MICHAEL Bloomberg, a Republican, recently won a second term as Mayor of New York, one of the most dedicated Democratic cities in the United States. How did he do it? Well, New Yorkers obviously thought he had done a pretty good job during his first term and his Democrat opponent Fernando Ferrer hadn't anything very new to offer. But there was somethimg else. To put it bluntly, Mr Bloomberg bought votes at $103 per person whereas Mr Ferrer could spend only $19 a head. That's putting it too crudely, of course. What actually happened was that Mr Bloomberg spent $77'894'878 on his re-election campaign to get 753'089 votes while Mr Ferrer could afford only $9.5 million for his 503'219 votes. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire; Fernando Ferrer is not, but in terms of votes he actually got better value for his spend even if he lost the contest. The recent rows in Britain over election funding have served to illustrate what a minefield this is. New York is a law unto itself and Mr Bloomberg has now won two mayoral contests by spending huge sums from his personal fortune.
IN Britain much smaller, but still significant, sums lead to all kinds of questions being asked and no party is immune. It would be much better if there were a level playing field for all parties but as soon as anyone suggests state funding for elections hands go up in horror. Would this be a suitable extra policy area for David Cameron to look at? It could be added to the tasks that Kenneth Clarke has been given which include reform of the House of Lords. The difficulties of state funding argue for themselves but there might be areas that could be covered, such as advertising costs, without too much difficulty. Certainly the rules governing the existing free-for-all are difficult to interpret and well-meaning donors can find themselves in embarrasing situations. Who knows, Labour might welcome such an inquiry if someone else undertook it.
They cannot expect the Trade Union support to last forever, nor is it desirable that it should.


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