Unity or compromise – the dilemma of tactical voting

Labour leader Keir Starmer confirmed in an interview with Nicky Campbell that he believes a woman is an “adult female”, a commonly used transphobic dogwhistle which undermines the legitimate identity of trans women.

This statement follows a long-standing public back-and-forth between the Westminster Labour Party and the Scottish Labour Party on whether to support self-ID, allowing trans people to identify as their rightful gender rather than the gender forced upon them at birth.

How far the Labour Party have fallen; once a party that championed individual liberty, now echoing right-wing populist nonsense, fearful they’ll lose their ever-growing lead over a failing Conservative government.

I imagine the late, great Roy Jenkins rolling in his grave. The man that decriminalised homosexuality, legalised abortion, liberalised divorce and theatre censorship laws, and played a significant role in the abolition of capital punishment would be an outsider in the same party that gave him his start in politics.

What is the justification for this decision from Labour? Human rights are supposed to be at the heart of their politics. This stance is a betrayal of liberal democracy and progressivism. While I agree hyper-progressivism can lead to more harm than good, acknowledging and upholding a people’s rights is basic decency.

Labour’s abject failure to do the right thing by trans people makes the argument for “tactical voting” all the more disagreeable.

While I support tactical voting to eject the Conservative Party, I cannot find it within myself to say I do so willingly or happily, but out of necessity due to a broken voting system that ignores the voices of over 50% of the electorate. Because of this, we, the Liberal Democrats, have to hold our noses and vote for a party that is the antithesis of our values.

Politics is a game of compromise, a sentiment I usually agree with. But we’re talking about people wanting to be respected and allowed to exist. One party supports that, while the other doesn’t.

It is beyond compromise and instead asks the Good Samaritan to look the other way.


* Jack Meredith is a Welsh Liberal Democrat member.

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  • Whilst fully supportive of trans rights ( one of my grandchildren is a trans man), I do find Mr Meredith’s use of language to be less than helpful. I think the use of rightful and forced is unwise and that chosen and given would be more sensible. There us enough of a problem persuading people to accept gender change as it is. (I know this from attitudes in some sections of my family). When my parents registered my birth they not surprisingly observed that I had a penis and registered me as male. Similarly my sisters with different genitalia were registered as female. As far as I know there are only two choices. Adding unnecessary inflammatory language does not help those of us trying to persuade others to accept and welcome trans people

  • Jack Meredith 28th Jul '23 - 3:50pm

    Hi Mick. I thought it would be best for me to comment, to provide a fair response to your point. I need you to consider a similar situation across the LGBT+ community across 50 years. The first being the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and the second being the legalisation of gay marriage. The former occurred when homosexuality was treated as a crime in the UK. Decriminalisation was a decision which, no doubt, was opposed by as many as supported. If it wasn’t for Roy Jenkins, Leo Abse and the MPs that knew it was the right thing to do, regardless of public opinion. The latter, once again opposed by many – including in the House of Commons, within the government benches – was also passed through and woven into our social fabric as it was the right thing to do. My stance on the matter, as it always has been and always will be, is that the opinions of those “unsure” of trans rights and those that outright oppose the trans community should not stop us. Similar views were held by those that opposed the abolition of slavery, the decision to give women the right to vote, and the decision to legalise the age of consent between homo and heterosexual couples. To conclude, this is not a matter of whether trans rights are popular but whether ensuring they are enshrined into law is right. I believe, as philosophical liberals, it is our moral duty to support this stance.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jul '23 - 4:32pm

    Jack. Thank you for your reply. My main point was about the use of language. I have been a party member for almost 60 years and have campaigned for rights for gay men and woman, bisexuals and trans people. I have no issue with any of that. I just feel that the use of inflammatory language just makes our task harder. Your point would have been just as well made had you said “allowing trans people to identify as their chosen gender rather than the gender given to them at birth.” Your original sentence implies fault on the part of parents in registering their child’s gender and as far as I know that is still a binary choice. How would any parent of a newly born child have any idea of what their adult child would wish as to gender years in the future?

  • Mel Borthwaite 28th Jul '23 - 6:05pm

    If I could add a comment about the use of language, I do think it is important we always use precise language if we are to persuade ‘the undecided’. So, we register births based on the sex characteristics that are visible even though we now realise that the child may in future have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned at birth. The modern use of the word ‘gender’ now refers to gender identity rather than sex.

  • George Thomas 29th Jul '23 - 9:40am

    Keir Starmer has made a number of comments within a relatively short period of time regarding trans people which indicates his starting position is how to appeal to majority who are cis-gender, and loud minority within that who are distrusting of trans people, in order to win an election.

    He keeps saying that a responsible government has to make difficult choices. Can someone ask him what difficult choices he’s making? Someone in politics for 5 minutes could seek to get support of right-leaning press at expense of lefties and say what will win the next vote despite it damaging everything that comes after that…. heck that’s what Liz Truss did!

