Vote for who you want, no matter what, or to put it another way, don’t vote for a party you don’t want. A democratic vote was never and can never be a route to getting solely what YOU want, as an individual. It’s a way to indicate what you want, and when enough people indicate the same thing, they should get it or something like it – I suppose that’s democracy, when it’s working. It’s hugely complicated by our horrible electoral system but until we get electoral reform that isn’t going to change but we can build collective confidence in our positive choices and that will effect change and will encourage electoral reform. Sadly, electoral reform is tricky for any party in power to take a punt on, after all, they got voted in on the current flawed system and therefore unless they think a new, less flawed, more fair system would deliver the same results to at least them as the leading party, their reasonable assumption is that they would do best if they leave it alone until they’re not in power at which point it’s safe to moan about.
So, you really hate Labour, or the Tories or whoever and you’re shit scared that they will get in or get a seat in your area but a vote for the party you really want is a ‘wasted vote’ so you vote for a party you don’t really want to stop the baddies getting in, but then the party you really want gets fewer votes and the next time it rolls around everyone says a vote for the party you really want is still a wasted vote so you vote for someone else and so it goes on. The only parties benefiting heavily from tactical voting are the major ones, because they are apparently the ones with a chance and therefore who you need to vote for to keep the baddies out – after all, even the supporters of your preferred party, including yourself don’t vote for it. I wonder if it has no chance *because* even the people that support its policies don’t actually vote for it?
Tactical voting is bound to appeal to almost everyone. We are mostly a politically uneducated island population. Ask the person next to you to usefully summarise the workings of the House of Lords, House of Commons, Queen’s Speech, Hustings, whips, seats, first past the post, proportional representation and so on. I bet they struggle. I would, so don’t worry, I’m not being highbrow. Despite my lack of knowledge on matters political, I can be made to believe that voting for a party I don’t want is ‘tactical’. This makes me feel pretty good and empowered. Yes that’s right, I’m using tactics. How could I use tactics if I didn’t know what I was doing? The OED definition of tactics begins ‘The art or science of…’. Check me out with my artistic, scientific vote for a party I don’t want slightly less than another party I don’t want slightly more.
If I challenged you to think of a way to get people in their thousands to vote for parties they don’t want you’d say that was impossible, but it’s not – it’s here and we’re doing it, aided capably by our electoral system. Election after election, both local and national we head out to the polling stations to put a cross against a party we don’t want, and why? Because we are being tactical. Clever us! Excellent use of our democratic right. It feels more like I’m being given the right to be tricked, the right to imply through my voting that I want to be lead in a direction I don’t want to go in – after all they’ve expressed their polices and plans and I’ve voted for them. It must be what I want. In some ways I can’t even blame them for that, after all, they did warn me and I said ‘yes please’… Ever wonder why we’ve had government after government of the same major parties, are they really that good, do we like them that much? Most people seem to claim the ruling parties aren’t very good and even that they don’t trust them or hate them and yet we keep on voting for them because we have no faith in the potential of success of the parties we believe in.
When it comes to the party I vote for I don’t like the idea of least worst. We had a chance for electoral reform in the Alternative Vote Referendum of 2011. I fear the process was confused with a vote on whether or not we liked the coalition and as such we lost our best chance in a long time to get a system to return what we ask for. I suppose I may simply be asking for another chance at electoral reform. Maybe it will take yet another poxy coalition to push us in that direction. Of course, this is a long game and really requires electoral reform, but it would be a whole lot shorter if we vote for what we want and keep on doing so.
I have to acknowledge after all this that I am hugely over-simplifying matters, to the point where I’m probably wrong – perhaps what I’m asking for simply can’t deliver the best results, not only at this election or any in the future. I must also acknowledge that a lot of people do know how these things work much better than me, and that they do vote tactically based on that knowledge. To those people I must concede, they understand the political landscape and take a pragmatic approach typically to minimise the negative impact of their least favoured party getting a seat locally and therefore the chance to win at a general election – they do this in good faith and with well-considered reasoning. My belief is that these people are not typical and that for the most part, especially long term this may not help most of us as it in effect playing a system. If the system needs to be played then it’s too complicated for many citizens and therefore is a system that fails many citizens. I don’t want to vote for that.
To me a vote for the party I support feels right, it sends the message I want to send both to the politicians and to my fellow citizen. It does so whether or not my party wins a seat or gets in to power. That’s what I’m doing and it’s what I think we should all do alongside campaigning for a better system where our votes really do count.
Having said all that….