Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue no 741

Promises, promises

6 May 2015 / Issue 741

Desperate last-minute vote-grabbing has muddied the waters. John Stepek peers through the murk. Read this week's cover story here.

• Bonds are a disaster waiting to happen
• Why British dividends won't rise
• How the UK's richest man made his £13bn fortune

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Merryn Somerset WebbEDITOR'S LETTER

Merryn Somerset Webb

The lottery election

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.

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.

• Read the full editor’s letter here: The lottery election