"Please may we have our £43,353 back?
That is how much the members and supporters of the Alliance Party paid to promote the Parsley brand in the recent European elections – just before Parsley decided that, on second thoughts, he really was a Tory after all.
It happens that £43,353 is almost half of the Alliance party's annual income from Assembly allowances, at least as far as its published accounts are concerned. Perhaps the party also raises some money from membership fees, but that is unlikely to add up to very much. The £94,472 that Alliance gets from the Assembly is more than spent on salaries and other items, leaving a deficit.
So Parsley presumably bled the party close to death in his doomed attempt to get elected to the European Parliament. And then deserted to the Tories!
Next year the Alliance Party, like all others in Northern Ireland, will have to contest elections. That costs money. Lots of money. Part of the expense is incurred in creating brand awareness of the party, and of the candidate. In 2009 the Alliance Party spent £43,353 creating public awareness for an unknown first-time councillor from North Down – a man who had previously received a total of 343 votes in his whole political career!
That man will probably stand in 2010 as the Tory candidate in North Down, with his public profile created and financed by the Alliance Party.
Of course defections and betrayals are not new in politics, and there is no point in crying foul – politics is a game for big boys. But there must be a lot of Alliance members and supporters who gave generously this year to try to promote their party and its candidate. Let's hope they remember just how that candidate treated them and their money when they enter the polling booth next year.