Tactical Voting Could Alter the Outcome of British General Election

Almost a third of British voters are planning to cast their ballot tactically, a move likely to alter the outcome of the elections. Tactical voting simply means people are casting their votes for candidates they wouldn’t normally support, in an attempt to stop other candidates from winning.

Experts are warning that the election scheduled for Dec 12 could see the most intense tactical voting in British history, “potentially deciding the outcome and determining whether UK will finally leave the EU.”

Brexit is the key issue influencing the electorate from both sides to vote tactically to achieve their preferred outcome. Remain campaigners are urging their supporters to vote tactically to prevent a Conservative government from forcing Brexit in January 2020, while Leavers are doing so to prevent Labour and other parties opposed to Brexit from coming to power.

According to latest BMG polls on Brexit, 54% now want Britain to remain in the EU while 46% want Britain to come out of the European Union. This shows that many Britons have changed their minds and are now willing to stay in the EU. The figures further show that 31% of Remainers, and 30% of Leavers have expressed intentions of voting tactically during the elections because of Brexit.

But does tactical voting work? Yes, it does. According to a study conducted in 2014, tactical voting led to the election of nine Labour MPs and 21 Liberal Democrat MPs during the 1997 elections.

It is for this reason that the Remainers had hoped to defeat Conservatives in several constituencies in the upcoming election. But things changed earlier this month when Nigel Farage announced that the Brexit Party wouldn’t be fielding candidates against Conservatives in 317 constituencies. He went on to withdraw 39 more Brexit Party candidates from seats occupied by Labour and SNP to give the Conservatives an upper hand.

Mrs Gina Miller who is one of those pushing for tactical voting among Remainers, believes that Nigel Farage’s move reduced the number of seats where tactical voting stood a good chance of making a difference from 68 to 51. As a result, Remainers now have to work extra hard to achieve any significant result from tactical voting.

This is further compounded by the fact that unlike Leavers who only have to choose a candidate from the Conservative or Brexit Party, Remainers have almost seven parties to choose from. Finding the right candidate from such a crowded field to face off with a candidate fronted by Conservatives or the Brexit Party is a complex task. Any poor judgement would lead to Remain votes being scattered across different anti-Brexit parties thus giving Conservatives an easy victory.

“The remain side is in a bit of panic because of the split in the Remain vote, which is much greater than it is on the Leave side,” said Sir John Curtice, who is a leading pollster and a Professor at the University of Strathclyde.

To assist voters in casting their ballots tactically and preventing a split of votes among Remain parties, many tactical voting websites have been set up to rally electors in every constituency behind a candidate who is likely to meet their Brexit desire. For instance, if one constituency has many Remainers who are allied to different political parties, they would be urged to come together and vote for one pro-remain candidate who would enable them to block a Conservative candidate from winning.

When advising voters on who to vote for, the websites are relying on previous data such as the voting pattern amongst demographics in previous elections.

One of the tools dedicated to offering guidance in tactical voting is RemainUnited.org founded by Gina Miller, a staunch Remainer who took the government to court over Brexit and won. On the website, voters are asked to enter their postcode and are advised on which candidate they should cast their ballot for in their “only chance to stop Boris”.

Miller told the Observer if “If we don’t tactically vote, what we will end up with is a Tory majority that is going to pursue a Brexit plan that is no longer theoretical.” Remain United strongly believe that proper tactical voting would lead to a hung parliament, with Conservatives returning 309 MPS, Labour 233, SNP 53, the Liberal Democrats 33, the DUP 10, Plaid Cymru three and the Greens left with one. A coalition comprising of Labour, Liberal Democrats, and SNP would then give Remainers a slim majority to form a government.

Getvoting.org is another website for tactical voting under the belief that if 40% of Remainers voted tactically then a coalition of Labour, Plaid Cymru, SNP and Green, would have a majority of four seats to form a government and prevent Brexit. They are mainly focusing on 100 seats which they feel can be influenced through tactical voting.

The Telegraph has also offered some tactical voting guidance to both sides by advising Remainers to vote Labour if the party currently holding the seat has a majority of only 10 per cent. Those in Scotland are advised to vote for Labour if it is the party holding the seat, and if the SNP are in second place but the Conservatives are within 10 points of the winner. They also urged Remainers to consider voting for Labour in areas where Remain parties have a low chance of winning.

The paper advised Pro-Leave to vote tactically by voting Brexit Party if the Conservatives haven’t won the seat since at least 1992 or since the constituency was created, or if the Conservatives have less than 30% in 2017 elections. In general, they advised Leavers to consider voting for the Conservatives in areas where the Brexit Party does not have a realistic chance of winning.

Both Remainers and Leavers remain optimistic that tactical voting would influence the outcome of upcoming and give them the desired outcome.

On whether Remainers have a chance of winning through tactical voting Prof, Curtice said “What will be crucial will be how much anti-Tory tactical voting there is. A relatively smaller number of voters doing it in the right places can make a difference. My judgement at the moment is that with Tories in a 10-point lead, it won’t be enough. But if the lead comes down a bit, maybe it will.”