‘Industrial scale tactical voting’ behind Tory by-election defeats leads to calls for proportional representation


Following the Tory defeat in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton, people are arguing for electoral reform to eliminate the need for tactical voting

The Tories have been hammered by two by-election defeats. Labor won the ‘red wall’ seat of Wakefield from the Tories, and the Lib Dems took the Devonshire seat of Tiverton & Honiton.

Both by-elections saw large swings from the Tories to the winning party. The Lib Dem vote share in Tiverton & Honiton went up an astonishing 38 percent points. In Wakefield, the Labor vote share went up 9 pints.

Many commentators have argued that tactical voting played a key role in the Tories’ defeats. In Wakefield, both the Greens and the Lib Dems lost their deposit, with the latter’s vote share falling by 2 percent points. The decline in other parties’ votes was more pronounced in Tiverton & Honiton. Labor – who came second in the constituency in both 2017 and 2019 – saw their vote share fall by over 15 points.

Matt Singh – the election analyst who founded Number Cruncher Politics – described this as “industrial scale tactical voting”. Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain said, “It is crucial to remember that these majorities could not have been overturned without tactical voting and an unofficial electoral pact between the opposition parties.” And the journalist Will Hutton said“The result in Tiverton especially shows that voters are learning that tactical voting is a winning strategy”.

However, while many are celebrating the apparent use of tactical voting to oust the Tories, others have argued that such approaches would not be necessary if we had a proportional electoral system.

Zack Polanski, a Green member of the London Assembly tweeted, “Delighted tactical voting lead to the loss of two Tory MPs. There should be no need though for people to vote for anything but who they want to win. Time to upgrade our democracy. We need Proportional Representation. ” This argument was echoed by campaign group Make Votes Matter, which said“These by-elections showed how many people feel like they need to vote tactically do have their voices heard. We want Proportional Representation to ensure everyone can always vote with their heart. ”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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