New report: The evaporating case for electoral reform

In this report, Fabian Richter undertakes the first ever analysis of how many parliamentary seats can really be considered as “safe”. He finds that:

  • the average majority for constituencies in UK elections has fallen by 19% over the last 30 years.
  • 85% of seats, representing approximately 39 million voters in the UK today, are either marginal or give voters at least a reasonable chance of changing their Member of Parliament.
  • that as many as a quarter of those seats which are considered to be “safe” have in fact changed hands over the last 30 years.

This research calls into question the claim, frequently made by advocates of PR and AV, that the current system effectively disenfranchises millions of voters. As William Hague states in a Foreword to this report: “There is no such thing as a safe seat”.

This view is endorsed in a second Foreword by Vera Baird, the former Labour MP for Redcar – the seat which saw the biggest swing in the 2010 General Election: “Safe seats are only ‘safe’ until they are not, and such changes can occur remarkably quickly if that’s what the voters want. From the famous ‘Portillo-moment’ – when the 1997 national election tide swept away even Michael’s 15,563-vote majority – to equally dramatic losses that result from local issues like painful job losses, so-called ‘safe’ seats can, and do, change hands.”

The full report can be downloaded from here.

Date Added: Monday 4th April 2011