Are voters in safe seats ignored?

Paul Goggins whose death sparked the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election Credit: PA

By-election constituency Wythenshawe and Sale East is so safe that political parties spent just 51p per vote cast in the 2010 general election, compared to more than £3 per vote in marginal seats, according to new research.

The Electoral Reform Society said that the paltry spending in the Greater Manchester constituency was evidence of a "broken" voting system which encourages parties to ignore voters in safe seats and gives citizens little incentive to exercise their democratic rights.

From a total spend of just £15,657 by all parties in the Greater Manchester constituency in the 2010 election campaign, no money at all was spent on public meetings, just £616 on advertising and £189 on staff and agents fees, found the ERS.

With the seat remaining Labour ever since its creation in 1997 and former MP Paul Goggins - whose death sparked tomorrow's poll - taking as much as 60% of the ballot, Westminster's first-past-the-post system gave the parties little motivation to fight hard for votes in the constituency, said the ERS.

And voters responded by staying at home, with a turn-out of 54.3% in 2010 - the 11th lowest in the country - and just 48.6% in 2001.

The Society's deputy chief executive Darren Hughes said: "Thanks to our broken electoral system, Wythenshawe and Sale East voters will never receive as much attention from the parties as they are getting at the moment.

"In a by-election, the might of parties' national infrastructure can be concentrated on a single constituency.

But as soon as the caravan moves on, voters here will be ritually ignored - just as they usually are."

"The difference between places like Wythenshawe and Sale East and more marginal constituencies is striking. In Luton South, for instance, parties spent around six times more in 2010 than they did here.

"Our broken electoral system encourages parties to ignore voters in constituencies where they either cannot lose or cannot win.

For Labour, voters in Wythenshawe and Sale East are taken for granted. For the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, they are ignored as lost causes.

Our winner-takes-all system is a rotten deal for voters in safe seats."