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Too many safe seats in the Commons

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Carswell’s Ten Minute Rule Bill proposes added risks for MPs

Via Conservative Home

At four of the last five general elections, fewer than one in 10 parliamentary constituencies changed hands. The fifth of those was, of course, the Labour landslide of 1997, but even then, more than 70 per cent. of seats were held by the parties that already controlled them.

Consider that again slowly, even at times when there is a massive swing against the ruling party, at the times of a landslide election wins, only around 30% of seats actually change hands and around 70% of seats remain with the party that had them in the first place. Now you wonder why MPs are kicking and screaming to hang on to a few pounds rifled from our pockets after Legg has told them to hand it back? They have become so inured to criticism from outside and so used to writing their own rules safe in the knowledge that for the most part they are made for life (or as long as the party puts up with them).

This cannot be good for democracy and I fully support the ideas proposed by Conservative MP Douglas Carswell in at least opening up the selection procedure for candidates. Imagine, as we did yesterday, that South Shields MP David Miliband gave up his seat to go the EU, someone else (who is chosen by the Labour Party, not us) would inherit a safe seat to occupy as they please, this is plainly not right in an age of greater accountability. An open primary would at least give us some say in which candidates we would like to choose from to represent their parties in an election, imagine too that if for some reason your MP transgresses normal acceptable behaviour in the Commons that we would have the right (if sufficient people called for it) to demand that our MP resigns his seat and causes a new election in the constituency. That Member of Parliament would at least know that he/she was fully accountable to the people of South Shields throughout the lifetime of a Parliament, not just at the beginning and end of it.

Of course many of these ideas would be strengthened by a review from the Boundaries Commission which might lessen the number of probable safe seats in the first place, such a review is long overdue and the total number of seats is also probably too large now, we could do with losing at least 10% of the current constituencies just to reduce the cost of our politics.

Open primaries, exceptional recall, and a reduction in safe seats can only be good for our democracy and would help restore some of the trust that has been eroded between electorates and those charged with representing them.

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Written by curly

October 14, 2009 at 9:27 am

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