With the Scottish referendum approaching, the difference between the composition of MPs in areas and the national government is being highlighted. One of the arguments for Scottish Independence has been that a vote for independence would mean Scotland would not have a party in government in Westminster that it did not vote for. But how often do areas vote for the nationally elected government, and which are bellwether areas that tend to reflect the national vote?
This article looks at Parliamentary representation for regions and countries of the UK at the 15 general elections since 1955. The party with the majority of MPs in each region/country is compared with the party/parties in government at the time. Following UK general elections since 1955 there have been 7 Conservative governments, 7 Labour, and 1 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
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For comparison purposes, North West and North East, and Eastern and South East, have been amalgamated to ensure consistent boundaries over the period.
Since 1955 the majority party of MPs in the West Midlands and London has best reflected changes in national government in Westminster, with the party they elected in a majority coming to government 13 times, with Conservative MPs being in a majority six times, while Labour has taken a majority on nine occasions.
In areas traditionally associated with a single party there is less scope to reflect national changes. The North East and North West, Yorkshire & the Humber, and Wales have consistently had Labour majorities since 1955, and so their majority party has only been the same as the party of government on 7 occasions. Similarly the Eastern and South East combined region has elected a Conservative majority in every one of the last 15 elections, however the Conservative Party has been in government after 8 of these.
Scotland elected a majority of Conservative MPs in 1955, since which time it has consistently elected a majority of Labour MPs. It therefore has a marginally better success rate in electing the party of government in its region than those who have continuously selected Labour as their largest party over the same period.
In terms of getting a government that most often reflects regional majority parties, London and the Midlands regions fare best. Regions which have consistently elected a majority of MPs from just one of the main parties can find that national governments less often mirror their majority representation.
House of Commons research paper UK Election Statistics: 1918-2012
Colin Rallings & Michael Thrasher; British Electoral Facts 1832-2012