Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Hypocrisy of Tactical Voting

Labour seem to have reached for tactical voting as the latest apparent solution to their plight. They argue that there is an "anti Conservative majority" in this country and that people should bote tactically to keep Tories out in Labour-Tory marginals. The cheeky buggers then try to avoid the question of what Labour voters should do in LibDem-Tory marginals.

Of course they are right. There is an anti Conservative majority. But they don't seem to grasp that there is an even bigger "anti Labour majority". Hypocrites. In none of the last three elections have the Conservatives ever tried to encourage their supporters to vote tactically to defeat Labour. At least one party sticks to its principles.

I love the fact that Paddy Ashdown has called Labour's call for tactical voting "patronising" on the Today Programme. The LibDems made exactly the same call in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Naturally the media is all over the story, with the BBC almost salivating. The BBC should be very careful. It is fine to report the story, but it is not OK to promote the concept of tactical voting. The Today Programme devoted no fewer than four segments of its last hour to the issue.


waddell said...

Of course, there is no telling whether more tactical voting would be more helpful to Labour or the Conservatives. It might even help the Lib Dems win more seats here and there.
I think most voters have already worked out whether they want to vote tactically or not. And those who haven't worked that out aren't likely to be swayed by Mr Balls.

cherami said...

It's not just the BBC. You can hardly avoid Brown on Sky. Just one electioneering speech after another. It is actually very perturbing with just the odd glimpse of Cameron and so far hardly even that of Clegg.

BOF2BS said...

The Pitfalls of Tactical Voting.
Certain of the mainstream media are suggesting this in 3 way marginals and the action promoted if followed to a certain extent could well achieve the exact opposite of their stated objective!

Louis Barfe said...

It looks hellishly desperate, doesn't it? However, viewing the clumps of opinion as 'anti-Labour' or 'anti-Conservative' is less helpful than viewing them as 'anti-liberal' or 'anti-conservative' (use of small Ls very deliberate).

Cantstandcant said...

If we had a proper democratic (and fair) 21st Century voting system, then there wouldn't be any need for tactical voting, would there?

Under pretty well any form of PR I'm aware of (and even the non-PR alternative vote) you'd be able to vote with your heart, then your head - and yes, that might mean voting Lib Dem as your first preference and then Conservative when it comes to the crunch. We don't get that option at the moment.

It's also a bit rich complaining too much, given that one of the the central Tory messages has been 'get rid of Brown for the good of the country' and therefore a coded and not very thinly-veiled appeal to Lib Dem sympathisers who loathe him to vote Conservative.

Prodicus said...

And Today promoted the BBC's 'how to vote tactically' web page.

Nigel said...

I wouldn't worry about it Iain.

The tactical voting calls from cabinet ministers amount to a surrender. It's noticeable that the LibDems are not reciprocating.
The two parties may just be in the process of swapping roles - which in my view would be an entirely healthy development.

And it's a story that the BBC has to report.

Prodicus said...

Anyone know a TV channel not showing wall-to-wall Brown/Balls/Clegg? Has Cameron died?

dizzy said...

Possibly being thick here, but how you can have an anti-Labour majority and an anti-Conservative majority?

Iain Dale said...

Simples. Add the Tory vote to the LibDem vote and you get 60%.
Add the Labour vote to the LibDem vote and you get about 55%.

also1 said...

Victoria Derbyshire: Party Political Broadcast for vote anyone but Tory.

Dr Snuggles said...

Radio 5 just spent 15 mins on a labour/lib-dem love-in on tactical voting, no Tory voice whatsoever.

Neil said...

Given that Alternative Votes as proposed by the Labour Party has the same broad effect as tactical voting I think it's perfectly fair for Labour to encourage it.

The Conservatives can't have it both ways, if you support FPTP then you can't complain when people vote in particular ways that pervert and already perverted system. Live by FPTP, then die by FPTP.

I presume you have also spotted the use of tactical voting as an interesting argument by the left to justify excluding the Tories from office even if they have the most seats and votes? If tactical voting is reasonably in evidence do the Liberals and Labour have an argument to say that their bloc has the moral right to govern? Expect this line to be deployed if there is a sufficiently hung Parliament.

Stepney said...

If you want to see how highly Labour prize power over democracy you'd better read this:


Ann said...

Iain, don't worry too much about the Today programme. Outside the London Metropolitan elite nobody listens to the tedious programme

Ian said...

The biggest hypocrisy is all these lefties (see Mary Riddell in the Telegraph for an example) claiming that our current voting system is a "rotten system" (her words).

Funny that they weren't up in arms about this broken system when it gave Labour a 60+ seat majority with only 35% of the vote. Some lefties have very short memories.

