Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tactical Voting Hubris

What people don't understand about tactical voting is that you can't fatten a pig on market day. If you're going to launch a campaign to persuade people to vote tactically you need to do it weeks, if not months, ahead of an election. Doing it two days before polling day is unlikely to have much effect. Why do I say this? Because I know how the LibDems won North Norfolk in 2001. They did it by persuading Labour voters over several years that they should vote LibDem to oust David Prior, the Conservative MP. And of course, once they did it once... So the Labour vote went down from 25% in 1997 to 9% in 2005.

So when I was sitting beside Olly Grender on the BBC News Channel I almost laughed out loud when I heard her repeat Nick Clegg's claim that people should always vote for the party they support. Ever since 1997 the LibDems have been the main proponents of tactical voting! If you don't believe me, have a look at this little selection of quotes from LibDem campaigns guru, Lord Rennard...

"There are some Labour voters in those seats who will have to choose in those particular constituencies between a senior Conservative being their MP and a Liberal Democrat." (Lord Rennard, ThisIsDorset, 24 February 2005)

"It is absolutely clear that Labour cannot win here [West Worcestershire] and many Labour supporters will look at the facts and switch to the Lib Dems in this constituency. The Lib Dems will mount a very strong challenge to get the vital few extra votes needed for victory." (Lord Rennard, ThisIsWorcestershire, 31 January 2005)

So let's have little less hubris from the LibDems about tactical voting.

And let's all agree that Ed Balls and Peter Hain have only jumped on this particular bandwagon because of the parlous state of the Labour campaign. I mean just when you think it can't get any more shambolic, you get a Labour candidate telling us Gordon Brown is the worst Prime Minister ever and two Labour candidates advise Labour voters to vote for another party.

You couldn't make it up.

Has there ever been a more bizarre election campaign?


Scrobs... said...

Morley and Outwood is, as of today, heading for a huge upset!

Just watch the numbers of his supporters dribble away as they realise he's just not up to the job.

Big numbers of Tories are rallying as we speak; the unpleasant bloke will be toast on Friday, and that is why the cameras are flocking to see the event, and record it for posterity!

Can't wait!

FonyBlair said...

And Ross Kemp on their PPB tonight saying you should only vote Labour and not for any other party....with reasons stated as to why you shouldn't vote for the other parties.

Shambolic campaign, shabolic government, shambolic mess for Cameron to sort out.

Thanks Gordon! Happy retirement

Anonymous said...

I would never vote tactically. I vote for the candidate I prefer.

Labour appear to be defeating themselves. All this talk of tactical voting is another attempt to frighten people about a Conservative government.

Rebel Saint said...

Tactical voting just perpetuates the catch 22 we have a the moment - I won't vote for the party I believe in because they can't win because not enough people vote for them!

Tactical voting does not work because the ONLY vote you have any influence over is your own.

I'm fed up of all the political lemmings. When will we have the good sense to vote for what we believe in the most instead of what we disbelieve the least?!

The Empty Suit said...

Iain - read this for some frantic back-pedalling by Lembit Opik


DespairingLiberal said...

You're over-egging it as usual Iain. Tactical voting from all sides was heavily discussed during at least the last two general elections to my recollection. Wasn't it "invented" by Billy Bragg way back in the mid-80s or something?

Perhaps Nick Clegg just thinks differently to his predecessors. As for Paddy Ashdown, it isn't new for him to speak against it, so he is not being a hypocrite. I heard him at a public meeting being dismissive of it in the 97 election for example. You are always urging us to be less cynical about politicians - surely you can see that Ashdown has a bit more integrity than the average?

DespairingLiberal said...

Rebel - your point that it does not work is nonsense. It does work if, for example, you generally vote Conservative, but in your seat, the Tories are invariably a distant third. Suppose you also can't stand Labour. Then the logical thing to do is vote for whoever has the best chance of doffing Labour and not for the Tories.

This helps to explain for example the success of the SNP in Scotland - many Tories have switched to voting for them. Ditto why the LibDems do well in the South-West, where the only alternative to the Tories is a no-hope Labour vote.

Dave Gould said...

Tactical voting is fine. Yes it makes a mockery of our electoral system but that's because our electoral system is a joke. Unfortunately, tactical voting is the best way for a UK electorate to get the govt they want.

Yes, if everyone voted for the best candidate, we'd be infinitely better off, but they won't so forget about it.

Also, Blair has come out against it so it must be good.

I'd also suggest vote swapping except for the fact the average majority in 2005 was about 6000 and hence you only have a 0.17% chance of influencing the average poll.

David said...

Funnily enough I found myself sitting opposite Hilary Benn on the train to Leeds earlier today (I was en-route to Morley and Outwood to join Antony Calvert's spirited and increasingly winnable-looking fight against Ed Balls), and overheard his end of a telephone conversation with someone else in the campaign wherein he was clearly being asked about this. Sensibly enough he wasn't having any of it, saying that he's continuing to ask people to vote Labour, which I should imagine is a rather sounder strategy for his party at this point. From the sound of it, Labour internally are not at all pleased about this development.

William said...

Despairing Liberal

"many Tories have switched" (to the SNP). Proof please.

Would you agree that many Libdems have switched to the SNP?

Lola said...

Hain and Balls are symbolic of all that is wrong with New Labour. The truth is with neither of them. Neither of them have got over the 1989 Failure of Socialism and will now do or say anyything to stay in power. It never has had anything to with the value of Socialism for Hain and Balls. It has always been all to do with their personal fortunes. I uttrely despise both of them.

neil craig said...

If we didn't have a corrupt electoral system we wouldn't have to consider tactical voting. We could all vote for who we want in the knowledge that we would not be disenranchised. So lets not have alny politician who wants the corrupot system to continue making any remarks about how wrong it is for people not just to vote for who they want.

Incidentally I seem to have been wrong when I said previously that the LDs would probably peak at this election because in any level playing field competition fought on policy UKIP would thrash them. They seem to have peaked already precisely because people saw their illiberal & insane policies. An honest electoral system, by giving people a real choice, would benefit the "right wing" interest (& make it more difficult for the BBC to ignore any small party but the Greens).