Tactical Voting – An (Unsuccessful) Attempt At A Non-Partisan Guide

I’ve not been in any state to blog recently (as those of you who saw the rather embarrassing linkblog the other day will know) because a roller-coaster is nothing to an election campaign. The human body simply isn’t built to withstand the constant adrenaline shocks to the system – “Oh god, we’re 1% down on a poll whose margin of error is 2%!” “Wow, two friends of mine i always thought of as not especially political just decided to join the party!” “Oh Christ, Gordon Brown just gave the speech of his life!” “Hooray! Neil Innes has decided to vote for us!” “FUCK! Cameron might try to take power with a minority government, going against constitutional precedent!” “YES! We’re 2% up in a poll whose margin of error is 2%!” and so on. Examining everything for signs and portents, despite the inherent impossibility of predicting what is the most chaotic election in British political history.

(In some ways it’s been easier being a Lib Dem in previous elections, where we’ve definitely been coming third – you know your efforts matter, because you’re building support and playing the long game – and had the party not spent decades doing the groundwork, building local parties up, getting council seats, we wouldn’t be in a position to affect the result now – but you also know you’re coming third before you start. This way is infinitely more nerve-wracking.)

Then there’s the physical exertion. My day job is as a software engineer, and my principal hobby is blogging. This means my life pretty much entirely consists of sitting in one place, moving only my hands, with occasional breaks for sleep. I was delivering in Yorkshire yesterday. Did you know that Yorkshire is entirely made of hills? And not only are the roads all hills, sometimes they have special bits where every single house gets its own small extra hill. And don’t get me started on letterboxes.

So for at least the last few days I’ve been in some kind of hallucinatory daze, and certainly incapable of talking sensibly about anything, but there’s one post I want to get out of the way, and that’s the tactical vote one.

Now, I believe that all major political parties have a rule that no party member can advocate a vote for another party in a seat in which they’re standing, so you’re *never* going to see complete honesty on this from a partisan blogger. Every party member knows of at least one incompetent buffoon of a parliamentary candidate who’s standing against a principled opponent, but they have to endorse that candidate or not talk about it. So can we take as read that my advice is that you should always, in all circumstances, vote Liberal Democrat? OK. Now on to what you should actually do if you’re considering tactical voting at all. I’m going to try to phrase this as honestly as I can given that I’m a party member. And I’m assuming here you’re voting for your preferred type of government – you might have a great candidate for your non-preferred party, or you might want to vote for a nationalist party who won’t form a UK government.

Weirdly, my honest attempt at impartial advice does come out as ‘in almost all cases, vote Liberal Democrat’ – but you might want to see my reasoning, and see if you agree…

If you’re Tory Well, actually, I suspect my blog has very few Tory readers. However, if you are one, David Cameron has *INCREDIBLY* stupidly ruled out any form of coalition with the Lib Dems in a hung parliament, so this won’t be of much use to you…

If you actively want a balanced (‘hung’) parliament for whatever reason, then Hang ‘Em is a campaign to get just that. It lists candidates who ‘have a chance of winning’, are either third-party or independent (but not BNP) , or are major party MPs with a long history of rebellion. In practice, more often than not, this will mean voting Lib Dem – and in fact that would be a good rough heuristic – but you might have other options which might appeal.

If you’re Labour then you do want to vote tactically. Labour have so destroyed their own base that their only hope for government is a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Frankly, even that’s a slim hope – most of us are furious at Labour’s record, and I think a coalition with *either* major party in their present forms unlikely – but it’s *possible*, while an outright Labour win just isn’t. Lee Griffin and the Daily Mirror (pdf) both have guides on how to vote tactically for a ‘progressive’/’anti-Tory’ majority – by which they mean a Labour-led coalition with the Lib Dems.

If you’re a smaller party supporter then the chances are very small that your preferred candidate will get in, pretty much by definition. My argument has always been that in this case you should vote Lib Dem in the hope of getting a fairer system, and I do think that’s the only way of getting any smaller parties into Parliament in significant numbers in the near future, but feel free to disagree.

If you’re a Liberal Democrat DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES vote tactically. Not this time. Vote Lib Dem even if you’re in a Lab/Con marginal and you know it’s keeping in the bastard Tories/torturing authoritarian arsehole Labour. The reason is simple – we need to come either first or second in the popular vote if we want to be able to *lead* a coalition – or to convincingly set terms by which some sort of deal can be cut. Our biggest, most important policy – the *SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GOVERNMENT COULD EVER DO* – is to fix our voting system. We can only argue convincingly that we have a real democratic mandate to that if we can point to all the people who voted for us in seats where we *didn’t* get in. This is the first time *EVER* that the Liberal Democrats have had a real chance at getting power, in order to give the power back to the people – but we need to show that enough of those people support us, and not just in tactical voting areas.

If you’re still undecided Vote Lib Dem because I said so. You like me, don’t you? I like Batman. You like Batman. We have something in common! Vote Lib Dem. Or if that’s not good enough for you, and you think I may not be the most impartial of sources, try Votematch – a completely impartial system that asks you what your views are and then tells you which party has views closest to yours.

All this talk of tactical voting upsets me though – *no-one* should *EVER* have to even think about voting tactically – you should be able to vote for the party you want. As Millennium says:

Mr Balloon warns against “voting tactically”, but ONLY the Liberal Democrats want to change the system so that you NEVER have to vote tactically again.

Mr Balloon says that the current voting system lets you throw out the government. Well tell that to a voter in Richmond (Conservatory majority: 17,807 – where 40% of the voters have NO SAY AT ALL

The Conservatories idea of “change” is to redraw the boundaries in their own favour, to cut the number of MPs who might hold their government to account. (Reducing the number of MPs without making the system more representative just makes more and bigger safer seats.)

Will the Liberal Democrats do better under a FAIRER voting system? Well YES, but that doesn’t make it WRONG.

Greens and Libertarians and Christian Democrats and Monster Raving Loonies and Animal Rights Campaigners and Pirates and Cornish Separatists and Socialists and yes even the fruitloops from UKIP will ALL do better under a fairer system.

And above all YOU will do better out of a fairer system, because whoever you vote for, you’ll have a better chance of having your voice heard in Parliament. You will do better from a system that doesn’t EXCLUDE voices, that doesn’t FORCE all the politicians to SOUND THE SAME just to appeal to the swing voters in the key marginals.

I really didn’t want this to be a partisan post when I started, but when I try to think about things as clearly, rationally and fair-mindedly as possible, I always end up clearly, calmly and rationally advising a vote for the Liberal Democrats. I don’t know if that says more about the Lib Dems or about me…

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1 Response to Tactical Voting – An (Unsuccessful) Attempt At A Non-Partisan Guide

  1. Dave Page says:

    I’d be careful describing Votematch as unbiased. The people who wrote it chose which of each party’s policies to promote as options for site users, and which to ignore. As such, it seems that a significant pro-Green bias has been introduced.

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