Desperate Dan said...

Five Live this morning is absolutely shocking in its lack of impartiality.
For the past two and half a hours they've had a non-stop succession of "members of the public" saying: "I'm a Labour/LibDem voter and I'm going to vote Labour/LibDem because I'm absolutely terrified of a Tory govt.". The only let up has been intermittant reports that if the Tories get in all gays and lesbians will be burnt at the stake.
Victoria Derbyshire is so thrilled with them all that she's actually asked them to contribute to her programme on election night.

Roger Thornhill said...

Ah, the "let the Allies advance while resisting in the East" approach.

norman said...

BBC is s**t scared of Tories gaining power as it will hit the packet of the BBC fat cats, licence fee is to be shared to some extent and to superfast broadband. For BBC, lefty Clegg and his labour friends inside and outside his party are the preferred choice. If BBC licence fee cutting to 50% had been in Tory manifesto, it would have gianed a few more voters as this poll tax is detested by many.

The Grim Reaper said...

I must admit I'm surprised you're giving this one any attention whatsoever, Iain. Have you seen the story in this morning's Daily Mail about 50 investigations currently being carried out into suspected postal vote rigging - mostly in Labour constituencies.

Or are you still nursing that wound from your grudge against the Mail newspapers?

Iain Dale said...

GR, I do not have a grudge against Mail newspapers.

I haven't written about it as I haven't got anything particualrly new to say on it. I don't comment on everything, you know!

Simon Gardner said...

OF COURSE there's an anti-Tory majority in this country and has been for many decades.


I can't believe you are being so disingenuous as to claim otherwise.

Simon Gardner said...

@ Ian
May 04, 2010 11:42 AM

This lefty has ALWAYS thought our undemocratic and entirely bogus electoral system is corrupt and has ALWAYS said so.

Don’t tar us all with the Labour partisan hypocrisy of some.

The Grim Reaper said...

Iain Dale said "GR, I do not have a grudge against Mail newspapers. I haven't written about it as I haven't got anything particualrly new to say on it. I don't comment on everything, you know!"

Obviously not. Indeed, it's your blog so run it the way you want. All I'm saying is I was surprised by this, that's all.

Lola said...

I not so sure that there is any 'anti any party' majority. It seems to me to be a sort of 'least worst option' majority. Currently the 'least worst option' voters have been hoodwinked by Cleggy ans ee him and his people as the 'east worst option'.

In any event I have long held that New Labour's real 'success', if you can call it that, is the traducing of the Tory brand. The balcking of 'Tory' has been the one thing that they, New Labour have excelled at (apart from ruining the country, of course, which one always expects them to do). Cameron has attempted to rebuild the brand values of the Tory's, but the polls indicate that this has not been as successful as he'd hoped. I think this is becaise he failed to stick to the traditional Tory knitting of lw taxes, small state and the like. And because he and Osborne were so poor economically in opposition and during the (enduring?) banking crisis. (Actually not a banking crisis at all. An asset price and government policy failure crisis more like).

Alfie said...

Andrew Neil did his best to rubbish it when he interviewed wee Duggie on the Daily Politics this morning...

FF said...

What about the "Vote Clegg, Get Brown" slogan and the scare stories about hung parliaments? Are these not calls to vote tactically?

As cantstandcant points out, a properly representative voting system, that the Conservatives oppose on principle, would give voters what they want without the need to vote tactically.

If tactical voting is hypocritical, then the hypocrisy applies at least as much to the Conservatives as to the others.

Dangerouslysubversivedad said...

"In none of the last three elections have the Conservatives ever tried to encourage their supporters to vote tactically to defeat Labour."

Ah, so all those people who've spent years telling us how a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour aren't actually Tories then?

Rebel Saint said...

Tactical voting relies on everyone thinking the same as you. The only vote you have any influence over is you own.

When will people learn that if they voted for what they believed in rather than what they disbelieve the least we'd get some way to proper representation.

Time for everyone to stop being political lemmings.

neil craig said...

I seem to remeber Iain saying, when Cameron broke his cast iron promise that people who opposed the Lisbon Treaty should still vote Conservative rather than UKIP, with whom they clearly more closely agree, because only voting Conservative would achieve anything.

That is obviously tactical voting. Iain are you now saying they should vote UKIP & if not what is the difference of principle.

The fact is that we all know our electoral system is totally corrupt. Tactical voting is only a minoer way of limiting some of the ill effects, though at the cost of benefiting those who maintain the corrupt system.

