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For & Against: Tactical voting

Is it the only way the our electoral system will work?

For: Callum McAllister

After first finding the party that you think most aligns with your values, the second conflict as the polling day approaches is whether to go with your head or your heart: do you go with your principles or do you compromise – do you vote tactically in order to get the best expected results?

Whenever my dad and I sat down to have the voting discussion, he always told me that the importance of voting was that, if you didn’t vote, it was essentially giving a vote for a party you hate. And in the wider public sphere, David Cameron recently told potential UKIP voters that a vote for UKIP was a vote for Labour.

And, as reluctant as I am to agree with David Cameron, in some senses he is right on this. He assumes that UKIP voters are the people that would prefer Conservative to Labour, and by voting UKIP they split the Tory vote. While this leaves a sour taste in my mouth, especially since it acknowledges that our voting system doesn’t serve the voter, it makes sense for the immediate present. Tactical voting is the best option for the individual. We would all like to vote for the party that gets our political gears going and yet voting for them, if they are unlikely to gain many seats in the Commons, may be a vote directly against our own interests in the long run.

Should it be like this? No. Is it good for politics? Definitely not. In an ideal world all voters would automatically vote for the party that best represented their views. It would shake up the two-party system currently in place, in which both look pretty very similar and play off each other’s failures. Politicians would actually make more of an attempt to appeal to voters. There are many systems that attempt to allow for confident stick-to-your-principles voting, such as the alternative vote. But, we do not vote in a vacuum. We vote knowing the odds. We vote within a specific system in the UK that does not encourage honest voting, because it is detrimental to the honest voter.

No matter how good a political party is, if they are getting one vote and one vote alone – your vote – you’ve probably thrown a vote straight into the political void. When it comes to medium and large third parties, they end up radically splitting the vote for the more popular candidates. No single party represents your views entirely, either. Every vote and every allegiance is a compromise, hoping for an improvement – taking your wins where you can get them.

Of course, this is a rather soul-crushing attitude to take – that we can’t vote for the parties we most agree with because they do not stand a chance. Perhaps we should vote honestly because that’s what we’d like others to do, too. But I’m suspicious. Vote tactically, and in the meantime look into how the system could be changed to value honest voting. We can’t all vote together in good faith; we need a system that encourages this.

If we did all agree to vote honestly, the power would lie in those who would be happy not to. All it takes is for one side of the political spectrum to band together in the face of defeat, and suddenly the let’s-play-fair system is compromised, and the losers are the ones who played by the rules. Going with my gut is probably a vote against my own interests: an extra vote for a party I do not like.


 Against: Anne Porter

I am very much against the idea of tactical voting. Why, in a multi-party democracy, do we insist on voting for a party that we don’t actually want in power?

Our country is blessed (or cursed, depending on your views) with a multitude of political parties. The Tories, the Greens and UKIP give us a variety of policies – some more tolerable than others. With this plethora of choice we surely can find one party that we identify with – at least somewhat. Despite this choice of parties, many people see our political system as flawed. Russell Brand-esque ideas tell us how voting is a waste of time when none of our political parties are truly representative of us as a nation. We need to ensure that our political parties actually represent us to ensure that tactical voting doesn’t take lace. If our parties don’t actually represent us, then why would voting tactically work anyway?

This idea of tactical voting should not exist in a democratic system where voting has been given to us as a right. Not all countries worldwide have such a luxury – women still can’t vote in Saudi Arabia (although they will be able to from this year) and can’t vote in the Vatican City. We should vote for what we believe in, rather than as a tactic for getting the most likely victor into power.  Voting on what we expect other people’s voting strategies to be does not ensure that our voting system is fair. This defeats the object of the democratic voting system.

Despite the fact that people are voting tactically, which I don’t agree with, at least they are voting. I find the British electoral system bewildering – and my mum works for a local council. She explained the way to vote in the European Parliament elections to me and gave me information on all of the parties. No wonder people are choosing to vote tactically – chances are they don’t know the policies of all of the parties that they are able to choose from. Voting tactically, therefore, is just an excuse to not understand the policies of an opposing party.

My home constituency is dominated by the Conservatives – some people argue that voting for another party is simply pointless as there is no chance that they will come into power. If we vote tactically then the lesser candidates surely don’t stand a chance.  Smaller parties are engulfed by the larger groups. The interests of local communities and constituencies are also overwhelmed. Politics gets personal when individuals are affected by the political power that rules over them.

Surely, if we vote tactically to ensure that someone gets into power – the lesser of two evils, as it were – we don’t end up with anyone we want in power. In the last British general election we ended up with a coalition that no-one voted in. Since then – how five years have gone past escapes me – they have irritated students, angered the poor and discriminated against under-represented groups in their white, male and privately educated arrangement.

As a nation we should simplify our electoral systems and make sure that our parties are actually electable. Ensuring that political parties are representative of all social groups will make people realised the potential that different political groups have for them. Voting tactically isn’t the way forward. Let’s use our democracy to its full potential and vote for what we believe in.

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