This has been an unusual election and I know I have been very quiet, which isn’t entirely appropriate for a political blog at election time! There have been two reasons for that. Firstly, the nature of a snap election is that it may well clash with existing commitments – and it certainly did with me! Timing couldn’t have been worse really; but such is life. The second reason though has been much more interesting.
You will have probably heard a lot about tactical voting in this election and that’s what I have been doing, working with various groups to focus resources. It’s a great pity that this is necessary; but unfortunately it is. Our system is archaic. It made sense when it was a local representative going to meet the king; but we now have a national election on national issues and it simply no longer works. Now whilst we should have local representatives, when we are talking about the future and what government we should have, every person’s vote should count and count equally. Until it does though, we are left with tactical voting.
The Seats That Matter
This election will be decided in about 100 seats; and the sad truth is that if you don’t live in one of those, your vote doesn’t count for much. In my opnion, that is fundamentally wrong and you should be angry about it; but it is the current system. Because of this, there isn’t really a national vote, only local ones; and each contest is unique. This often means that the choice you have as a voter is rarely your ideal choice (though that is pretty much the case throughout life when you think about it. We rarely have a choice between good or bad; just between bad and worse). So tactical voting simple means holding your nose and voting for someone who you don’t necessarily like – just because you can’t stand the other person.
What a number of groups have therefore done is create recommendations for key seats about who to vote for to achieve a certain goal and to help make every vote count. That goal varies from group to group (though they are rarely pro-conservative!); and I’ve been working with some people to produce a site that brings all those recommendations together under a broader goal. This is VoteSmart2017.
The Goal of Tactical Voting
The goal is to avoid a Conservative landslide; because such a result is a democratic insult when a party only gets a minority of the vote. Also, at this time of Brexit and terrorism, we do not need to give a blank cheque to a “strong hand” – that’s how dictators are elected. We need a Parliament that represents us all and one which the government has to listen to – one where there needs to be persuasion and discussion rather than diktat and arrogance. So for the sake of all our futures, I personally want a hung parliament because it will force the politicians to talk to each other and explain themselves. We do not need anything to be rammed through. We need to carefully discuss the options and make the right choices in light of all the evidence.
So this is what VoteSmart does. It tells you the best person to vote for in each constituency to help achieve that; and it also tells you what all the other groups that have an expressed an opinion on that constituency also say. Almost like a price-comparison website.
In some constituencies there still won’t be sufficient impact and so it also introduces the idea of vote swapping. This is just where people in different constituencies simply agree to swap their votes so that they can have more impact. It also applies for people who still want to register a vote for their favourite party but know it makes more sense to vote for someone else in their constituency. This is done through a third party: SwapMyVote
Success would be to get a parliament on June 8th that more accurately reflects what people have actually voted for. If the whole nation is united behind a single party, then it is fair to allow a huge majority. But to have two-thirds of the seats go to a party that gets less than a half the votes is undemocratic by any definition.
And I’m not advocating any particular party or agenda. I want debate and discussion. The current government has clamped down on debate resorting to bland soundbites over substance. If this was just a discussion over the colour of a post box, that would be one thing. But when it’s over the key issues that are going to define our country for a generation, it’s arrogant and undemocratic.
And for that reason alone, this government deserves to lose its majority.
Our electoral system is out of date and deprives most of us a say in the choice of a government. That is a scandal; but we must fight this campaign on the rules that exist. And to do that, we have to VoteSmart. So I implore everyone to vote – especially the young who are so often disillusioned with politics – but vote in a way that maximises the impact. Our system works against the majority; but your vote – and the participation of those who are usually ignored – can change the result.
So please vote. VoteSmart and bring some actual debate and democracy back into our politics.