Do you live in a safe seat?

Electoral Reform Society
Author:
Electoral Reform Society

Posted on the 10th April 2015

The outcome of this election is, on the whole, unpredictable. Who will form the next government is the question on everyone’s lips.

But in hundreds of seats across the country, people already know the result. In Britain’s many ‘safe seats’, this election’s outcome is sadly a foregone conclusion.

In fact, so safe are some of these seats that we’re confidently predicting the outcome in 368 constituencies. That’s over half (56%) of the seats in the UK, or 26 million voters. And we can be pretty confident. In 2010, we predicted the outcome in 382 seats, getting just two wrong; a 0.5% margin of error.

Can we call the winner in your seat? Find out here

Why are we able to call the result in huge swathes of the UK? Due to the nature of our majoritarian, First Past the Post electoral system, hundreds of seats haven’t changed hands in decades. The average seat hasn’t switched party since the 1960s (and some haven’t changed since the reign of Queen Victoria), meaning elections hinge on a small number of marginal seats. Voters there have a great deal of say, while voters in safe seats are ignored.

As is to be expected, the big parties dominate safe seats. 61% of Conservative-held areas are ‘safe’, alongside 58% of Labour’s, while just 12.5% of Liberal Democrats’ seats are now secure. The figures vary greatly by region too. If you live in the North East of England, it’s likely your seat is safe – 79% of them are. And similarly if you’re in Northern Ireland – 78% of seats there are safe too. The Scots are the only ones to have broken the mould, with just 10% of seats there now deemed ‘safe’.

After the 2010 election, we found that parties spent 22 times more on some people’s votes than on others, depending on where they live (i.e. in a safe seat or a marginal seat).  This means the value of your vote depends almost entirely on your location – it’s a postcode lottery. This isn’t the kind of democracy we want. Needless to say, all this is a huge disincentive for people to get out there and vote, and for other parties to challenge the incumbents. What we have is a system which causes voters and parties to simply give up – instead of there being a real chance for different voices to be heard.

A proportional voting system, in contrast, would give voters in hundreds of constituencies a real chance to be heard, with multi-member constituencies giving other parties a chance to win one or two MPs in seats currently seen as ‘safe’. Opposition parties could shake up incumbents who’ve become too sure of their local domination. Rather than one party winning every time, smaller parties would be in with a fighting chance. And that would make them all work harder for us – the voters. Everywhere.

The UK needs a fair voting system to liven up our politics, and to ensure people’s voices are heard. Predicting the winners in the majority of seats shouldn’t be possible in a truly dynamic and modern democracy. It doesn’t make for good government or trust in politics. Let’s hope this is the last election where for millions of voters, the local outcome is already a given.

Enter your postcode to find out if we can call the winner in your constituency

Data Tables

Region/Nation Safe Seats Total Seats % Safe
East of England 40 58 70.0%
East Midlands 27 46 58.7%
London 50 73 68.5%
North East England 23 29 79.3%
North West England 44 75 58.7%
South East England 59 84 70.2%
South West England 25 55 45.5%
West Midlands 32 59 54.2%
Yorkshire and Humber 29 54 53.7%
England 329 533 61.7%
Northern Ireland 14 18 77.8%
Scotland 5 59 10.2%
Wales 20 40 50.0%
United Kingdom 364 650 56.0%

 

Party Safe Seats Total Current Seats % Safe
Con 190 303 62.7%
Labour 150 257 58.4%
Liberal Democrat 7 56 12.5%
DUP 7 8 87.5%
SNP 5 6 83.3%
Sinn Fein 4 5 80.0%
SDLP 2 3 66.6%
Plaid Cymru 1 3 33.3%
Independent 1 3 33.3%
Speaker 1 1 100.0%
UKIP 0 2 0.0%
Alliance 0 1 0.0%
Green 0 1 0.0%
Respect 0 1 0.0%
Total 368 650

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