For decades both Conservative & Labour have said that a vote for anything but them risks "letting in the other side" - if that has not been decades of relying on blackmailing people into a tactical vote rather than their preferred option what is it?

The real hypocrisy is saying you are against tactical voting where it is not in the Conservative interest, calling for it when it is, & promoting a corrupt system that makes it inevitable.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

"Never do anything out of desperation". The proof of this axiom is written on the sorry saga of my early life, so I don't expect the strategy, if you can call it that, will work for Labour.

This is the "Downfall" video writ large. It is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end for Labour. The end of 13 years in which this era of discontent was made glorious shite by this son of the manse.

Those who are in two minds about voting are not going to take orders from the Labour high command, an army in retreat, soon to be decimated in the court of public opinion.

Man in a Shed said...

The BBC's behaviour this morning shows why they can't be trusted to contain their left wing institutional bias.

I hope every right of center politician burns today into their memory, because one day - maybe very soon - there will be a opportunity to get even and it must be taken.

The BBC is a direct threat to our democracy and MUST be broken up.

Lauchlan McLean said...

Lady Thatcher's legacy is only marred by one failure, that being her mistake of not privatising or reforming the BBC. She left the left wing scum to keep attacking all that is good in this benighted country.( Don't expect anything from Cameron in this respect) Cut the licence fee!

Lauchlan McLean said...

Re CHERAMI Adam Boulton future Director of Communication in forthcoming Labour's opposition party in one weeks time

anne riddle said...

Surely the more the Electorate see of Ed Balls the better? If that doesn't put them off voting Labour what will?

wild said...

Given the "means justify the ends" argument so enthusiastically endorsed by the Leftists in these comments pages, it is hardly surprising that New Labour is so keen on "Postal Voting" given its widespread association with fraud.

I understand that under New Labour it is now 10% of the vote!

Since we have had a New Labour government for 13 years it is only reasonable to assume that this will be the most corrupt election in a generation. They have after all they have corrupted every other institution of public life.

The Liberal Democrats merely say opposite things in different constituencies, and fight "dirty" by filling their election leaflets with smears.

Of course the ultimate corruption is to abolish the voting system and replace it with a system that (it just so happens) effectively prevents you from removing the Leftist establishment from power.

No wonder Richard Pipes when he wrote about the history of the Left in Russia found it so depressing. It must be vile being a Leftist. If they were not so full of hate I would feel sorry for them. But they are, and so I don't.

Simon Gardner said...

“In any event I have long held that New Labour's real 'success', if you can call it that, is the traducing of the Tory brand. The balcking of 'Tory' has been the one thing that they, New Labour have excelled at...”

Nobody had to invent the Thatcher terror. It was quite obvious for all to see.

[And of course it was always opposed by the majority just as Cameron is.]

jbw said...

Rebel Saint said...

"When will people learn that if they voted for what they believed in rather than what they disbelieve the least we'd get some way to proper representation."

Not really true. In my area it doesn't matter a dingos kidneys who I vote for, as our glorious tory man will get in. In that way I'm completely stuffed, and what I think or do has no effect.

Chris said...

I agree on the whole with what you say. Although to be fair, the reason the Tories have not encourgaed tactical
voting before is because there is no other mainstream Rightwing equivalent.

The majority of core Tory voters would die before putting their X next to Libdem / Lab, even tactically, in the same way that core Libdem / Lab would never ever vote Tory.

shingldl said...

"Since we have had a New Labour government for 13 years it is only reasonable to assume that this will be the most corrupt election in a generation."

. . . and will you be repeating this when your favourite party wins?

Chris said...

Postal vote rigging apart - FPTP is not 'corrupt' as some people on here keep saying. It's actually the simplest and most transparent system. It can produce perverse results in the translation of aggregate votes to seats but that's not corruption. It's a one person, one vote secret ballot and every vote is counted and recorded.

It's certainly true that there's an anti Conservative Party majority - but no party has 50% of the vote so that's universal . I don't believe there's an anti conservative majority - certainly not in England anyway. When PR comes it will disappoint the parties of the left who foolishly assume current voting patterns will translate unmodified to a completely different system. Ironically, I think the Lib Dems will be squeezed the most. It will break up the current party political landscape and erode the cultural attachment to the three (not two) oldest parties. New political groupings will emerge and I have no doubt that right of centre coalitions will get their turn in government as they do in most other European democracies.

Cantstandcant said...

I am afraid what we have learned, or been reminded about, during this campaign (here and elsewhere - more reminders above)is that some 'modern' Conservatives have rather different standards and rules when it comes to aspects of our political system that favour them.

So the corrupt (yes, corrupt) first past the post voting system is fine, until it throws up the bizarre prospect of the third party in votes becoming first in seats, or Mr Cameron not becoming Prime Minister.