    A difficult choice would be saying that cis-gender women are safe in the same space as trans women and that it’s only people with bad intentions who are the risk, despite such a statement losing him support in the Mail and because it’s a true and needed statement.

    I note that the OP is member of Welsh Lib Dems. If you think 50% of UK will be ignored due to the voting system wait until you see how Wales is treated going forward! No Westminster politician, even in the LD’s, has come out in support of devolving HS2 money despite it being an obscene decision to treat it as an English and Welsh rail project.

  • David Symonds 29th Jul '23 - 11:28am

    The Labour Party regard themselves as progressives but very often they are none of the kind. The Labour Party but in some ways Labour is wedded to the past, the old cloth cap image which has moved on substantially from 1900. It sometimes sees itself as socialist or democratic socialist but in some ways it takes the view that it should rub out any competition for the centre-left vote and can be dismissive of Greens and Liberal Democrats. They will only agree to real reform of our political system if they are forced into it. They are often very conservative with a small “c”.

  • Peter Hirst 29th Jul '23 - 2:16pm

    Tactical voting though essential to oust the Conservatives will break our democracy if it becomes a permanent way of life. If the push for Labour to introduce PR assuming it wins the next General Election is unsuccessful it will not be easy for it to win a second term. Now it’s policy forum has agreed FPTP is destroying our democracy it must put electoral reform high amongst its manifesto commitments.

  • Steve Comer 29th Jul '23 - 7:11pm

    From the age of 18 to 61 I voted Liberal/Liberal Democrat in every election I cast a vote in (with the exception of one Parish Council by-election with no Liberal candidate when I spoilt my ballot paper!), but that changed in 2019.
    The seat where I vote now used to be a Lib Dem/Tory marginal, and the Tories won it back in the debacle of 2015. In 2017 I voted Lib Dem again in the hope we might re-gain it, but Labour won from third place to the surprise of their regional office.
    The MP who won wass pro Remain and is pro PR, and generally supports progressive causes, so I voted for him in 2019, mainly to keep the Tories out. As the seat will not be a prime Lib Dem target in 2024, I shall no doubt have to vote for him again. The good news is that now Labour voters in Chesham, North Shropshire, and the sets that are spun out of Tiverton & Honiton and Somerton & Frome will have to do similar!

    I remember back in 2001 various tactical voting websites encouraged ‘twinning’ of tactical voters in marginal seats, it would be good if this idea could be revived.
    After 13 years of lies and misery we need to get these bloody Tories out, and only if we do that can we even think of getting any constitutional reform, or any policies we hold dear adopted.

  • I’d say tactical voting is only acceptable if it’s for a party that wants to change the electoral system that forces you to vote tactically in the first place.

    I.e. telling people to vote tactically for us or in some cases the other small parties is ok,p but one should never vote tactically for labour as they’ll just use your vote to uphold the current electoral system and force you to keep voting tactically.

  • David Evans 30th Jul '23 - 4:56am

    I think Steve Comer’s comment is the most practical and persuasive summary as to why we as liberals and Liberal Democrats need to support and promote tactical voting. It’s straightforward honesty is compelling.

    While others promote tactical voting from a rosy but incorrect understanding of the past or a so far totally unsubstantiated belief that “common sense in others” must come about and we will prevail eventually, history has shown that realpolitik – the art of surviving and winning in a political system – makes his pragmatism the only way to succeed.

    Whether we look at Labour, the Conservatives, the SNP, Plaid, the Greens or even the Lib Dems, the optimal strategy in the UK is to defend your core vote and find ways to reach out to those voters who are not totally committed to one party, to persuade them that you are closer to them on the key matters of the day that affect them. Over time and with a lot of careful hard work (and we are talking decades here not years) this can result in a broadening of your core vote and a substantial increase in our overall success.

  • Peter Martin 31st Jul '23 - 11:04am

    @ David Evans,

    “… history has shown that realpolitik – the art of surviving and winning in a political system – makes his pragmatism the only way to succeed.”

    Does “his” mean Keir Starmers’?

    This was the prevailing view before the 2017 election when Jeremy Corbyn was expected to come a cropper. In the end, he came within a few thousand votes of winning. This was at the same time that many paid staffers and MPs in the Labour Party were working for him to fail.

    The biggest untapped source of votes has to be found amongst those who regularly don’t vote for anyone. Offer them something different and they just might. They certainly aren’t going to bother expressing a preference for either Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer. A very low turnout could be Keir Starmer’s undoing at the next election.

  • David LG,

    “Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF) has formally recognised that the UK’s current voting system is driving “alienation and distrust” in our politics. Labour policy now reflects the fact that first-past-the-post is both flawed and having deeply damaging effects on British democracy, piling pressure on the party to address the problems it has identifiedThe signs from the NPF are clear: first-past-the-post’s days are numbered’
    It will be interesting to see how this is received at the Labour Party Conference in October.

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