Tactical Torment

It’s hard to believe* but we should be in the final year of David Cameron’s second term as Prime Minister. Just think how bad it could have been if we’d voted for chaos with Ed Miliband. We would never have had Theresa May’s strong and stable government for a start.

How we vote matters. Voting matters. If you ignore everything else in this post, please vote carefully.

This general election is not an average election, and not just because it’s third time we’ve been asked to choose our representatives in the last five years. MPs had just passed a Queen’s Speech setting out some bold new domestic agenda. They had also begun debating the legislation required to leave the EU with an agreement.

This is the second time Mr Johnson has got in the way of leaving the EU. He was one of many Conservative MPs who prevented the UK leaving the EU at the end of March.

Whether or not you support Brexit, the fact we have not left the EU yet is important. Until we leave the UK can unilaterally decide to remain in the EU on our current terms. Once we leave, we have no leverage at all. We’ll be a 3rd country attempting to negotiate a new trade agreement, which will require unanimous agreement of all the remaining EU members. Expect to hear about fishing rights, level playing fields, more about Irish borders, and probably even Gibraltar. There’s also a deadline we’ll be counting down to, because of course there is.

Brexit will not be done. It will finally have started, and even then nothing will change until the end of the “implementation period” however long that ends up being. If you’re already bored of Brexit, and who isn’t, the next few years are going to be even more annoying.

So who should you vote for? Obviously I can’t tell you that, but here are some thoughts about what the options are in Eastleigh. Things might be very different where you are.

If you still want to leave the EU, your choices are limited because the Brexit Party aren’t standing in Eastleigh. That leaves two options:

  • If you voted to leave the EU because you wanted to help the NHS, or if you wanted to leave the political union but keep close economic ties, then Labour are probably the best option. Labour is promising to negotiate a closer relationship with the EU but they are planning to give people the final say, so Brexit is not guaranteed. Unfortunately Labour is currently predicted to come third in Eastleigh and they are not supported by the Brexit supporting tactical voting sites.
  • If you want to leave the EU at any cost, then the Conservatives are probably the best option. Be warned though, Mr Johnson is probably lying to you. There’s a good chance he’ll extend the transition period and, with a big enough majority, he may end up negotiating a softer Brexit than he’s currently promising. He’s unlikely to cancel Brexit completely, but who knows for sure. Even so, they have been endorsed by the Brexit Party candidate who pulled out, and are the recommended party on Brexit supporting tactical voting sites.

If you want to remain in the EU, you have three choices in Eastleigh:

  • The most pro-EU parties are the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. Both have campaigned to remain in the EU and support a final say referendum. (The Liberal Democrats have also said they would revoke article 50 if they win a majority.)
  • Labour will renegotiate with the EU and are offering a referendum on the result of that negotiation.

All the pro-Brexit sites support the Conservatives and all the pro-EU tactical voting sites support the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh.

It’s probably worth mentioning that tactical voting is about picking a candidate with the best chance of achieving a particular outcome. It doesn’t mean they will win, or that you like that candidate, or that their party has any other policies you agree with.

In the case of this election, it’s essentially about choosing the least worst option for your desired Brexit outcome.

You might not agree that the chosen candidate does have the best chance of winning. You might even be right but that won’t matter unless you can convince all the, fiercely independent, tactical voting sites to agree with you. (There really isn’t time for that unless you have some very very convincing evidence!)

That just leaves the tricky bit. Do you vote tactically? It’s worth noting that Eastleigh isn’t high on the list of places that tactical voting is likely to change the result. Having said that, the previous Conservative MP, Mims Davies, left rather suddenly and not in the most transparent way possible. Her replacement hasn’t had long to establish any credibility, so it’s not a huge leap to think his vote share will be lower. There is a small chance that tactical voting could influence the result here, but it will be very very close if that does happen.

If you’re reluctant to vote tactically because of any of the manifestos, Brexit is likely to continue to fully occupy any government. Just look at how much of Theresa May’s domestic agenda survived.

If you dislike the election campaign of the pro-EU tactical candidate, you’re not alone. They’re all fucking awful. The Brexit Party managed to help the Conservatives but every opposition party seems to spend most of their energy attacking each other.

If you like a different candidate, or dislike the tactical candidate, thats unlikely to make any difference when they get to parliament. In Eastleigh, none of the candidates has been an MP before anyway, so there’s no way to tell how good, or bad, they’d be.

If you don’t want to vote for the party that invaded Iraq, or introduced tuition fees (also Labour), or supported the Conservatives in coalition, or whatever past failure sticks in your memory, then just imagine how much blame there will be to go around if we fail to stop a catastrophic Conservative Brexit.

If you worry that tactical voting hides how people really want to vote, you’re right, and it will until we get a fair voting system. This is not the election to try and prove a point about how bad first past the post is. Join the Labour party, and get them to support PR instead!

