Tactical Voting: Is It Worth the Effort?

There’s been quite a lot of talk amongst left-leaning voters about the possibility of a Progressive Alliance. This Alliance would comprise MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP, and it would come about through a perfectly synchronised operation of tactical voting.

It does seem a rather unlikely coalition – could it possibly work out in practice? Corbyn, Sturgeon, Farron and Lucas all around the same table? – but at least there would be fewer Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and any effort to reduce the Conservatives’ majority seems like a good idea to me.

More importantly, though: how significant, how effective, could this project – this perfect storm of tactical voting – turn out to be in practice? Is a Progressive Alliance a realistic expectation in terms of actual, concrete results?

According to an essay by Stephen D. Fisher on the topic of tactical voting, the Conservative Party tends to lose most when many people decide to vote tactically. However, Fisher also suggests that coordinated efforts at tactical voting are difficult to realise in practice.

Essentially, there are three main types of tactical voting: 1) you support a party that is likely to come in third in your constituency, and therefore you vote against the party you’d least want to win; 2) you vote for a small party, such as the Greens, because you’d like to help raise their profile; 3) you vote against your own party because you’d like to see its majority limited.

Less than one in four voters in the UK find themselves in constituencies where their favoured party is likely to come in third. Between 1992 and 2010, roughly one in five voters who favoured a ‘third place party’ voted tactically. During the same period, about as many people – regardless of what party they supported – also voted tactically, but in a way that wasn’t effective. The parties these voters actually favoured had unexpectedly finished in the top two; accordingly, their votes, although intended as ‘tactical’, ended up having the opposite effect.

In other words, tactical voting can go wrong when people misread the political situation in their constituency. Voters may incorrectly conclude that their favoured party can’t win, whereas in reality it has much more support than appearances let on.

Statistically, Fisher says, the Conservative Party tends to gain net votes from tactical voting. This is because of two reasons: 1) few of the people who favour the Tories will have any reason to vote tactically, because the Tories are usually in the top two, and 2) they will gain support from Tory leaning Lib Dems who vote tactically. The Labour Party, on the other hand, won’t gain or lose much in terms of net votes from tactical voting, as there tends to be a fairly even spread between Labour votes to the Lib Dems and Lib Dems votes to Labour.

Crucially, however, the Conservative Party is the party that loses out in terms of seats won and seats lost from tactical voting. This is because Lib Dems tend to favour Labour candidates over Conservatives, and because Labour voters tend to favours Lib Dems over Tories. In other words, tactical voting means that the Tories gain more net votes, but that the Labour Party and the Lib Dems win more seats.

Now, this is, of course, all fine and dandy, but what does it actually mean? We know that tactical voting will make a difference if one’s aim is to damage the Conservatives’ majority. We don’t, however, know how significant that damage might be. What would a perfect storm of synchronised voting amount to in practice?

In the General Election of 2015, 11.3 million people voted for the Tories, and 9.3 million voted for Labour. Put together, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems got around 5 million votes. Had these three parties combined with Labour in order to create a so called Progressive Alliance, then they would easily have beat the Tories in terms of net votes. But in terms of seats?

In this article, published by the Guardian earlier this year, Martin Robbins makes the case that tactical voting — even if perfectly executed — won’t be enough to prevent a Conservative majority in 2017. According to this General Election prediction, the Tories are currently set to win 396 seats on June 8th; Labour 180; Lib Dems 5; Greens 1; and SNP 49. If, based on the election results of 2015, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats combined their tactical voting efforts to maximise Tory damage, then that would, according to Robbins, result in 47 more Labour seats and 10 more Lib Dems seats. But even under those perfect circumstances, the Tories win more than enough seats (given current predictions) to form a majority government, and the Labour Party only win about 250.

Now, given this data, how much sense does it actually make to coordinate tactical voting efforts? The best possible result would amount to pretty good damage control, but it wouldn’t, in all likelihood, prevent the Tories from improving on their current majority. The best possible outcome would also be contingent on almost impossibly well-coordinated tactical voting efforts, and is unlikely to actually happen.

So what to do?

Well, why not forget about tactical voting? Instead, vote for the party you actually think best represents your political beliefs (and let’s hope that party is the Green Party!). If this means that the Tories win by a few more seats, then so be it. Let them have it. Let the Tories have another five years, and then let’s watch them implode in the election of 2022. The way things are currently going, there isn’t, to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek, light at the end of the tunnel; instead, there’s an oncoming, speeding train, and the best way to effect real change might just be to let the Tories run straight into it. And if nothing else, then at least let your vote be a testament to the need for proportional representation, and make sure that you campaign for electoral change.

