The NO2AV campaign and Cllr Weston on safe seats

The NO2AV campaign have recently highlighted what they describe as a “superb letter” which was published by the Bristol Evening Post. In the letter, Conservative councillor Mark Weston said, “it would do nothing to change safe seats, as most of the safest seats in the country are won by an MP with over 50 per cent of the vote”.

Both Cllr Weston and the NO2AV campaign seem confused. AV is not suddenly going to magically turn the safest seats into three-way marginals and I doubt any ‘yes’ campaigners have suggested it would. Liverpool Walton, where Labour have a 72% majority, is unlikely to be won by the Conservatives any time soon even if AV is introduced.

However, the point is that it will, to some degree at least, reduce the degree to which all seats can be considered safe. It is important to realise that a seat being safe does not necessarily mean the incumbent party has extremely strong support. In safe seats other parties are unlikely to devote much time to campaigning knowing it would be a waste and in some cases a party may not even have a candidate standing which means supporters in that area aren’t able to vote for their preferred party.

In addition, where it seems clear which party will win a seat, it is likely that voters who support other parties may simply not vote and support for the incumbent could be boosted as voters choose to vote for the probable winner due to the bandwagon effect.

Any way in which safer seats can be made more dangerous for the sitting MP is going to be good for democracy. It encourages other parties to campaign and provide a real choice for voters whilst at the same time helping to ensure that MPs are really working for those they are supposed to represent.

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7 Responses to The NO2AV campaign and Cllr Weston on safe seats

  1. Paul Perrin says:

    I also thought that AV did not get rid of ‘safe seats’, and like you I agree that it would be wrong for any system to make a seat ‘unsafe’ against the wishes of the electorate!!

    However, I have recently realised that this depends what you consider a ‘safe seat’ to be.

    If the voters in an area always want the same party to win, then there is no problem with safe seats – happy voters getting what they want…

    However if you consider a ‘safe seat’ to be a seat where a sitting MP cannot be removed because doing so would let in a less popular party… in this case AV does make a difference.

    Consider (for instance) the Lib Dem MPs who may break their tuition fees pledge. Come the next election, an ‘honest’ LibDem candidate could run against the pledge-breaker — with no concerns about splitting the LibDem vote and handing the ‘safe’ seat to different party.

    AV means you can ditch an MP without necessarily ditching the party you support.

    • adambro says:

      I think you are right to an extent that safe seats are not necessarily a problem where the reason the seat is safe is because there is strong support for the current party.

      With the safest seats, this is probably the case, but I think as you move down the list of constituencies in terms of the majority of the current MP, it won’t take long to get to a point where the situation is rather different. Where, instead of the seat being safe because the incumbent party are properly well supported in the area, it is the nature of the voting system which is acting to discourage voters from choosing other parties. It is that situation which we should be concerned about and where I think AV can help.

      I’m not sure I understand your theoretical situation where two Lib Dem candidates stand against each other. Whilst as you say, it would allow voters to choose between candidates without voting for a different party, I suspect it would have the potential to confuse voters and create additional problems for local parties in organising their campaigns.

      A better way of dealing with the problem of a candidate who may have been harmed by breaking their pledge on tuition fees might be through a primary election of some sort that I understand some local parties in the UK have experimented with.

      • Paul Perrin says:

        There may be ‘better’ solutions, but this is a solution that we are being offered.

        Some people have tried this under FPTP – but generally with minimal success for the reasons mentioned. Voters sticking with the official candidate being too scared of splitting the party vote and losing the seat to another party.

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  3. wmd says:

    I voted lib last election

    I think you are living in a dream world as most libs are for many reasons.

    why would any one want to vote for a party that has much in honour as a ss officer at a anti racism protest.

    No one trusts the libs any more

    To say all libs like your self are like that are wrong of course
    And i am sure your values are yours and you would stick with them.

    but your party is doomed to sit on back benches for generations.

    Unless you get rid of your leaders and get respect of mebers of the public again.
    its not to say that your polices are not good most are but for the real man on the street like my self i will never trust you guys again.

    • adambro says:

      I’ve approved your comments but I would suggest they have very little to do with this specific post. I remain comfortable with the current situation. The Coalition Agreement contains 65% of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. I think that is a pretty good result. I would of course like more Lib Dem policies to be being implemented but reality doesn’t allow for that.

      I assume your comments mostly relate to the fees pledge. Chances are that if the Lib Dems didn’t form a coalition government with the Tories, another election would have been called and the Tories would have their majority. In that situation Lib Dem MPs could keep their pledge and vote against but it would make not one bit of difference because the Tories with their majority would be able to get it through. At least being part of the Government, Lib Dems can try to make the tuition fees plans a little fairer. I think that is a better result for students rather than just letting the Tories do as they pleased.

  4. wmdgnome says:

    Thanks you so much for leaving my comments on your site adam .
    its show your integrity i must admit i am surprised.

    it at least shows you have shown your blog is balanced and i do appreciate that.

    However I must say i did not vote for a coalition document i voted for my children who i feel have been let down at least 2 times this week.

    student fees wise and EMa

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