on private jets. I must admit - yours truly did sit back and enjoy one of those rather plush flights during the campaign.



There were always going to be a few golden nuggets among some 21,700 invoices submitted by parties for their election campaign spending. The best ones we have found so far are courtesy of the Lib Dems.

One invoice for a 7-night Disney-themed cruise around the Caribbean told a sad story of crushed dreams. Lib Dem campaigns director Shaun Roberts booked the family-friendly trip before Theresa May called the election – so had to cancel it to co-ordinate the party campaign. Naturally central office did him a favour and handed over the £2,800 Disney refused to refund.

And finally: The last thing you need when fighting to stop Brexit is out-of-control urine in central HQ. The Lib Dems were forced to hand over £576 to Pimlico Plumbers when their “blocked urinals [were] overflowing out of butler sink in cleaning cupboard”. The most galling thing: Pimlico Plumbers is owned by then-Tory donor Charlie Mullins.