Ideally, though: #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. The best anti-Tory recipe for change is to elect Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato, Natalie Bennett, Siân Berry, Amelia Womack, Vix Lowthion, Eleanor Field and many more Green MPs to represent your political beliefs in the House of Commons.

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Bennett’s Better for Sheffield Central

Photo: Natalie4Sheffield.org


[T]he problem is that the centre is not holding anymore. You can’t run a centrist position that says, ‘We won’t change anything much.’ People just don’t believe that now. We’re not producing a society that gives people hope for the future, so people are beginning to understand the need for real change. What we need to do is provide an inspirational, hopeful message that we can do much better than this.” – Natalie Bennett 


There’s Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) in the South East, there’s Molly Scott Cato (Bristol West) in the South West, Siân Berry in London (Holborn & St Pancras), and Vix Lowthion (Isle of Wight) in the English Channel. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the Greens are doing well in the South. But what about the North?

It may come as a bit of a surprise — a Labour majority of approximately 17,000 seats is hardly something to scoff at — but there are signs that suggest that former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett may just be able to win Sheffield Central from Paul Blomfield and become the first Green MP in the North. She may just be the better choice, too.

What speaks in Natalie Bennett’s favour?

Well, for one, Sheffield Central is one of few constituencies where voters have a straight choice between the Labour Party and the Green Party. That particular dichotomy of choice presents an interesting situation. On the one hand, you’ve got a Labour candidate who represents a manifesto which, in many respects, seems to draw inspiration from the Green Party manifesto of 2015, but which has been criticised for its many contradictions. As Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said:

“You can’t solve the air pollution crisis while expanding airports and roads. You can’t be a peacebuilder while renewing Trident. You can’t transition to a new economic model while hanging onto 20th century ideas where growth is the only answer. It’s time Labour embraced our full vision for the future instead of cherry picking a few good Green policies, then contradicting them.”

On the other hand, you’ve got a Natalie Bennett who, over many years, has consistently represented a version of environmentally friendly social democracy, and who has championed an economic model where growth isn’t the most important indicator of success. As Bennett said in January this year:

“If you vote Green you know exactly what you’re voting for. Our principles and values are solid and unchanging, based on the evidence that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. And while we’re trashing the planet we’re also delivering a deeply unequal, unbalanced society. The Greens identify this and offer the real change that we need.” 

In other words: the choice in Sheffield Central is one between a somewhat unstable, shifting version of a social democracy where, as Bennett has said,  “the environment is still very much an add-on at the end”, or a green-oriented social democracy that for long has set an agenda that many other parties have had to follow. The Labour Party purports to represent “the many, not the few”, but it’s worth considering if it’s a party that is capable of delivering real social and economic change.

Secondly, Sheffield — The Outdoor City, the climbing capital of the UK, city of hills and valleys — is a green-minded kind of place that seeks to obtain the status as a European green city. In 2016, the independent Sheffield Green Commission published a report in which they suggested a number of priorities that would work towards ensuring that the city reaches its goal. To elect a Green Party MP in Sheffield Central may be key to ensuring that not only Sheffield, but also the UK, actively pursues the path of developing a more sustainable and eco-conscious way of doing politics.

Thirdly, Natalie Bennett is a singularly determined and principled politician who has chosen to make Sheffield her home, and who has vowed to improve the city for all its inhabitants. She and the Green Party — unlike Labour — unanimously and comprehensively reject fracking; she promotes the building of affordable council homes in order to tackle Sheffield’s homelessness problem; she supports rent control; and she has said that her first priority, if elected, will be to focus on wages.

The Green Party in 2017 presents a comprehensive and distinct political philosophy that puts human beings in the centre of all its pursuits and policies. The party supports an end to tuition fees and a voting system that more fairly represents the will of the British people. It also rejects policies pertaining to mass state surveillance, as well as suggestions to further privatise the NHS.

To vote for Natalie Bennet would not only be to elect a good representative for Sheffield. It would also be to elect a person who will present a different way doing things to the other members of the House of Commons. It would be to elect a person who offers a clear alternative to austerity and to Tory ideology, and it would be to elect an MP who believes that people are more important than GDP.

Now, what speaks against Natalie Bennett?

Well, there’s that margin of 17,000 votes. To win in Sheffield Central would certainly be a “gain” to remember. In other words: she’ll need all the help she can get. But as long as the people of Sheffield Central know that there’s a real opportunity, here — that there is indeed a Green Party candidate who may better serve their and their city’s interests — then there’s a real chance that she could win.

