Conservatives General Election 2017 Labour Liberal Democrats Politics

Tactical Voting – Does It Work?

Labour candidate for North West Hampshire breaks down that the result in his constituency means for the future of tactical voting.

Andy Fitchet

Naked Politics Blogger

There was an awful lot of talk on social media about voting tactically to keep the Tories out, an idea I greatly agreed with. There were websites dedicated to looking at past election results, both national and local, to determine who was the most likely challenger to the Tories in any given seat. There were the popular ones: Tactical2017 and Best for Britain, there were the more eccentric ones, and then there were also the newspapers with their predictions.

The one major flaw in these websites is this: the electorate.

Tactical voting has its basis in the assumption that how people voted in the previous election is roughly similar to how they will vote in this election. All you need to do is persuade a few kind-hearted Tories to vote Lib Dem or Labour, and Bob’s your uncle: you have a Progressive Alliance or a Labour majority.

In the seat in which I stood (North West Hampshire) there has never been anything but a Conservative MP since it’s creation. Most of the websites said that the tactical option was Liberal Democrat. I can understand why, as although in the General Election of 2015 Labour received 2,000 more votes than the Lib Dems, in the local elections just 4 weeks before the 2017 General Election the Lib Dems – much to my annoyance – did better than Labour.

Countless times I heard people say: ‘well I would vote Labour but I think the safe option to keep the Tories out is to vote Lib Dem.’ Lib Dem leaflets proudly displayed graphs and headlines of ‘Labour Can’t Win Here’ and so on. I may sound bitter at this point but I promise I’m not…

You would then think that the result would be Labour crushed and the Lib Dems sailing within a whisker of beating the Conservatives to win North West Hampshire.

The result? Labour, 13,792. Lib Dem, 5,708.

Oh.

One thing tactical voting websites don’t take into account is the mood of the electorate.

In my seat in 2015 UKIP came second with 8,109 votes, but this time they lost their deposit. As with many places around the country that vote didn’t head wholly to the Tories, but seems to have been split evenly amongst Labour and the Conservatives.

We ran our campaign on a budget of about 40 pence as we’d had the locals a month before, but we still managed to achieve the highest ever Labour vote in this seat. Why? Why would that happen when all the websites predicted we would lose out to the Lib Dems?

The only thing I can put it down to is a successful campaign and a real choice. For once there was a real choice between what the Conservatives were offering and what Labour where offering. There was a clear difference locally in what we wanted to do for the constituency and what the Conservatives wanted to do. The difference inspired people to vote for the plan they thought was best for the country, either way.

Tactical Voting websites can only go on what had gone before and cannot judge the mood of the electorate at the time.

I am sure in some places they can succeed: close Uni seats, seats where the second place person was within 500 votes etc. But in seats like mine, where the majority was 23,000, they don’t work. You simply have to vote with your heart, so that you can go to bed with the satisfaction that you voted for the party, candidate and plan that you wanted to win.

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