MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 06-May-15 14:04:58

Guest post: Tactical voting - "why am I being told to pick the 'least worst' option?"

Nathalie McDermott from Vote for Policies on why she'll be voting with her heart tomorrow

Nathalie McDermott

Vote for Policies

Posted on: Wed 06-May-15 14:04:58

(11 comments )

Lead photo

"The good politicians have a difficult enough job as it is without missing out on credit from their true supporters."

I care passionately about who will end up in government by the end of this week. Like everyone else my concerns are numerous; at the forefront of my mind is my young child, and the fact that my job relies on funding. If the 'wrong' party for me gets in, my family's life could markedly change. But I still won't be voting tactically in this election, however much I'm told I must choose the "least worst option".

Tactical voting - giving your support to a candidate you don't really agree with just to stop a party you like even less winning your local seat - doesn't sit well with me. That hasn't stopped me doing it in the past though, and I expect lots of you have done the same.

It's a pretty negative way to use your democratic right, and yet the tactical voting message has been promulgated by the media for years - just look at today's front pages. Now there are even online tools that calculate how much - or how little - our vote is worth, depending on whether we live in a safe seat or not. "All votes are not equal", we are told, and it's only the minority who live in marginal constituencies that have the power to change anything.

Even the literature that's pushed through our letterboxes tells us who we should and shouldn't vote for on the grounds that "they can't win here".

Even the literature that's pushed through our letterboxes tells us who we should and shouldn't vote for on the grounds that "they can't win here".


This approach is at best patronising, and at worst manipulative. Are we not to be trusted to make our own minds up and use our vote properly? If we pay attention to this kind of negative campaigning we risk voting for change we don't want, and we're damaging our democracy by rejecting the parties who are offering alternatives to the status quo. Anybody asking us to do this can't claim to have our best interests at heart.

On top of this, you can never be sure whether you're throwing your vote away for no reason. Until the results are announced, we don't know how much support a party in your constituency really has. Tactical voters are playing a numbers game without knowing the numbers, and all we have to go on is what we’re told in the media and elsewhere.

Of course, all of this leaves less space for what the parties actually stand for. I think we need to bring this election back what they are promising us. Sites like Vote for Policies let you compare the main parties' policies, in their own words, without knowing which party they belong to until the end.

To me, it feels like a good way of avoiding the political spin and conflicting media stories that make politics so hard to engage with, and it also helped me remove my own preconceptions. We may think we have a natural allegiance to a particular party, but do we actually prefer their policies?

None of this means my preferred party will get elected of course. Disappointment is inevitable for some of us. But at least this way, I can have better information and side with the candidate I feel most closely aligned to - regardless of whether I think they have a chance in my area.

Ultimately, tactical voting prevents us from giving our support to the people who want the same kind of society as we do. The good politicians have a difficult enough job as it is without missing out on credit from their true supporters. I want them to be around when the next election comes, and I want them to know that they are appreciated.

You can find out more about Vote for Policies, and take their survey, here.

By Nathalie McDermott

Twitter: @voteforpolicies

Pico2 Wed 06-May-15 15:18:16

How is it possible to have written all of that and not mentioned electoral reform and proportional representation? It is the obvious solution to all of the wasted votes and tactical voting.

RitaCrudgington Wed 06-May-15 16:41:47

Because the UK public were given the opportunity to opt for PR very recently Pico and they overwhelmingly rejected it so any discussion of it as a possibility for Westminster is going to be a waste of pixels for the time being.

Also the blogger is talking about what people should do tomorrow.

adarkwhisperinthewoodwasheard Wed 06-May-15 16:55:48

rita The people of the UK were asked to vote on AV, not a full or particularly good PR system, in the wake of the first time a third political party became a significant major player in the overall Westminster landscape. People were misinformed as to what it actually meant, led by an anti-PR campaign whose message was 'you're too stupid to understand this'. Also, the voter turnout was laughably small, so the idea that the UK public 'overwhelmingly rejected' it is a bit misleading. I think now the attitude is changing and the desire for PR in the UK will gain momentum. You certainly wouldn't see the same apathy as 5 years ago at the very least.

As to the OP - I am tactically voting. I can appreciate the ideological sentiment, however we don't live in an ideal world, and the political system in this country does not allow for everyone's voices to be heard. Until that changes I feel I have little choice, in my constituency at least. Some places will likely see MPs voted in on a very small percentage of votes in their area, simply because voters are becoming fragmented between emerging parties. Not terribly democratic imo

RitaCrudgington Wed 06-May-15 17:36:34

The turnout wasn't that low - 40 something percent is a respectable representation of anyone who might be interested. I agree that it wasn't the best PR option available that we were offered, and the general coverage was laughably misleading (in particular the "voters can't be expected to understand PR" spin is somewhat surprising for anyone who's ever voted in a London, Wales, Scotland or EU election hmm) but for good or ill the vote was cast and it's not going to be up for grabs this side of 2020.

adarkwhisperinthewoodwasheard Wed 06-May-15 18:12:11

I agree with you on that last point, but I do think this election will start a real campaign for a proper PR system. I know a lot of people who voted against AV solely because they didn't think it went far enough. But on the last AV referendum - 42.2% turned out, meaning the 'no' vote was carried by 29% of the electorate. I still hardly call that 'overwhelmingly rejected'

RitaCrudgington Wed 06-May-15 18:40:40

I think that if the SNP carry 100% of Scotland's seats then that will produce dissatisfaction with such a blatantly unfair result, but it will produce it in Scotland, which does most of its voting on PR anyway.

I think that 66% of the people who could be arsed to go to the polls is pretty convincing unfortunately.

SirChenjin Wed 06-May-15 20:42:37

Completely agree adark. Until all votes are recognised then tactical voting will continue....'twas ever thus, but social media has simply made it easier for those of us who are choosing to vote in this way.

The voting here in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament Rita is a form of PR called AMS - but it certainly doesn't go far enough to achieve true PR. Correct me if I'm wrong, but voting in the GE will not be done under AMS up here.

meandjulio Wed 06-May-15 22:39:39

I'm fine with tactical voting. My heart says very clearly what I don't want, and I have actually always found this a perfectly rational way of making decisions.

I don't vote in order to let candidates know they are appreciated. This makes voting sound like sending a Father's Day card. Also, I rarely find that any candidate matches my own views exactly, and that's also OK. I vote in order to get the representation I am happiest with in my own constituency. It's OK to vote for policies, vote tactically, vote negatively, vote positively, vote in a feather boa with a gladiolus up your jacksy, just put your head in gear and make a decision.

JazzAnnNonMouse Thu 07-May-15 07:58:19

I totally agree but until we have electoral reform people are going to continue to 'keep the worst out' rather than voting for the best.

Superexcited Thu 07-May-15 09:10:41

I live in a marginal seat but I won't vote tactically. Looking at the figures for my area: if 1 in 5 if voters make a tactical vote the result is very different than if those 1 in 5 voted for the party they believe in. The 1 in 5 voting non-tactically would be enough to see a three horse race instead of the current two horse race.
I am sick to death of canvassers knocking on my door and telling me that a tactical vote is the only way to vote in my area.

DaddyDaydream Thu 07-May-15 20:01:31

I couldn't agree more. Everyone should vote for the party that they feel is right for them, not to tactically try to achieve anything other than getting the party into power that they want.

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