Labor races to spend more online than the Tories before spending limits kick in

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Labor candidates spent more than the Conservatives on Facebook and Instagram during a crucial period early in the UK general election campaign when limits on local spending were in place, an analysis by the Financial Times found. more relaxed.

Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition party spent more than £900,000 on advertising for individual candidates in the days after Chancellor Rishi Sunak called an election, compared with just £176,000 for the Conservative Party. permission.

The figures show Labor took greater advantage in the nine-day period from Sunak’s announcement on May 22 until the dissolution of Parliament, when tighter spending limits remained not yet in effect.

One Labor Party campaigner said the blitzkrieg had given their candidate “name recognition at the door” early in the campaign.

The difference in approach may be a sign of disorganization within the Conservative campaign, even though Sunak has chosen to call an early election on July 4.

The Conservative Party had to rush to find people to run for seats across the country, while Labor had already fielded most of its candidates when Sunak began his campaign.

Both parties spent similar amounts on ads on their national party and leadership pages, although Labor spent larger amounts in the days after the election was called.

Up to June 4, the Labor Party had spent a total of £1.4m while the Conservatives had spent £660,000, with the difference largely due to Labor candidate spending.

Labor’s ads target younger voters, where the party often enjoys strong support, while the Conservatives focus on older people, who have historically been strong supporters of the party. in history.

The majority of Conservative Party ads are shown to voters over the age of 55, and many are viewed by more men than women. One series reflected the party’s fear of losing votes to Reform UK on their right: “A vote for Reform is a vote for Keir Starmer.”

Overall, the main parties had a similar number of impressions on the Meta platform, with Labor leading at 135 million, compared with 121 million for the Conservatives up to June 5 – suggesting that the Lower spending by the Conservative Party has been more effective.

Social media platforms often charge advertisers high fees for targeting younger users and in specific geographical areas, both elements of Labour’s strategy.

“It depends on how well you target the audience. If it was granular and super narrow, it would be more expensive, says Clare O’Donoghue Velikić, who previously led a team at Facebook in charge of political marketing in the UK.

Neither the Labor Party nor the Conservative Party responded to requests for comment.

UK election rules limit spending per candidate depending on the number of voters in the constituency, with a maximum of around £20,000. The limit includes all costs, not just advertising. It starts on May 30.

Parties also have a national spending cap of around £35m, up from £19.5m in 2019. To benefit from this higher cap, party spending must not identify candidates and specific constituencies.

Thirty Labor candidates spent more than £10,000 over a nine-day period. The biggest spend of £22,000 was to a Labor candidate in the wealthy Conservative stronghold constituencies of Chelsea and Fulham.

Only three Conservative candidates spent more than £10,000 in the same period, including Defense Secretary Grant Shapps in Welwyn Hatfield.

Labour’s digital advertising strategy appears to be more centrally planned. Its advertising includes coordinated campaigns spread across the Facebook and Instagram pages of candidates in hundreds of constituencies.

Immediately after Sunak’s announcement, 166 Labor candidates posted ads accompanied by personal videos with the caption “BREAKING: A general election has been called”. These ads cost £150,000 and received over 12 million impressions, introducing their candidate to millions of potential voters.

The Labor Party campaigner said party headquarters helped them produce these videos weeks in advance, gave them tips on strategy and even became an admin on their Facebook page to run ads on their behalf. fox.

The Conservatives responded to Labour’s coordinated rollout with a series of video ads captioned “The plan is clear. Bold action. Securing the future”.

These ads were run on the pages of 39 candidates, but were only launched on May 28 and were paused on May 30 after lower per-candidate spending rules were applied. . The Tories spent £9,000 on these ads.

Tom Hamilton, a former Labor staffer from 2008-2018 and now director of Public First, said the different approach may stem from Conservative candidates seeing little benefit in joining forces. Work closely with the central party.

“It’s not a story about how the parties are structured but a story about who wins and who loses,” he said.

According to the FT poll tracker, the Tories are currently 21 points behind Labor in the vote. Several Conservative candidates have avoided highlighting or mentioning the party or Sunak by name in their campaign literature.

“When you’re running a campaign that looks like it’s winning, it’s easy to get [candidates] to buy into your central message and brand,” Hamilton said.


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