Anti-Senedd parties’ vote collapsed at May’s election despite doubling spend on campaigning, figures reveal
Devosceptic parties saw their vote collapse by a third at this year’s Senedd election despite doubling the amount of money spent on campaigning, an analysis of new Electoral Commission figures by Nation.Cymru has found.
Abolish, UKIP and Reform UK spent a combined £158,402 on campaigning ahead of May’s election – up from £83,544 spent by UKIP and Abolish in 2016, which was before Nigel Farage split from UKIP to create Reform UK.
Despite that, the three parties scored a combined 114,610 votes in constituency and regional ballots this year – down from 176,424 in 2016.
Reform UK, the rebranded Brexit party, spent £79,631 on campaigning – the most of any party which failed to win a Senedd seat. It means each of the 29,135 constituency and regional votes won by the party cost a huge £2.73 each. By comparison, UKIP spent £70,749 to win 259,175 votes in 2016 – equivalent to 27p per vote.
UKIP’s spending power at this election was reduced to £54,276, although that was still only £4,000 less than the Green party’s war chest. UKIP spent £2.09 for every vote they received compared to 88p for the Greens. A third of all UKIP spending was on Facebook adverts, which meant they poured four times as much money into them as the Liberal Democrats.
Abolish doubled their spending – £24,495 compared to £12,795 in 2016. That helped them field candidates in constituencies for the first time where they won 18,149 votes. But their vote on the regional lists, which provided their best chance of winning a seat, fell back from 44,286 in 2016 to 41,399 this year. It means Abolish spent 41p per vote in 2021 compared to 28p per vote in 2016.
Devosceptic parties spent significantly more in Wales than on their campaign in Scotland. UKIP spent a full £46,000 more in Wales while Reform UK spent £25,000 more. Abolish the Scottish Parliament spent just £176 on their campaign.
Splitting the devosceptic vote between three parties played some part in ensuring they have no representation in the Senedd, but Dr Jac Larner of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre said after the election that “even if all of that vote share was consolidated into one party it’s very unlikely they would have won a substantial number of seats.”
Some 38% of people who voted UKIP in 2016 switched to the Conservatives, compared to 16% who voted Abolish, 6% who voted Reform UK and just 5% who stuck with UKIP, according to research by the Wales Governance Centre.
The Centre’s Professor Richard Wyn Jones said “the whole abolish position is fatally undermined at least for the foreseeable future” following May’s elections because the parties holding that position would no longer have the level of resources they were able to deploy at May’s elections.
“They had full-time staff members in the Senedd,” he told the BBC. “There was an infrastructure. They put that forward as a proposition, and they got absolutely annihilated.”
The recently published Electoral Commission data on spending by Wales’ smaller parties also shows the financial firepower of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens was slightly reduced this year compared to 2016. The Liberal Democrats benefited from their biggest donation on record from the co-founder of Admiral insurance but still spent £11,709 less, while the Greens spent £1,349 less.
Meanwhile, the Communist party was able to spend £9,073 on this Senedd election compared to £2,206 in 2016.
The Electoral Commission is yet to publish spending figures for Labour, the Conservatives or Plaid Cymru but research by Nation.Cymru found Labour significantly outspent their rivals on Facebook adverts ahead of the election.
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