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“‘safe’ seats leaving voters demoralised and ignored time and again” according to latest research

ballot boxNearly 14 million voters are in seats that have not changed party hands since the Second World War, according to extensive new analysis by the Electoral Reform Society. 

Across the last three general elections an average of only 99 seats changed hands per general election. This represents an average of 15% of seats changing hands per general election, across the last three. 70 seats changed hands at GE17. YouGov’s MRP suggests just 58 seats could change hands this election

Taking into account equivalent predecessor seats, some seats have not changed party hands since the 19th century, in-depth ERS research shows.

The average seat has not changed hands for 42 years, while 11 Labour and 54 Conservative seats haven’t changed party hands in over a century.

Just 70 seats – 11% of the total – changed party hue at the last election, a figure which has been declining in recent years. December’s poll could see just 58 seats change hands, according to YouGov’s MRP projection.

Key findings:

  • 98 Labour seats haven’t changed hands since WWII (37% of their 2017 total).
  • 94 Conservative seats haven’t changed hands since WWII (30% of their 2017 total)
  • 65 seats haven’t changed hands since 1918 or earlier (10% of seats) – affecting 4.8m potential voters this election
  • 192 seats haven’t changed hands since  1945 or earlier (30% of seats): affecting 13.7m potential voters this election

The ERS have launched a tool to find out when your seat last changed hands

Average number of years since: 

  • Average seat (650) last changed hands – 42
  • Conservative seats (317) last changed hands – 47
  • Labour seats (262) last changed hands – 45
  • SNP seats (35) last changed hands – 5
  • Lib Dem seats (13) last changed hands – 11
  • DUP seats (10) last changed hands – 15
  • Sinn Fein seats (7) last changed hands – 12
  • Plaid Cymru seats (4) last changed hands – 28
  • Green seats (1) last changed hands – 9
  • Independent seats (1) last changed hands – 9

Some seats have not changed party hands since the 19th century, with Conservative Hugo Swire’s equivalent seat won from the Whigs in 1835. The Conservatives won now-Independent Sir Oliver Letwin’s seat in 1857, while Theresa May and Chris Grayling’s seats have been held by the Tories since 1874 .

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research for the Electoral Reform Society said:

“We’ve heard often that politics is volatile and anything could happen in the coming election, but even so, hundreds of seats across the country haven’t changed party hands for decades. Huge parts of this country are effectively competition-free zones, with ‘safe’ seats leaving voters demoralised and ignored time and again.

“As our research shows – seats representing nearly 14 million voters have not seen party change in a lifetime, and dozens more seats have not seen change in a century. Elections under Westminster’s broken system rely on a handful of ‘battleground’ seats, while many areas barely have a contest at all.

“When there are seats in this country that have not changed party since before Queen Victoria was on the throne, it’s clear that we need a change. People need to know their vote will count, whichever party they give it to, and wherever they are in the country. Unfortunately, under First Past the Post, some votes count much more than others.

 “No party should have a monopoly on local representation. It’s time for a move to a more diverse, democratic system, away from ‘shoe-in seats’ and towards ensuring every vote counts. The next government must introduce a fair electoral system and give voters the representation they deserve.”

111 seats changed hands at GE15. 117 seats changed hands at GE10, according to the House of Commons Library. The ERS say it represents the fact that our elections are increasingly dependent on a handful of swing seats – while the rest of us are ignored.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Even in landslide years where the balance of power in Westminster has flipped millions of people in these ‘shoe-in seats’ see the same party colours representing them in Parliament.

“Being trapped with the same representation for decades is not the hallmark of a responsive and functioning democracy.

“With trust in politics at rock bottom and people desperately wanting to be heard, it’s vital we bring our democratic structures into the 21st century. This election should be the last ever conducted under the rotten First Past the Post system that has shut so many voices out.

“With millions of votes set to go to waste in this coming election it’s about time the whole UK backed the reforms we’ve seen in Wales and Scotland and help build a better, more representative democracy.”


There are 6 candidates standing in the Orkney and Shetland Constituency to be held on Thursday 12th of December.

David Stephen Barnard, Independent

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Coilla Anne Drake, Scottish Labour Party

Jennifer Fairbairn, Scottish Conservative and Unionist

Robert Fraser Leslie. Scottish National Party (SNP)

Robert Watt Smith, The Brexit Party

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