Election already over in nearly 400 seats, say reformers

By staff writers
6 Apr 2010

Campaigners for a fairer voting system have pointed out that 25 million 'safe seat' voters will not see a contest at this general election.

The Electoral Reform Society has today published the names of 382 MPs who they say have already been "elected for life".

Research from the Society suggests that the election is already over in most of the country, thanks to the voting system that leaves most seats 'safe', and MPs relatively unaccountable.

In large parts of our cities, and in whole counties, the winner could be announced today, the Society says.

The numbers represent may also be taken as a ‘conservative’ estimate, as fewer than half of the remaining seats are likely to change hands on May 6th.

The Society has now published the names of the new residents of Britain’s ‘Safe Parliament’. They argue this makes a nonsense of the idea of a ‘general’ election in which all electors can have their say. They are calling for a radical overhaul to the 'Victorian voting system' saying that 2010 should be the last ‘Broken Election’

Dr Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: “A hearty congratulations to all our new MPs for a hard fought campaign. Having won the backing of their party members, they can now pack their bags for Westminster.

“These winners will take their seats in Britain’s Safe Parliament. Voters will never be able to boot these MPs out under our present system. Most will leave office on conditions of their own choosing after careers measuring into decades. They are likely to include our future Prime Ministers, our future leaders of the opposition, and all the great office holders of state. They form a class of MPs that are, quite simply, elected for life.

“2010 offers a tale of two elections – and two electorates. One that matters, and one that doesn’t. And for over 25 million of us, who just happen to live in safe seats, this contest is already over.

“The expenses crisis awakened people to the inability of ordinary voters to hold these people to account. And for any naive enough to think the crisis might trigger a political earthquake, remember these seats are earthquake-proof thanks to our antique voting system."

The flipside to the Society’s research is the handful of seats where the next MP could emerge from any one of three parties.

Dr Ritchie added: “Two party politics is dead in Britain. Yet less than 1 million voters would know it. In barely a dozen three-way marginals.

“But short of moving house, the best way to see a real election is to change the voting system. A shift to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) would make all seats competitive at a stroke. The money, the time and the leaders would stop chasing the few of us with a vote that matters.

“On May 6th, residents in our safe seats will be casting a vote to ditch a discredited system. Not one of these ‘winners’ will boast a mandate resembling anything near even half their electorate. Voters can and must make a real statement to ensure this is our last broken election.”

[Ekk/2]

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