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To Tactically Vote or Not? One of the big questions for December 12th.

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Dafydd Trystan

Tactical voting is a major talking point at this General Election with a proliferation of sites offering more or less impartial advice as to who you might lend your vote to come voting day. But should we consider voting tactically?

In an ideal world we’d have a sensible, proportional voting system – so any consideration of tactical voting could safely be put to the back of our minds. That we are faced with a First Past the Post (FPTP) Elections rather than Single Transferable Vote (STV) where voters could rank candidates and parties in order of preference is yet another reflection of the sub optimal nature of the ‘British Constitution’.

But sub optimal it is – and therefore voters across Wales may be faced with some agonising decisions on polling day.

Before heading into the detail, it is worth reflecting for a moment on voting behaviour and the match between an individual’s preferences and voting behaviour.

Rarely do party manifestos perfectly an individual’s views on policy. I can attest to this having done one of the many online policy quizzes around the time of the UK General Election in 2015. It reported that I was 100% match for the Greens and 98% for Plaid Cymru – a finding that caused some amusement amongst my friends in the Green Party, as I was at the time, the National Chair of Plaid Cymru! We may find that our views are a close match to two (or more) parties and therefore the marginal decision between two ‘very good’ choices doesn’t necessarily have to be particularly tactical. In either case we are casting a vote for a party that closes matches our policy views.

But we may be faced with a situation where our clearly preferred choice is not particularly competitive locally, and another party that is more competitive only loosely matches our priorities.

This dilemma may be particularly acute in 2019, as Brexit is the defining issue of the day. On Brexit we are offered a range of options for wholly committed and positive Remainers in Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and the Greens; Labour’s ambiguous official position despite the best efforts of a significant cohort of pro Europeans within the party, and the Conservatives offering Boris Jonhnson’s Brexit disaster. The warning for Remainers is that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are favourites to secure a clear majority in the UK Parliament.

For Remainers in Wales the choice is clear in a (relatively limited) number of constituencies where Plaid and the Lib Dems have a genuine prospect of securing the seat (Carms East & Dinefwr, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Arfon, Ynys Mon, Ceredigion, Brecon & Radnor and Montgomeryshire / Maldwyn). There are also some 20 seats in Wales where all expectations are that the result is not in doubt – in those seats there is no reason not to vote for the party that most closely matches your views.

The more challenging seats however for the passionate pro-Europeans are those where the electoral battle is almost certainly between Labour and the Conservatives – most of the North East and a limited number of seats in the South. The Brexit battleground (if the polls are even remotely accurate) is every Labour held seat in the North East, along with Cardiff North, the Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Gower and Newport West.

Here, I’d suggest it is for every individual to decide how much Labour is a ‘least worst’ option. You might conclude that Labour’s commitment to a People’s Vote is enough to warrant a tactical vote in a tight fight between Labour and the Brexit Conservatives. You may set the bar a little higher and consider which Labour candidates have signed the Remain Labour declaration – committing the campaign to Remain in the referendum [Labour Remain Pledge] (there are some notable omissions from the list of Labour signatories in Wales). You may go a step further and seek out those candidates who in deeds and words have been resolutely pro-Remain – even if that has been in opposition to the Labour Party’s instructions via their whips.

One such resolutely pro-European Labour candidate is Anna McMorrin. We are also fortunate in Cardiff North that we have a recent local by election to guide as to the emerging views of the electorate. The emerging picture is within the ‘window’ of results suggested by the YouGov MRP modeller.

Labour and the Conservatives are neck and neck achieving around 45% of the vote, while the Liberal Democrats are projected to gain over 5% of the vote, with fewer than 5% of the vote for Plaid and the Greens. In such circumstances, if your preferred choice is the Liberal Democrats (and despite their effective candidate in local councillor Rhys Taylor) if your priority is Remaining in the European Union then a tactical vote for Anna McMorrin would appear a very logical choice.

There have been few General Elections more important than the election of 2019. The future of Brexit is undoubtedly at stake – and many may conclude that the very future of the UK is at stake. Given such high stakes, and the weaknesses of our electoral system, in this election, more than at any time in my lifetime, in those key marginal seats there may well be a case for considering lending a vote to a candidate wholly committed to remaining in the European Union.