Any punter thinking of backing any party but Labour at the next UK General Election should be aware of the “power of the Donut” – the term that was used by Labour stategists the last time the boundaries for Westminster seats were re-drawn ten years ago.
A real possibility, based on current polls, is that that Labour could hold onto power at the next election even though it is three or four full percentage points behind the Tories. The winner on votes not winning the election has happened before – Labour lost power in 1951 even though it was ahead of the Tories and, indeed, secured its highest share of the vote ever. The margin, however, was relatively small and nothing like the 3-4% that, theoretically, Labour could at the next election be behind and still end up winners.
In February 1974 Edward Heath’s Tory government got 37.9% to Labour’s 37.2% and saw power taken away. But then Labour did not have a Commons majority and had to got to the country again in the October.
The outcome that is possible at the next election is on a far greater scale and would allow what could be seen as a manifestly absurd and unfair result. The inequity of the 2000 US Presidential election would look tame in comparison
The reasons why this could happen are twofold:-
There are usually much lower turnouts in Labour strongholds than in other Westminster seats reducing the overall Labour share.
The seat distribution worked out in in the last boundary changes ten years ago very much favours Labour. At the time I was a Lib Dem County Councillor in Bedfordshire having fought the old North Bedfordshire seat at the 1992 General Election. I was there at first hand as all the parties lobbied hard to create new seat boundaries that would be in their favour. Labour handled this brilliantly through a strategy known as “donutting”. You create winnable seats in the centre of towns by forming abnormally shaped constituencies in the outer areas where all the Tory voters were. There were thus fewer Tory voters for Labour to contend with in the inner seats where it stood a chance of winning.
This was going on all over the country and it was estimated that as a result Labour picked up 20-30 seats. In Commons majority terms that is a margin of 40-60. To underline how important this could be just look at the current Labour majority forecast of 42 by the top Cambridge and now City mathematician, Martin Baxter, on his sophisticated election prediction web-pages.
There is a real chance that Labour could cling on to power because of the Donut. If that happens then I predict that we will hear a lot about this topic. Latest General Election Prices.