Labour split on tactical voting advice to supporters

Labour embarked on an odd campaigning trick yesterday. Two of Labour’s most senior (and tribally partisan) figures – Ed Balls and Peter Hain – called publicly on Labour voters to lend their support to the Lib Dems in those seats where the choice is Lib Dem or Tory. It’s inconceible that Ed Balls in particular would do so without the explicit consent of Gordon Brown.

In public Gordon Brown makes the case for a “maximum Labour vote” – how could he do otherwise as party leader? Yet the mixed signals will have given their cue to many Labour voters – whether in Richmond or Cheadle or Cornwall, to name just three areas – that their party’s and country’s best interests are best served by voting Lib Dem.

Officially of course all political parties deprecate tactical voting, quite rightly calling on voters to choose the party they believe in. In reality, all political parties ruthlessly pitch for the tactical vote. The Labservatives try and make out the Lib Dems are a wasted vote, while the Lib Dems counter that accusation with bar-charts showing how close a contest it is in the 40% of the country where the Lib Dems are in first or second place.

Yet Labour’s approach is a stark contrast with five years ago, when Tony Blair, with customary mendacity, deliberately pitched an all-out Lib Dem squeeze message to a credulous media that a vote for the Lib Dems would let in the Tories. In reality, as we all know, a vote for the Lib Dems will – surprise, surprise – get you more Lib Dem MPs.

Of course a lot has changed in the last five years, and I suspect undecided voters are much less open to giving Labour the benefit of the doubt in 2010 than they were in 2005. But still I find Labour’s tactics odd (albeit useful from a Lib Dem perspective). It would have never happened in Tony Blair’s day, that’s for sure. And if Labour does indeed come third in the popular vote tomorrow, I’m sure the Brown/Balls/Hain tactic will be subject to many an internal Labour inquest in the weeks tio come.

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This entry was posted in General Election.


  • I hate tactical voting and I hate having to ask people to vote tactically, but while we are lumbered with this archaic and unrepresentative electoral system there is nothing else we can do.

  • Paul McKeown 6th May '10 - 11:20am

    Vote for what you believe in. If that is Lib Dem, do not vote either Labour or Conservative for fear that the one you dislike most will get in, that’s just weak.

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