Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Election of a "Safe Parliament"

The show-piece of our demoralised democracy has been announced. That's right, 6 May will witness the UK General Election and as ever it will be outshone by TV soaps, with many of us prioritising a social life over watching a blow-by-blow account on the Beeb (BBC).

Of course, for many rationality isn't part of the decision-making process – we are already bitten by the political bug – and we will follow the ensuing political theatre with relish, popcorn, TV dinners and sardonic wit.

The first few days of the campaign haven't disappointed: photo op's with “constituents” who looked far too happy to see a politician on their doorstep; countless kissed babies; chapped handshakes; and industrial visits with porcelain white hard hats.

In reality it has all been a bit of an anti-climax as everyone already knew that the 6 May would be the chosen date and thus had been on an election footing. The first day was like any other as the SNP still maintained, with a straight face, that there “challenging” target was 20 seats against a chorus of “more nats, less cuts”. Indeed, even the Tories were at it with David “taxi” McLetchie claiming that the “Cameron effect” in Scotland would amount to 11 seats.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems were bathing in the electoral spotlight and avoiding whenever possible to go into details of what their terms and conditions would be to become a coalition partner in a minority government. And lastly, Labour continued its negative strategy splendidly. “If you don't vote for us, the Tories will get in”. A rather redundant soundbite in Scotland it has to be said.

Yet the real story of the first few days came from the desks of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS); not the campaign trail. According to the ERS “25 million safe seat voters will not see a contest” with 383 MPs “elected for life”. Indeed, in large parts of the country the winner could be announced today. In Scotland, for example, only 23 constituencies are swing seats with more than 60% of seats safe. ERS Chief Exec Ken Ritchie said:

These winners will take their seats in Britain’s Safe Parliament. Voters will never be able to boot these MPs out under our present system. They form a class of MPs that are, quite simply, elected for life... 2010 offers a tale of two elections – and two electorates. One that matters, and one that doesn’t. And for over 25 Million of us, who just happen to live in safe seats, this contest is already over”.

British Democracy in action: you gotta love it.

Barry McCulloch
Policy Manager

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