The last few weeks have been pretty busy. After a meeting held in Frome after the General Election was announced I’ve been busy helping a bunch of passionate and enthusiastic people from a range of party affiliations in our constituency of Somerton and Frome to promote the only realistic chance of ousting our current Conservative MP: voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats.
There have been a number of conversations about the relative merits of tactical voting in the ensuing weeks with a lot of criticism targeted at our efforts around the following three arguments:
- tactical voting undermines our democracy
- the Liberal Democrats are tainted by their coalition with the Conservatives
- vote with your heart and for what you believe in
My thoughts on these three criticisms:
Tactical voting undermines our democracy
Our current electoral system undermines our democracy. First-past-the-post is an anachronism no longer fit for purpose. According to the Electoral Reform Society 74.4% of votes make no impact and this will never change whilst a Tory government is in power. We desperately need Proportional Representation to reflect the broad range of opinions within each constituency: Red, Green, Blue, Pink, Purple and Orange.
Since our last election we have seen a divided Labour party, a divided Conservative party and a break-down of the binary divisions which our Houses of Parliament was built around and perpetuates. This election – I believe – is an opportunity to address these divisions but it can only happen if we reduce the Conservative majority.
The Liberal Democrats are tainted by their coalition with the Conservatives
As I have been at pains to say a number of times, supporting tactical voting within Somerton & Frome does not mean we are members of the Liberal Democrat party. Many of us voted Green at the last election and to be honest, on the basis of the party manifestos I would vote Labour if I thought my vote had any impact at all within my constituency. But it doesn’t.
A vote for Labour – or Green, or Independent – is sadly a vote for a continued Conservative majority within our constituency within the next parliament. Five years ago – after a life time of supporting the Liberal Democrats – I wrote to every Lib Dem MP to say I would never vote for them again because of their coalition with the Conservative Party. It is a matter of deep pride for me but it is a pride am prepared to swallow if I feel that there is a chance of unseating our Conservative MP.
“Memories are short” has been the cry from a number of people. Well my memories are long when it comes to the destructive politics for the few of a Conservative government. I am not a Liberal Democrat member (although I have been impressed with the stance of our candidate, Mark Blackburn) but I am a realist who in this instance is prepared to vote tactically if that can mean one less Conservative MP.
Vote with your heart and for what you believe in
As I said above there is a lot within the Labour Party Manifesto and from what Jeremy Corbyn is saying that I wholly endorse. I spent most of my adult life challenging people that said my vote for the Liberal Democrats was a wasted vote. For me I was participating in democracy. But our democracy is broken and we need a reset. If this weren’t a snap election there would have been time to have proper discussions around fielding a progressive or unity candidate in Somerton and Frome. Hell, I might even have stood myself. But there hasn’t been time so we have to organise and galvanise as best we can.
Is voting against a party you believe in a wasted vote? Is it compromising on what your heart says?
Well it depends what your heart wants.
Imagine waking up on the 9th June and your vote had the effect of removing one Conservative MP. Then imagine that one MP was the one that removed a Conservative majority. Now imagine that one vote could start a conversation nationally about how we elect our government, how we can affect change, how all members of society can have a fair vote through a fairer voting system. My heart may say vote Labour but ultimately my heart cares more about a future for my children without a Conservative government.
So this Election I will be voting Liberal Democrat. They are the only party in our constituency that has a chance of challenging our Conservative MP at the ballot. And I’ve even swapped votes with somebody in Edinburgh South so that my support for Labour nationally can have an impact, whilst endorsing the Liberal Democrats in a constituency that can make a difference.
So what does your heart want? Another five years of Conserative Government or starting a conversation where all our voices will be a little bit louder?
Interesting point but while I accept and endorse the principal behind tactical voting in marginal seats I will be voting Green for the following reasons.
1. The hustings yesterday demonstrated that only one candidate is worthy of our vote. Theo Simon was head and shoulders above the other candidates and it is unfortunate that the other parties have failed to recognise the obvious and get behind him.
2 The only thing worse than a wasted vote is a tactical vote that loses. Somerton and Frome is not a marginal seat. Greens have stood down elsewhere when required to do so to oust a Tory but Lib Dems still see themselves as an alternative even when poorly represented by their chosen candidate.
PS I fear that you are heading for disappointment Cole with two tactical votes that lose.
I am not as eloquent as you but feel I need to explain my position. I am a nurse with 25 years of experience working in the NHS from care assistant to Matron. I now work for Virgin care commissioned by the NHS. My husband has experienced first hand the difficulties of teaching and has now sadly left the profession. I have given this a lot of thought and come to a different conclusion to you even though our priorities and values are the same. I feel compelled to comment, not because I want to have an argument but just need to explain.
Absolutely our current system is not fit for purpose but it is the system we have now. I believe that tactical voting has been happening in this constituency for many years to keep the Tories at bay, this worked while we had David Heath but alas he retired. I feel we now have the opportunity to be heard, we are not a marginal seat and the swing would need to be massive. I don’t think I am being defeatist when I say that this is not going to happen but realistic. I am listening to colleagues and friends who say they will never vote lib dem because of recent history. In order for the vote smart plan to work, everyone needs to do it and that doesn’t seem to be happening. My mind is open and plastic, it can change if I am convinced that enough people in the entire constituency are willing to vote lib dem, sadly I am not as yet and I am not willing to persuade people to do something that is so repulsive, I know people and they may say they will but I am not sure that they will. It is impossible to predict what people are going to do. Please don’t tell me to look at previous years, now is very different to 2 years ago and there is increasingly huge interest in the labour party.
If we all vote for what we believe in in this area we might just get what we want, and if we don’t we will be in the same mess in 5 years time (or sooner!) It also strengthens the argument for PR. I agree that politics needs to be reset and ask myself what are we demonstrating to young voters by voting tactically ? They need to vote for someone who reflects their needs and beliefs, above all they need to vote of course but tactical voting is a messy business and self perpetuating in my opinion.
Have any of the parties raised this in their manifesto ?I am voting with my head and my heart.
Of course there is always the fear that I am doing the wrong thing but it sounds to me as though you have similar fears. I just hope we can all unite afterwards whatever the outcome and plan a progressive future for our funky little TOWN !
The world will not end on June the 9th if Tories get in but there may well be an uprising of sorts!! (I hope so)
Thanks for listening x
I can forgive the LibDems for their coalition period. Being in coalition must be horrendous when you are the junior party but the LibDems did rein the Tories in on enough issues to justify their position in my view. However what we’re talking about here is whether we want to waste a vote and let the Conservatives’ majority inflate or do we pull together to stop the unfettered advance of the Conservative’s balance sheet politics with no mind to the kind of society they are shaping. I am genuinely frightened of a Conservative government for 5 more years – especially one that has a bigger majority. If that happens then the NHS will be beyond rescue and our schools will be in a state of advanced collapse. Just look at what May announced in the manifesto regarding their approach to tackle the Social Care underfunding. Her partial capitulation in announcing later that there will be a cap (unspecified amount) was only decided on because the voter polls were showing a diminished lead for the Tories. Imagine their approach if they end up with a staggering majority! The only way,if you don’t want that, is to vote tactically and intelligently in my view.