In election campaigns parties don’t ‘waste’ their efforts attacking other parties’ ‘safe seats’. At first sight this seems entirely logical – surely it is easier to capture a seat from an opponent with only a small majority?
However, in marginal seats MPs are alert to the danger of defeat, they campaign effectively and receive extra support from head office. They are well-defended.
On the other hand, safe seats often have less active MPs and the constituency party machines will not be geared up for intensive campaigning. Complacency often sets in. The expenses scandal affected established MPs in safer seats much more than newer MPs in marginal seats. Safe seats are not well-defended. Voter loyalty and party membership are declining.
When they have come under attack, safe Labour seats at Bradford West and Blaenau Gwent (Labour majority over 30,000 in 1992) have fallen. The Conservatives lost Tatton to the Independent MP, Martin Bell in 1997 and at the last election the Lib Dems lost their most reliably-held seat at Montgomeryshire, while capturing Redcar which had had a Labour majority of over 21,000 in 1997.
So, is it a self-fulfilling prophecy that safe seats won’t change hands? Are safe seats only safe because no-one bothers to attack?