Most Welsh MPs elected by less than a third of votes cast

By Kirsty Buchanan
Published August 16th 2005 in icWales
NOT a single MP in Wales received more than 50% support from the electorate in the General Election and just one received the backing of more than 40% of the constituents.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant was one of only two MPs in the entire United Kingdom who polled more than 40% support from the voting electorate, according to new research.

The research reveals that in Wales 26 of the 40 MPs were elected by less than a third of voters, while six more were sent to Westminster on the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate.

The study was drawn up by electoral reform group Charter 88 and Active Citizens Transform who say it raises fresh doubts about the legitimacy of a first-past- the-post system used in General Elections and to elect the National Assembly's 40 constituency AMs.

The reform groups will now be sending the results to all MPs asking them to back new legislation supporting electoral reform.

They will urge all Welsh MPs, returning from the 80-day recess in October, to back their demands for a National Elections (Referendum) Bill which would give voters a say on how they would like to elect their MPs.

Charter 88 chairwoman Debbie Chay said, "The results of the last General Election underline the widening gulf between those in Government and the people. To reverse this worrying trend we must ensure that those of us who are affected are given a real voice in any key changes to the way in which we are governed."

In Wales the MP with the lowest percentage of the electorate voting for them was Labour's Betty Williams, who polled just 23.1% of the vote in Conwy on May 5. Mrs Williams received just 12,479 votes out of 53,987.

The highest was Labour's Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, who joined Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams as one of two MPs in the UK to poll more than 40%.

Mr Bryant received 41.5% while Mr Adams picked up 45.2% of the votes cast in Belfast West.

Peter Law, who quit Labour to contest Blaenau Gwent as an independent, polled the third highest share of the vote in Wales with 38.5% of the vote. He came in behind not only Mr Bryant but Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd.

Across the UK five MPs achieved a seat with the support of less than 20% of the vote, meaning four out of every five voters did not give them their support.

These included London's anti- war Respect MP George Galloway and Solihull MP Lorely Burt, who had the lowest share, 16.3%.

With overall turnout flat-lining, the research will make for worrying reading at Westminster and fuel demands for reform.

The first-past-the-post system, which means a candidate simply has to win the most votes in their constituency, not a majority of the votes, while proportional representation would elect MPs on the share of votes cast for each party.

Pressure for PR grew in the wake of Labour's third term victory, which saw Tony Blair win a majority of 67 despite polling the lowest electorate share for a government.

The Conservatives won the biggest share of votes in England, but secured nearly 100 fewer English seats than Labour, while the Liberal Democrats secured 9.5% of the Commons seats on their 22% share of the national vote.

The campaign by Charter 88 and ACT will be formally launched at Westminster in October and will call for a Citizens Commission to review voting alternatives ahead of a referendum.