Published in The Daily Telegraph on 18 October 2007.
At the 2005 election, Labour MPs coming to the end of their first term in parliament achieved an average cote share 3.3 percent lower than when they were elected in 2001. In Labour constituencies where the MP was standing down, the new candidate saw a drop in support almost three times as big. In other words, sitting MPs at general elections have a clear advantage over other candidates.
Why could this be? Certainly a sitting MP has the chance to make a name for himself in local media: undoubtedly the most diligent can build a good reputation and loyal support from constituents whom they have taken the trouble to help.
But there is a more prosaic reason why incumbent MPs have such a clear advantage: money.