So you fancy yourself as Mayor of London? And why not, it's a nice office. But it also costs a ton to try and get there.
If you want to stand for election as a potential Member of Parliament, you have to stump up £500 as a deposit. You'll get it back if you get 5% of the total valid votes cast in the constituency. Unless you're representing one of the major parties you'll lose your money but many people see £500 as a reasonable price for getting their opinions heard — or having a laugh.
The deposit to stand as Mayor of London is £10,000. £10,000. And if you don't get 5% of valid first preference votes cast you lose the money. That's a feat that's been achieved by just 13 candidates in four elections. Even the Lib Dems lost their deposit in 2012.
So let's assume you're rich, have rich friends, can crowdfund, or are just pig-headed enough to want to blow £10,000 this spring. What do you have to do? Here's a date to scribble in your diary: 4pm on 31 March. That's when you have to hand — and they do mean by hand — nomination papers and the deposit (cash or banker's draft, please) to the Greater London Returning Officer. You need 10 signatures of 'registered electors' (i.e. voters) from each London borough plus the City of London.
But that's not the end of the spend. Each registered voter in London will receive an information booklet with mini-manifestos from candidates, lists of London Assembly candidates and details of how to vote. Want your mini-manifesto included? In 2012, that cost £10,000 — as a contribution to production costs. If you don't pay you'll just get your name listed.
Got more money burning a hole in your pocket? Well, your campaign expenses are capped at £420,000. Which is just less than half of Zac Goldsmith's after-tax income last year.
This is why you'll see a lot of independents and smaller parties make plenty of noise in the early campaign stages, but their names won't get anywhere close to the ballot paper. Is this fair? Bearing in mind that getting onto the ballot doesn't guarantee an invitation to debates or media coverage, is it a reasonable deterrent or a bar to democracy?