What is tactical voting and why is it a feature in this election?

It has been suggested that there could be more tactical voting in this General Election than ever before, with repeated calls for people to think carefully about who they vote for and how it could influence the final result.

So what’s it all about?

– What is tactical voting?

Tactical voting is when someone chooses to vote for a candidate who would not be their first choice, or perhaps a candidate they would not even have considered voting for previously.

The idea is that by voting for that candidate, you are doing your bit to stop another candidate winning.

It tends to apply in constituencies where two candidates are close in numbers, and significantly out in front of their opponents.

– How does it work in practical terms?

An example of tactical voting in action would be a traditional Labour voter who voted for Brexit in 2016 opting to vote for the Conservative candidate in their constituency in the hope of getting a Tory majority and avoiding a hung parliament which they may fear would lead to a second EU referendum.

On the other hand, a traditional Tory voter who wants the UK to remain in the EU could lend their vote to the Labour or Lib Dem candidates in a bid to avoid a Conservative majority government.

Another scenario where tactical voting could come into play is when a voter’s preferred candidate is likely to come third with no realistic chance of winning.

In this case, the voter could vote tactically by choosing to vote for one of the two candidates who will win the seat.

– Who is advocating tactical voting?

Perhaps the most famous cheerleader of tactical voting is film star Hugh Grant who wants to prevent a Conservative majority.

Hugh Grant canvassing in Walton-on-Thames in the Esher & Walton constituency, with Lib Dem candidate Monica Harding
Hugh Grant canvassing in Walton-on-Thames in the Esher & Walton constituency, with Lib Dem candidate Monica Harding

The Notting Hill actor has joined the campaign trail to urge people to vote tactically to ensure the Tories do not win the election, telling residents that a Conservative victory would lead to the “catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit.

Grant has revealed he will be voting for the Liberal Democrats in his own constituency because they are the nearest challengers to the Conservatives.

– Anyone else talking about tactical voting?

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell is a supporter of voting tactically.

He is vocal about the issue on Twitter, writing: “A plea for tactical voting and tactical campaigning. A message to @UKLabour @LibDems supporters – and same applies to all non-Tory parties. Vote for the party that can stop @BorisJohnson… campaign for the party that can oust a Tory.”

The People’s Vote UK has launched a tactical voting website which says: “Your vote could be the difference between the people having the final say on Brexit, or Boris Johnson imposing his disastrous hard Brexit plans on us.

“Voting tactically is the best way to make your voice heard and ensure that there is a majority for a People’s Vote.”

– Anyone supporting it on the Tory side?

In a press conference after a poll suggested Brexit-backers hold the key to winning the election, Boris Johnson told Brexit supporters they must vote Tory to prevent a “hung, broken Parliament”.

He was flanked by Gisela Stuart, the former Labour MP who led the Vote Leave campaign, who said she will “vote for Brexit” by backing the Tories instead of her former party.

Boris Johnson with former Labour MP Gisela Stuart
Boris Johnson with former Labour MP Gisela Stuart

She said: “The only way to deliver Brexit is by now voting for Boris Johnson on December 12, not because if you voted Leave and you’re a traditional Labour voter you’ve suddenly become a Tory, that does not make you a Tory.

“What it does mean is if you’ve voted Leave and you want to deliver this then that is the only way to produce a clear majority.”

– Is tactical voting a new phenomenon?

No. Back in 1997, tactical voting group Get Rid of Them (Grot) targeted 90 seats across the country where tactical voting could secure the defeat of the Tory candidate.

And just two years ago, the then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called on traditional Tory and Labour supporters to vote tactically to bring Conservative numbers down.