Local elections ‘cancelled’ across England

New analysis by the Electoral Reform Society has revealed that large parts of England are effectively ‘democracy deserts’, with hundreds of thousands of potential voters denied real choice in this May’s elections.

Weeks before the 2 May polling day, the analysis has uncovered how 300 council seats in England have been guaranteed for one party or individual before a single ballot has been cast. This will affect approximately 850,000 potential voters, including nearly 150 councillors who will win their seats without a single vote being cast.

The Electoral Reform Society says that approximately 270,000 potential voters in these ‘democracy deserts’ will be denied their democratic right of expressing a preference about who will represent them locally.

Broken down, the Conservatives are set to gain 137 of these uncontested seats, with the Liberal Democrats picking up five, four going to independent candidates and Labour securing two.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet hundreds of thousands of people are being denied the chance to exercise their most basic democratic right and have their say on who represents them. For these potential voters, democracy has been cancelled, and they are going totally unheard. It is frankly a disgrace in the 21st century for parties to have landed 300 seats without a single ballot being cast.

“Since moving to a proportional voting system for local elections in 2007, the scourge of uncontested seats has almost vanished in Scotland. Yet voters in England remain restrained by a one-person-takes-all system, where all votes not cast for the one winner go to waste. The result is a worrying number of ‘one party states’, safe seats and electoral wastelands. This is a disaster for faith in politics and – as we’ve seen – for competition too. Nowhere should be a ‘no go zone’ for parties.

“It’s time we brought the era of rotten boroughs to a close, by scrapping the broken first-past-the-post system in England and ensuring there is always real competition. A more proportional system would end the crisis of local ‘one party states’ and open up our politics at last.”

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