The 8 seats where I’d consider voting tactically – Conservative or Labour – to keep out Ukip

by Stephen Tall on April 24, 2015

Polling_station_6_may_2010Tim Montgomerie has (apparently) risked expulsion from the Conservative party for declaring “If I lived in Sheffield Hallam I’d definitely vote for Nick Clegg” – quite a turnaround for a commentator who said last year “The Lib Dems must ditch Nick Clegg”. (Like I can talk…)

It’s one of the (many) oddities of party politics. All parties urge tactical voting to one degree or another — when it will benefit them.

Danny Alexander recently did so, urging pro-UK voters to block the SNP… by voting Lib Dem in his marginal seat. David Cameron urged Labour and Lib Dem voters to back the Tories at last November’s Rochester and Strood by-election to block Ukip.

When canvassing I’ve never been shy about asking supporters of a party which won’t win to consider ‘lending’ the Lib Dems their vote this time. Why not? At the very least voters should have the information about which parties are in contention — you’d be amazed how even very intelligent voters are often clueless about the situation in their own area — so they can make up their own minds.

But then the parties get precious when their own members start bandying round the notion they might follow this advice and opt for the lesser of two evils with their own ballot. As I wrote a few weeks ago for The Independent on Sunday:

In my ideal world, such Machiavellian strategising would be unnecessary. Instead, we’d be free to choose the party closest to our own values, whose policies we most wanted to see delivered in government. But to do so under our first past the post voting system is a luxury: better to find out what’s happening in your constituency, and use your vote intelligently.

That said, I’ve never voted tactically. I had one opportunity to do so, in 1997, when I lived in Oxford West and Abingdon as a student, and the Lib Dems’ Evan Harris was aiming to unseat the Tories’ John Patten. At the time, I was a loyal Labour member — so I decided to vote for my own party in my home constituency, rather than lend my vote to the Lib Dems. It was, I knew, a perverse decision — my vote merely added to the thousands of surplus Labour votes in Bootle, practically the safest Labour seat in the country — but it was my decision. And since then, I’ve lived in seats where the Lib Dems are the main challengers, so the dilemma has never re-occurred.

After 16 years as a Lib Dem member, I suspect if nothing else muscle memory would guide my hand towards my party’s logo, even in the privacy of the polling booth. But if anything could persuade me to don a tactical voting nose-peg it would be to stop Ukip — as Tim Montgomerie puts it, to quell Nigel Farage as a “rabble-rousing agent of division”.

So here are the 8 seats where I’d seriously consider voting tactically, either Labour or Conservative, because I think there’s a real danger Ukip might just win there:

Conservative:

Boston and Skegness
Great Yarmouth
Rochester and Strood
Sittingbourne and Sheppey
South Thanet
Thurrock

Labour:

Dudley North
Great Grimsby

(In some of these seats, such as Thurrock, it’s possible Labour could win — but I think it makes more sense to back the incumbent party, rather than split the anti-Ukip vote.)

There’s one seat where Ukip are sure to win where I wouldn’t recommend an anti-Ukip vote: Douglas Carswell’s Clacton. Carswell isn’t quite the deep political thinker some people take him for — many of his ideas are quite conventionally right-wing, even superficial — but he is an interesting reproof to the two-dimensional Ukip caricature of saloon-bar xenophobe.

If he’s the sole Ukip MP after 7th May, by no means impossible, it will be interesting to see how his humane, classically liberal political approach — anti-EU but pro-immigrant — holds up as Ukip drifts towards big state populism.

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2 comments

Oh young Mr Tall, who wouldn't vote Lib Dem in 1997 in OxWAb! Tut tut tut. Wait until Mr Fawcett and I catch up with you at conference 😉

by Duck L'Orange on April 24, 2015 at 8:54 pm. Reply #

Oh young Mr Tall, who wouldn't vote Lib Dem in 1997 in OxWAb! Tut tut tut. Wait until Mr Fawcett and I catch up with you at conference 😉

by Duck L'Orange on April 24, 2015 at 8:54 pm. Reply #

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