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Political Brat 
8th-Apr-2010 11:59 am
If you're British and live in the outside world at least part of the time, you'll be aware that there's an election coming up. This year, unlike pretty much any year I've been voting, I already know where my vote is going even as we head into the election. We can thank the Digital Ecomony Bill for that.

Of course, I'm aware that some people won't vote at all, and an often-cited reason for that is "my vote can't change anything"; there are nearly 400 seats in the UK considered "safe"; that is, there's virtually no chance they will change hands this election. If you live in one of these constituencies and don't agree with the incumbent, then it's understandable that you may be disenchanted with the entire process, and have decided not to vote.

This post is for you.

Everything that follows is the work and words of Mat Bowles, copied with permission from his blog. I never disable comments, but you are encouraged to take discussion there.


Assertion: Turnout is affected by the likelihood your vote will make a difference and the amount of campaigning the parties are doing in the area.

In areas that are considered to be "safe", a) voters are less likely to be interested and b) parties are less likely to run competetive campaigns, targetting resources and activists on marginal seats they may gain or lose.
Electoral Reform Society: Election already over in nearly 400 seats:
The Society has listed 382 seats which are ‘Super Safe’ in that they will not change hands even with a landslide on any conceivable scale. The Society points out, however, that there are many more seats where the outcome is a very safe bet, even if an upset is not beyond probability.
It is my belief that turnout is likely to go up, overall, in this election as it's the first election since 1992 where the overall result is not a foregone conclusion.

But for residents of 382 seats out of 650, the local result is already a foregone conclusion. There's a spreadsheet on the site to download; if you live in one of the seats listed, and you're not sure you want to vote, make sure you're registered to vote. Go to the polling station.

Don't put an X in the box.

Write "No Safe Seats; make my vote count" on the ballot paper.

Why should you do this? Because at an election, the returning officer must get the agreement of a representative of each candidate before a ballot can be rejected. Your already selected future MP will get to know how frustrated you are.

Prediction: after the election, if it's as close as it is now, a large number of Conservatives will complain that they were robbed and that Labour got more seats than they deserved, or words to that effect; you already see this with the "we won the votes in England" meme. What they don't take into account is that the 'safe' Labour seats are very very safe. Turnout is incredibly low in many of them; that doesn't necessarily indicate disaffection, it just indicates that there's no point in going to the polling station when you know the MPs won already. Labour seats see a much stronger falloff in turnout than Conservative seats, Lib Dem seats are in the middle.

The Conservative party says they like the voting system as is, rotten boroughs, safe seats, differential turnout and all.

It's a damn shame that they've never bothered to try and understand it.
8th-Apr-2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
As I mentioned over in Mat's blog, I'm quite interested to see that Buckingham, technically the safest seat of all (as John Bercow's 'Speaker Seeking Re-election' seat), is listed as a marginal on the spreadsheet. I might look into this a bit more -- there's a research article topic somewhere in there, if I wanted to play around with statistics a bit more.
8th-Apr-2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'm somewhat surprised at Cambridge showing up as Safe LD given we have a candidate turnover, have changed hands in the recent past, and there seems to be a fair whack of campaigning action going on in the area...
8th-Apr-2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Academics tend to assume that Lib Dems are very likely to hold their seats; there's a lot of precedence for that. Cambridge, in particular, is on the numbers fairly safe with a large majority. Academics also assume there's no such thing as a personal vote; I actually lost marks in a paper once for saying there was one, the evidence is slight, it's all instinctive. Lib Dem campaigners tend to assume that no seat, anywhere, is safe, because LDs don't have safe seats.

Other parties in the same area tend to never give up trying to get "their" seat back; sometimes in the ultra marginals they manage it, but usually they don't.

My working position is that the LDs are unlikely to lose many seats at all unless they've got a crap candidate or there's a local issue swinging votes, a few possible exceptions (my old home seat for one), but not many.

Having met him, and campaigned with him online just last week, Julian is an excellent replacement to David and he's very likely to win, but nothing is taken for granted.

In other words, my head tells me the academics are probably right, but my heart says to take no chances.
9th-Apr-2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
The academics are right, but Lib Dem safe seats are safe because they have institutionalised effective campaigning, where seats of other parties are safe because everyone else has given up trying to win them back.
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