Voting tactically

by / Filed under Politics

Tommy asks for some advice:

Saw @bryony1963 et al earlier in my local. Still undecided. Leaning towards @IpswichGreens but need help deciding?

To which I replied:

@tommygladding @IpswichGreens @bryony1963 depends how much you want the Tories out.

And I’m right. Until we have PR your vote in Ipswich will have one of two effects: it will either help elect a Labour MP or help elect a Conservative MP.

Tactical voting is rational and perfectly democratic. Democracies come in many different flavours, and our rules mean your vote isn’t always directly related to your wishes. The trade off is that we (usually) get clear results.

There are, of course, better versions of democracy, but that’s unfortunately what we have.

Not voting tactically

There are a few reasons for not voting tactically if you’re a Green or UKIPer:

  1. You don’t care if we get a Labour or Conservative government. They’re all the same anyway, aren’t they?
  2. You live in a safe seat and it doesn’t make any difference anyway.
  3. You have a misguided notion that voting tactically is somehow undemocratic.
  4. You’re unaware of/not interested in the numbers.
  5. You think voting Green or UKIP will send a message to either Labour or the Tories.
  6. Change is slow and you’ll never become a mainstream party unless you use your vote.

Point 5 has to be balanced against point 1. If you really don’t think there’s any difference between Tory and Labour, or you don’t like either, or you think it’s more important for the Tories or Labour to learn a lesson than to stop the other party winning, then 5 does make sense.

As for reason 6, for all the talk of Green surges and UKIP byelection wins, they’ll never win more than a handful of seats. The system won’t allow it.

Away from the general election

The general election is only one part of our democracy. Although local elections are also decided on a first past the post basis, the small scale, low turnout and dreaded protest vote mean you’ll see plenty of UKIP, Green and independent councillors.

The Greens and UKIP do hold a lot of indirect power – if only because, ironically enough, they scare the main parties with the threat of eating into the core vote. That’s one of the main reasons the Tories have turned rightward in the last couple of years and Labour will start making more environmental, vaguely leftwing noises.

If I was interested in a fringe party I’d join it, canvas, blog and attend the meetings. I’d also vote tactically in general elections.