Public ‘priced out’ of standing for Parliament

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Members of the public are being priced out of standing for Parliament by the “huge personal cost” of being a party candidate, a political journalist has claimed.

A survey of parliamentary candidates found that the average personal cost was £11,118 for all seats.

The study asked more than 500 candidates from all parties in the 2015 election to detail their personal spending in standing for election.

Personal costs included loss of earnings from having to leave a job or reduce working hours to campaign, travelling around a constituency, and attending local events.

It also found that the financial costs were higher for candidates fighting in marginal seats.

Conservative candidates who won in a marginal seat said they spent an average of £121,467, while those who lost their election fight spent £18,701.

For Labour the average cost of winning a marginal seat was said to be £19,022 and £35,843 for those who lost.

Liberal Democrats said the average cost to stand was £26,608 and for SNP candidates it was £9,700.

The findings will be published in a book by Isabel Hardman, assistant editor at The Spectator.

There was also a personal impact of standing for election, including relationship breakdowns, sexist and racist abuse and candidates’ children needing counselling.

Ms Hardman said that parties which want to improve the social mix of Parliament should offer bursaries to candidates so they are not required to “spend up to two years working for free in order to get a chance to be an MP”.

The Conservatives have already announced a modest bursary fund, and Labour has also discussed the idea, but “neither party has come anywhere close to acknowledging how prohibitively expensive it is to become an MP, and how damaging to democracy this is”, she added.

Isabel Hardman’s book, Why We Get The Wrong Politicians, will be published on September 6.

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