Then tactical voting - which is fine when it damages Labour (or anyone else) - becomes hypocrisy and an outrage when it might damage Mr Cameron.

I sincerely hope that we don't add to this on Friday or Saturday a constitutional convention that was fine for the Conservatives and Edward Heath (quite rightly) when it could have worked to their advantage in 1974 suddenly becoming another 'outrage'.

By the way, well said jbw and others. Like you, I suspect, I don't want a voting system that favours any party- and if the main advocates of it now lose support as a consequence of getting STV or something similar, that's absolutely fine with me.

I'd just like one that seems vaguely fair in the eyes of most people and doesn't leave all the attention on a relatively small number of marginals and voters in the final 48 hours before polling day. This FPTP system, I am afraid, brings shame on British democracy.

Desperate Dan said...

Another reason to support Cameron is that Brown and Clegg are both very, very boring. They're still repeating daily the same hackneyed old proclamations they came out with on the first day of the campaign. I'm sick of them.

RJF said...

LibDems prop up Labour at their peril.

Here's some fairly neutral strategy to the LibDems (notwithstanding the fact that tactical voting might work in unintended ways). I say neutral because my rightward leanings are not satisfied by Cameron's Blairish tendencies and whoever wins the next election will drink from Mervyn King's poisoned chalice. Anyway...

Deal with the Labour Party first. If they continue to exist as an electoral force, they will annihilate you.

Your ambition must be to batter them into third place and then ensure recognition as the opposition.

Keeping Labour alive is a sure way of ensuring the LibDem's political death.

I genuinely would like to see the LibDems advance at Labour's expense but you have to nail them first - you cannot let them survive.

neil craig said...

FPTP certainly changes results from what people voted for to something different, more restrictive & allowing less freedom of choice. It also, as we see today, makes the results extremely arbitary. It disenfrachises anybody who isn't an enthusiast for one of the 2 main parties. It leaves the majority of voters represented by somebody they voted not to have representing them. Indeed it disenfranchises nearly everybody since the election usually turns on about 10% of the vote in about 150 marginal constituenceies .

I consider that a corruption of the pure vote. Anybody who doesn't has to be able to explain exactly why such semi-random results from an undeniably unrepresentative & undemocratic system are clearly more pure & better than the way people wish to vote.

By definition either the results are being corrupted or being purified by this process. I see no sign that British politics in general & this one in particular represent a particularly high level of purity.

Indeed Iain, by calling tactical voting "hypocrisy" rather than purifying people's choice to Conservative & not-Conservative is acknowledging that the process is corrupting.

So yes Chris the current system is clearly corrupt.

I agree with you that PR will disappoint the "left" because it will open up choice. I don't think the LD's support is based on their policies of windmillery, nanny-statism, destroying the economy in the name of global warming & more government. I think that any representative vote UKIP will demolish the LDs & establish a market oriented coalition with the Conservatives. The election after next, should be offer us a real democratic choice. If the Cionservayives were noy opposing that the LD vote would be crumbling already.

Andy said...

If you have proportional representation, then people won't need to vote tactically but then the Tories are against that because they know they will never again win a outright majority on a minority of the votes cast.
Incidently I chose not to register to vote and participate in this election because: (a) the electoral system is so grossly unfair; (b) I live in a safe Labour seat so my vote would count for nothing anyway unless I was daft enough to vote Labour; (c) the main parties regard those they expect to vote for them with barely disguised contempt (d) in this election the electorate don't know what they are really voting for because all the parties are keeping them in the dark about the true scale of the austerity to come. I am not going to be treated as a fool.
And on top of which there are already reports of widespread postal voting fraud before the polls have even opened!

Desperate Dan said...

The BNP are very keen on proportional representation cos it would give them a few seats at the expense of Labour.

wild said...

'"Since we have had a New Labour government for 13 years it is only reasonable to assume that this will be the most corrupt election in a generation."....

...and will you be repeating this when your favourite party wins?'

Classic Leftist comment. No the ends do not justify the means. Got it? You Leftists really have a hard time comprehending anything other your own hatreds don't you. No wonder Gordon Brown feels the need to keep telling people he has a moral compass.

wild said...

When Leftists use the word "fair" it is almost invariably a code word for "Give me power because I know best how you should live."

A "fair" election system therefore is "Give me an electoral system that will keep me permanently in power because I know best".

David Lindsay said...

Do Ed Balls, Peter Hain and Tessa Jowell want Lib Dems in the North to vote Tory? Northern Lib Dems are as viscerally anti-Labour as Southern Lib Dems are anti-Tory.