All in all, it’s a shit choice. Democracy should be better than this but it isn’t, and it’s likely to get significantly worse if the man who unlawfully shut down parliament wins the election.

* Not as hard to believe as anything the Conservative party claim obvs.



It’s almost time to be putting a cross in a box again. On Thursday there are some largely pointless local elections (it sounds like there aren’t even enough candidates, so there’ll probably be less choice than usual) but there’s also the more interesting prospect of changing the voting system. Sadly the chances are that the referendum is going to be equally pointless: in the unlikely situation that the yes to AV campaign gets its act together, will anything actually change? This isn’t the first time that electoral reform has been suggested and, according to the Electoral Reform Society, a system proposed in 1917, which included the Alternative Vote in some constituencies, was only dropped after being blocked by the House of Lords:

“In 1917, the House of Commons voted in favour of proposals to use STV for 211 of the 569 UK constituencies and the Alternative Vote for the rest. However, after five successive rejections by the House of Lords, the plans were ditched.”

More recently Labour commissioned the Jenkins Report (worth reading for the section on AV), and then ignored it. So given that my vote is unlikely to make any difference anyway, it’s tempting to take inspiration from the NO to AV, YES to PR campaign and write something else on the ballot paper, although they do seem to be scaremongering with the rest of them. Maybe this will work…

One Person, One Vote… and that one person should be me!

No? Seems pretty fair to me! Very progressive. I’m actually pretty lucky in that my One Vote is closer to 1 than the average One Vote: 0.821 with FPTP and a staggering 0.923 with AV!

Still, assuming the country isn’t actually going to rest the entire future of democracy on my judgement alone, is the Alternative Vote a good idea? The worst possible way to find out is by reading the No to AV campaign’s leaflet: already well summed up on that link, but they raise an interesting issue on the cost of democracy. Maybe we should get rid of parliament and use all that money on something more constructive. That splendidly simplistic map of AV voting around the globe should be a little more colourful in reality as well, and it looks like Australians might not be that keen to go back to FPTP after all.

Not that it has anything to do with AV but I’m also getting very tired of being told how Nick Clegg broke his promises; HE DIDN’T WIN THE ELECTION! You may as well blame Martin Todd for tuition fees (sorry Martin, I was just trying to think of an example)!

For a more serious examination of the Alternative Vote, try these links:

Or for a slightly less serious view of the Alternative Vote:

Unfortunately AV just doesn’t seem that likely to address the points that the Yes campaign claims it does:

  1. MPs working harder to earn – and keep – our support
  2. A bigger say on who your local MP is
  3. Tackling the ‘jobs for life’ culture

Ok, it might give me more say over who my local MP isn’t, but I don’t really see it making any difference to the ‘jobs for life’ culture so why will they be working harder? Luckily I have a few ideas that could help here. An alternative if you will:

  • Fully proportional elections for the House of Commons
  • Maximum of two terms for MPs in the House of Commons
  • House of Lords elected using the Alternative Vote in local constituencies*
  • No limit on number of terms in the House of Lords

So you could still have a longer term view through career politicians in the House of Lords, and maintain the idea of constituency voices in Westminster, but there would be no ‘jobs for life’ in the House of Commons and everyone’s views would be fairly represented regardless of arbitrary geographical groupings**. Clearly never going to happen, but what would you do with a blank canvas? If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s another alternative which has some nice qualities. (Not just the bit about the lawyers!!)

* I did toy with the idea of some sort of jury service style selection for some seats, but not sure how that would work in practice.

** “We need a better word than ‘democracy’ to summarize ‘subjugation of the individual to the majority of an arbitrary geographic group’.” @MTPT

I only have a few days to make a final decision and I’m still wavering. I’ve changed my mind a couple of times just while writing this post! Maybe it will help if I keep track of the Alternative Vote pros and cons between now and Thursday…


  • Sign me up if there’s the slightest chance it will stop the local Lib Dems persisting with their intensely irritating graph!
  • You’re less likely to end up with Marmite when there are a selection of jams to choose from.
  • David Blunkett doesn’t want AV!


  • It makes very little difference, especially in my constituency: electing the least worse option only really helps if they aren’t all as bad as each other.
  • There are only two alternatives in the referendum.

And finally, one of the best ideas I’ve seen so far is from @brightsweb:

I’m voting ‘yes’ in the referendum on the alternative vote. And my second preference is ‘no’.


Update: more pros/cons, and added a few new links thanks to a tweet from @planetf1 (3 May 2011)

Update: another pro, although obviously a slightly spurious one! On balance I think I will vote for AV in the morning since there don’t appear to be any good reasons not to and I like a change. (4 May 2011)

Update: the results are in and unsurprisingly it was a no. In Eastleigh 13.6% voted yes, 30.4% voted no, and 55.6% stayed at home. I wonder if that means the majority of people don’t want elections at all! (7 May 2011)