Lib Dems the poor relations among the parties

Election countdown
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The Independent Online
The Liberal Democrats are very much the poor relations when compared with Labour and the Conservatives. The party will spend between pounds 5m and pounds 6m on the election, some pounds 2.5m of which will be disbursed by LibDem headquarters at Cowley Street, Westminster and the rest by constituency committees.

Lord Holme, head of the general election campaign, calculated the two other parties will spend five or 10 times more. He says his organisations has no "sugar daddies". While the party receives a "six-figure sum" from the Rowntree Trust, most donations are less than pounds 100.

"Our money comes from real people. The 'Peoples' Party' receives cash from trade unions. The Tories get their money from Hong Kong millionaires because most reputable multinationals have long since stopped funding them," he said.

Lord Holme said the bulk of the Lib Dems' election funds are generated by voluntary activity such as cheese and wine parties.

Some pounds 300,000 will be set aside for the three-and-a-half week "leader's tour" during which Mr Ashdown will spend most of his time in the "battle bus". A "season ticket" for the roadshow, which starts to roll on 7 April, will cost newspapers, radio stations or television companies pounds 6,350 for each of their representatives. There will also be the occasional flight, sometimes by helicopter as befits a former Royal Marine officer.

Stop-off points are being kept under wraps, but much attention will be focused on south-west Britain, especially where the party came second to the Conservatives.

Lord Holme said: "My slogan is a saying of my mother's: If you've got no money, you have to think. We will be nimble. We will be leaner and meaner than our rivals."