Latest Public Sector News

08.06.17

General Election: One in four UK seats held by same party since 1945

On the same day that the British public head to the polls to cast their vote in the general election, a major voting reform group has stated that one in four seats in the UK have been held by the same party since the Second World War.

Research by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has revealed that a total of 170 seats have not changed hands since 1945 – when Clement Attlee’s Labour party won a shock landslide victory against Winston Churchill’s Conservatives.

This amounts to 103 Conservative seats (31% of their total) and 67 Labour seats (26% of their total) which have been held since at least 1945.

The ERS also found that the average constituency last changed hands between parties in the 1960s – as some super safe seats have remained firmly under the control of one party since the time of Queen Victoria.

This has led the organisation to once again criticise the first-past-the-post election system, after a separate statement this week warned that this year’s election would be an ‘electoral desert’ as one in three voters did not feel their vote would count for anything.

“These figures show that despite voting habits changing hugely in the past few decades, Britain is rife with safe seats,” said Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS. “There are hundreds of electoral deserts where the same party has got in since the war, and all voters lose out as a consequence.”

Ghose added that it was no wonder that people felt alienated by politics when many felt their vote for another party simply would not count.

“With a quarter of seats not changing hands since the Second World War, voters become disillusioned and other parties focus their efforts elsewhere in the hyper-marginals,” she stated. “That’s no way to run a democracy.”

First-past-the-post turns our elections into a postcode lottery, Ghose warned; in some seats your vote simply doesn’t have the impact it has elsewhere.  

The ERS chief executive argued that the way we elect MPs lead many people to “switch off” or be pushed to vote for a party that they don’t actually want to be in power.

“Westminster’s current voting system is a recipe for stagnation. But under a fair and proportional voting system, as in Scotland and Northern Ireland, you have a number of representatives locally and can rank them by preference,” Ghose concluded. “This would make elections far more competitive and ensuring seats match votes.”

Top Image: Dominic Lipinski PA Wire

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