Saturday, 1 March 2014

Rotten Boroughs In UK

The Labour Party (I think we quietly dropped the 'New' moniker sometime ago), recently won a by-election in the Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency (districts of Manchester, England).  The votes and details were as follows:
  • Labour 13,261 votes,
  • UKIP 4,301,
  • Conservatives (or 'the Tories' as the BBC prefer to call them) 3,479 votes, and
  • The Liberals 1,176.
  • The voter turnout was 28.2% compared with 54.3% in the 2010 General Election.

Nothing unusual about this result in the North of England, except that the Conservatives were beaten by UKIP (perhaps a foretaste of the fact that UKIP take more Conservative party votes than Labour or Liberal ones) .... and that's my point. 'Nothing unusual'.

We have vast numbers of these seats where 'choice' no longer, or never has been an option ... For example Labour have held this particular seat since time immemorial, and if you put a Labour Party rosette on a brick, the good citizens of Wythenshawe and Sale East would have voted it in with a thumping majority. There are Conservative seats that also exhibit a similar voting pattern .....

Rotten Boroughs - Still Around In Another Form.

My concern is that these tribal 'safe seats' breed real voter apathy, with the refrain 'it makes no difference if I vote' being true in far too many cases. Now you could blame this on poor education, or class divides or some such rot, but in truth, these seats were rather comfortably created by both the major parties via little boundary tweaks here and there, made in a manner that allowed both the Labour and Conservatives a reasonable shot at power, as long as they got about 39% of the popular vote. I might at this point, mention that for a long time it was the Liberals who got the 'labourers vote', so it was still a two party carve up, even before the 1945 election.

Reform is necessary if we are to breathe life into a democratic system that is dead in many areas of the country. I am not advocating 'proportional votes', a system which in England at least, would lead to the Liberal Party being the 'King Maker', after most elections. No I would like to retain the first past the post system (which I believe helps keeps UK politics largely clean of the outright corruption, that permanent government for some politicians seems to create in both countries with proportional representation, and our local councils)

Private Eye Rotten Boroughs Awards Hackney 2010
.... but I do want electoral seat boundaries redrawn to try and more accurately reflect the general 40/40/20 Conservative, Labour, Liberal percentages posted in the popular general election votes. They could use the council electoral ward voting results to try and achieve this ..... Of course there are obvious pitfalls e.g. If it won't work in too many inner city seats, where blind voting is endemic, then it would only open up 'safe' Conservative and Liberal seats, while leaving Labour heredity seats untouched, so it may need some imaginative boundary redrawing.

For example why do seats have to all be geographically one location? Why not join a rural 'Tory' area with an inner city ward? .... Anyway, I do think it would be healthier if parliamentary seats are more reflective of any trends nationally at general elections.


  1. As the people who want to rule are the very people who shouldn't be allowed to, the best way to select MPs is to pick them out of a hat of ordinary people - and they would serve a period in office similar to the Jury system.

    1. If you saw who mostly gets selected for jury duty these days you might want to revise that idea .....

    2. I have no idea who gets selected for jury, isn't it random? and can they be any worse than career politicians?

    3. Statistically it should be random, but in fact its apparently more likely to be the retired and unemployed, than someone working .... why that is I can't say. Possibly the employed make excuses as don't serve but I for example, and no one I know personally has been called .... that's a lot of workers!!

    4. I knew of someone ye-ears ago who served but I never have and I don't know of anyone else who has either. In any case, a concussed bee could do a better job of running the country than a politician who's never had a real job.

    5. I don't know anyone who has done jury service duty, nor anyone who has wanted to be a politician either ... apart from a concussed bee.


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