I have a tactic: vote for what you believe in. If that is not on the ballot paper, then why aren't you?

trevorsden said...

The BBCs performance in this election stinks. They are institutionally left wing. Its not just nthe people in front of the cameras its the ones behind.

Rob Slack said...

I can't see what is wrong with tactical voting. It is just a way of using your vote to try to get what you think is the best outcome. That is all voting is. It will be a giggle if some Labour supporters in Labour marginals vote LibDem and they both lose! And by and large they are not a bright bunch!

wild said...

The Liberal Democrats want to scrap the voting system in order to replace it with a voting system that gives Liberal Democrat politicians the best chance of gaining and retaining political power.

That is it.

Every other argument (and they can supply you with arguments in support of whatever system favours themselves the most by the truck load) is entirely bogus.

It has nothing to do with democracy. If anything the opposite. It is about being run by a political class you cannot remove but who seek (in the name of justice you understand) to direct your every action and control your every thought.

It is Social Democratic feudalism in which your entire purpose will be to fund the lifestyles of a corrupt Leftist elite.

Elections will become as pointless as a European election. Actually even more pointless, because ever more and more decisions will be taken not in the UK but by European politicians who via majority voting will seek to redistribute money extracted (in the name of justice of course) from the British taxpayer to their own even more corrupt political elites.

shingldl said...

"Simples. Add the Tory vote to the LibDem vote and you get 60%."

Yes Iain, very simple. Of course the tricky part would be to outline the overlap in policy that would justify that addition in the first place. But I guess, even you, wouldn't be too keen to emphasize that aspect too much anyway, would you?

norman said...

@Cantstandcant. Clegg is now saying he has no pre-conditions, not even PR for talks with the largest party after the GE results. Cleggy has pulled the rug under the deluded Libdem beardie-wierdie ( borrowed from Guido)mob who frequent in these threads.

Libertarian said...


Very pleased you are against tactical voting. Are you going to pop over to ConservativeHome and let the majority of Tories on there who urge UKIP supporters to vote tory so we don't get Brown know that this is frowned upon and that ALL UKIP supporters should vote for their party

Simon Gardner said...

@wild said...
“The Liberal Democrats want to scrap the voting system in order to replace it with a voting system that gives Liberal Democrat politicians the best chance of gaining and retaining political power.

That is it.”

I'm sure you love this theory since it cynically suits your anti-democratic and base purposes.

Unfortunately, you couldn't be more wrong.

Most of the Lib Dems I know are Lib Dems because they want a democratic electoral system and not the other way round.

Sorry and all.

wild said...

Simon Gardner,

The "base purpose" of giving governments the opportunity to implement the policies for which they were elected, the "base purpose" of giving voters the opportunity to eject them from power if they judge those policies, or the implementation of those policies, to have failed, the "base purpose" of preventing the formation of a political elite that will become in effect a one party State - with all the inertia and abuse of power which that entails.

But yes you are right about the cynicism. The "cynicism" of a party that is on the Right when it courts voters on the Right, and on the Left when courts voters on the Left. The "cynicism" of a Party who refuse to join coalitions of either the Left or the Right unless they put in place an electoral system whose sole purpose is to keep them permanently in power, even if their vote declines to a small fraction of the vote for the political parties of the Right and Left, the "cynicism" of a Party political leader who pretends (because it is unpopular with the voters he affects to represent) that he is not in favour of the Euro, not in favour of giving more powers to the EU, not in favour of tax farming the British to fund the sinicures of a self-serving, anti-democratic, and profoundly corrupt European bureaucracy, when of at other times he has made it clear that is precisely why he has gone into politics.

wild said...


The fact that you have the sociopath "Supreme Commander" Servalan as your photo Simon Gardner tells all we need to know about your democratic instincts.

neil craig said...

“The Liberal Democrats want to scrap the voting system in order to replace it with a voting system that gives Liberal Democrat politicians the best chance of gaining and retaining political power.

That is it.”

If this is the prime objection to PR then it is frankly an admission that the Con/Labs want the present corrupt voting system purely because it gives them "the best chance of gaining & retaining political power" & that they therefore expect others to do the same.

Also form personal knowledge I can agree with Simon that the desire to change the open corruption of the present system is a, probably the, major thing holding the various special interest groups of the LDs together. A PR system would not institutionalise a left-left Labour LD coalition in power it would simply make all politicians more dependent on voter's support & less on that of the Westminster nomenklatura.

wild said...

"A PR system would...make all politicians more dependent on voter's support & less on that of the Westminster nomenklatura."

If you believe that you are an idiot.