The lottery election

Merryn Somerset Webb explains how one couple's lottery win could change British history.


Chris and Colin Weir's l0ttery win could change British history

In 2011, Chris and Colin Weir won £161m on the EuroMillions. By the end of May last year, they had given £3m to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and another £3m to the SNP's independence campaign via Yes Scotland. That's real money (their donations made up 80% of the total to Yes Scotland), and has clearly made a big difference to the SNP's finances and its campaigning.

Has it made a difference in the polls? That's hard to prove either way. But politics is all about reach and the helicopters Nicola Sturgeon appears to be getting used to don't come cheap. So I think we can safely assume that the fact that two lifelong supporters of independence won £161m on the lottery has made a difference to Scotland's politics.

That in turn has affected the political landscape in the rest of the UK. It has made it harder for Labour to get a majority. It has produced the fiscally frightening possibility of a Labour government propped up by the SNP. It has forced tricky conversations about why MPs from Scotland can vote on UK policy that does not affect their own constituents (much government is fully outsourced to the Scottish Parliament). And it has revealed the huge flaw in our first-past-the-post electoral system.

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What's OK about the Greens polling at 10%, but looking at getting one seat, while the SNP, on 4%, gets 50? You might thank the SNP for some of this although for most of us, the downsides outweigh the upsides. Either way, it's quite something that £2 spent by the Weirs four years ago has played a large part in making this election the most confusing in decades.

So how do you vote? John Stepek has looked at some of the financial implications. But while we generally steer away from politics in MoneyWeek, this time we have to say that we are convinced your vote is best used on the Conservative Party.

The Tories are far from perfect (see endless articles past on what we see as the deficiencies of their economic policies). But they do at least seem to understand that we have to reform public services for the long term, and to bring our debt under control.

They know that money really doesn't grow on trees; it is created by the innovation and hard work of the private-sector businesses that other parties seem to so dislike. So voting for them has to be better than voting for a party that wants to put in place a raft of envy taxes (50% on income and the mansion tax, for example) alongside higher corporation taxes and a pile of new regulations and price controls.

That said, I must tell you one more thing. I'm voting Labour. That's not because I want a Labour government. Far from it. It's because I live in Scotland and I am certain that life will deteriorate for Scots were they to split from the UK. So, as the Tories apparently can't win in my constituency, I'm voting for the only unionist party that can. I'm not happy about it. But there it is. As I say, this is a difficult election.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.