First-past-the-post electoral rules create strong incentives for parties to focus their campaigns on key marginal seats and much research has been devoted to the vote-winning potential of such activity. Less attention has been given to local party organisations’ ability to mount these campaigns, however. We therefore examine recent evidence of British political parties’ local campaigning capacities. Overall, Britain’s grassroots party organisations are struggling. While some local parties are resource-rich, many are not: only half of all Conservative and fewer than one in six Labour and Liberal Democrat constituency parties had an annual turnover in 2010 exceeding £25,000. Many local parties are seriously under-resourced: funds are limited, donations meagre, and members few. For most local parties, campaign resources depend primarily on their own local fund-raising initiatives – but their yields tend to be low. Even in key marginal constituencies, many local parties increasingly struggle to resource their campaign activities. What is more, there are substantial variations between the various political parties in the relative health of their constituency operations, and in the national parties’ abilities to subsidise local activities in strategically important seats. The implications for local voter mobilisation efforts in the UK are not good.
- party resources