Tactical voting vs genuine progressive alliance


Theo with other Unite members in 2013, lobbying the then LibDem MPs office in Frome to keep the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, which the LibDem/Tory coalition abolished.

Some people in Somerton & Frome are unclear about the difference between “tactical voting” and a ‘Progressive Alliance”.  This is how I see it.

Tactical voting means voting for something you don’t really like in order to prevent something you like even less. For 10 years in Somerton & Frome, trade unionists, greens, socialists and others swallowed their reservations and voted for the LibDem, just to keep the Conservative out.

After our LibDem MP joined a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative government, we decided we’d had enough. The LibDems broke their pledge to young people and made them pay for further education. They broke their promise to defend the board which set farm workers wages, and abolished it. They pushed through EDF’s disasterous Hinkley C nuclear power station project in Somerset. And they allowed the government to follow “austerity” policies, making the least well-off pay the heaviest price for the rich people’s crisis.

There are still times and places in this country where tactical voting might make sense to someone as an option, if the vote difference was really finely balanced between a Tory and one other candidate. People who are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of a Hard Brexit are especially considering this. But I don’t think that’s the situation in Somerton & Frome, looking at the figures from 2015, and factoring in the support for Brexit in South Somerset.

Even if it was, there is no reason why other parties should go along with it. We join and fund parties that stand in elections to fight for principles and policies we think are right, and in our dysfunctional democracy, that is the best chance we get to have our voices heard and build support for them. All the non-Tory candidates in this election will be arguing against a wreckless, non-inclusive Brexit deal.

In Somerton & Frome, people have joined our party and given their money and time to making it stronger because that is what they are committed to and believe in. The same is true of the Labour Party here I am sure. However, because we want to prevent an even stronger Conservative government from attacking our environment and employment rights, and because we want to make sure that a tyrannical Teresa May can’t drag us into the misery of a hard Brexit, my Green Party has pushed for co-operation between non-Tory parties (the so-called “progressive” parties) around the country to make all our votes count, either through forming an alliance, electoral pacts, or other trade-offs.

In Somerton & Frome we think that would mean agreeing a unity candidate between the parties, before the nominations close on May 11th, so that there was a straight choice between supporting Teresa May’s candidate or not supporting her or him on the ballot paper. But any agreement between parties has to be a two-way thing, because any party foregoing votes would be sacrificing the hard work of its members and the opportunity that an election gives them to put their views to the people.

It’s one thing to decide to vote tactically yourself – your vote is the one tiny bit of power you have been given to make a difference, and it is your sovereign choice how you cast it. People died to win you that right.

But it is quite another thing to expect other parties to sacrifice their most cherished principles and hard work to support your view. Tactical voting for a candidate you don’t really support is not “progressive” – it is a desperate act. Demanding that candidates don’t promote their views because you are feeling desperate is not the same as building a real alliance. Telling people they should hold their nose and vote for what they don’t believe in is disempowering and ultimately corrupts our democracy even more.

We are tired of being told that the future of the very planet that supports our lives or the pain of the low-paid and of the vulnerable needs to take second place to the machinations of privileged people for “tactical” reasons. The arctic ice-cap is melting, and people are going hungry in one of the richest countries on the planet. We are not going to play ball anymore, because we can see that the game has been rigged, and if we politely muffle our voices any longer then everyone, including even the rich and privileged, will be the loser.



2 Responses to “Tactical voting vs genuine progressive alliance”

  1. So are the other candidates open to discussion about this? Will their parties allow them to work together? Would a ‘job share’ be possible for the two most popular candidates.
    You’ve hit the nail on the head about the difficulties in this. So many people hold their loyalty to their ‘party’ to their hearts, which can also remove self responsibility as a decision has been made and the result, even if it means keeping in an opposing party or individual ‘isn’t their fault’.
    This is quite probably the most difficult voting decision many of us have had in recent years, and most likely the most important.

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