This morning, I learnt a bit about leafletting. As a candidate, the bare minimum for a campaign has to be getting a leaflet through every door, so that people are informed of their choices (although a good half the candidates at the 2010 election didn’t manage that).
I figured this would be a major cost; I’m amazed how wrong that turned out to be.
First things first - how much will it cost to get these things printed? Ideally I’d like to have a 4-page A5 leaflet with full colour printing, and enough for every household in the constituency.
How many is that? Well, let’s start with a rough estimate from the 2011 census. The ONS data explorer makes this pretty easy. You can choose your reporting area by parliamentary constituency, and then find out all sorts of information about the area, including number of households. Turns out, in 2011, there were 43,380 households in the Horsham constituency.
So what will it cost us to print that many? Last night I emailed a request for quotes to four local printers, and was amazed to get back quotes in the £1000-1500 range. Considering that party spending on unsolicited mailings was around £4500 at the last election, this is a lot less than I expected. I wonder where the rest of their money went? Presumably more than one leaflet; perhaps targeted drops for likely voters.
This is where it gets awesome. As a parliamentary candidate, you get one free mailing from the Royal Mail. That’s right, free.
You can choose addressed mailings to every voter, or an unaddressed mailing to each household (i.e. a normal leaflet drop). The Royal Mail have a special candidate mailing area on their website all about this, and so I had a read and phoned up their election people, who were very helpful.
The way it works is; a few weeks before the election, you send your artwork to them to check for compliance with the election and postal rules, and once it’s approved, you get given a named Election Manager and instructions on where to drop off your leaflets. Simple as that. They also tell you exactly how many you need to print.
After that, you just get them printed, and drop them off at least 7-10 days before the election. They then deliver them over the next week. You can deliver earlier of course, that’s just the latest possible date.
They were helpful enough to tell me how many leaflets were dropped in the recent EU elections, which was about 47,300. A bit higher than the census data, but not far off. I’d better budget for about 50,000 next year, allowing for new development, etc, but that won’t change the figures too much.
They have a guidance document for the EU elections up on their site. For now, it’s good enough to work from; the 2015 election guidance won’t be up until next year.
So, all in all this looks pretty easy. If I can raise £1500-ish, and design a leaflet (which some of the printers can help with for a little more), I can get the Royal Mail to deliver it, and everyone in the area will get told about me.
This isn’t all the printing of course; more will be needed to be able to hand out flyers to people before the final leaflet drop, but it’s a great baseline. I thought that would cost a lot more, and it’s once again underlined just how accessible this actually is.