Help Natalie Bennett become the first Green Party MP in the North:

Natalie’s fighting fundhttp://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/natalie-bennett-for-sheffield-…

Join Team Nataliehttps://www.natalie4sheffield.org/pledge;

 

Stop the Bleeding: #VoteGreen2017 in Bristol and Brighton

Photo: GP party election broadcast


According to recent GE2017 predictions — including the one you see below — the Conservative Party is currently set to increase their majority in the House of Commons by a significant margin. Although the exact figures vary, most of these studies indicate that the Tories will take up around 400 seats after June 8th. Recent predictions also suggest that the Green Party may lose its majority in Brighton Pavilion.

pred

Theresa May has repeatedly said that she wants Britons to vote Conservative in 2017 on the basis of two principle ideas: 1) that the Tories offer “strong and stable leadership” in the nation’s best interest, and 2) that a stronger Conservative majority will serve to strengthen her hand as she negotiates the terms of Brexit with the EU27.

I question the validitity of these for several reasons.

Strong and stable leadership? Now, I know that I’ve said this before on this blog, but I’ll say it again: when so many Britons rely on food banks; when so many Britons are homeless; when the economy has grown but real wages have gone down by 10%; when the government’s deficit reduction targets demand severe cuts to disability benefits; when poverty affects one in four British children; when the NHS is doing worse and worse for each passing year; and when the government fails to design policies that make meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement a possibility, then I can’t help but wonder what national interests the Conservative Party purports to serve, and what “strong and stable leadership” means in practice.

A stronger negotiating hand? When PM May argues that a vote for the Conservatives in 2017 is a vote for a stronger negotiating hand in meetings with the EU27, I don’t think that’s what she actually means. The EU, as has recently been suggested, doesn’t care all that much about what the UK government looks like. So what May really seems to be saying, is that she wants to shut down Brexit opposition inside the House of Commons. She knows, as research shows, that a majority of Britons want Brexit negotiations to move ahead. She also knows that many think that the Brexit process is moving forward too slowly. At a time when the Labour Party is historically impopular, a chance to not only shut down opposition to Brexit, but also opposition in general, has thus presented itself.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) and Molly Scott Cato (Bristol West) represent an ideological direction which, in many ways, is diametrically opposed to that of the Conservative Party. In the General Election of 2015, the more than a million Britons that voted for Green Party candidates proved that this ideological direction enjoys widespread support. In my eyes, it would mean a terrible loss for democracy in the UK if the Green Party failed to achieve representation in the House of Commons after June 8th. If we are to prevent the General Election of 2017 from becoming the election of the diminishing opposition — the opposition: the aspect of Parliament that most directly serves to hold the government to account — then the time to wake up is now.

Green Party candidates such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato will not only hold the government to account, but they will bring into Parliament a set of innovative ideas that promote a greener economy and a more equal society. To cite from this excellent article by the Bristol Green Society:

“Greens are pushing a ‘radical’ agenda, which in reality are measures that would simply bring social justice to the heart of British society. We are fiercely pro-refugee and consistently challenge the hateful rhetoric around migrants that dominate the UK’s political agenda. We are fighting for a fair Brexit, with the chance for voters to have their say in the final deal with a ratification referendum. We pledge to scrap nuclear weapons and use the money to better our public services. We believe in a benefit system that works for all, and aim to ultimately establish a universal basic income because, in the 5th richest country in the world, food banks should not be in such high demand. We are proud to have consistently demonstrated unwavering support for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, minority ethnic groups, women and disabled people.”

Many of the Green Party’s ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. Green Party candidate such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato critically and constructively address many of the issues that increase levels of inequality in the UK, and they are firmly pro-Europe.

To stop the bleeding and to keep the Tories from gaining a crushing majority — to make sure that the interests of all people are represented in the House of Commons after June 8th, and to make sure that Brexit isn’t a deal for the few — vote Green in #GE2017.


Women’s Manifesto: Gender Equality and the Need For Legal Regulations

“The Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality is an important document, full of innovative as well as morally instructive policies. Many of these ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. To #VoteGreen2017 is signal your support of these ideas, and to make sure that you’re represented in the House of Commons.”


“Legal regulation can accomplish its goals directly, through fear of sanctions or desire for rewards. But it can also do so indirectly, by changing attitudes about the regulated behaviors. Ironically, this indirect path can be the most efficient one, particularly if the regulation changes attitudes about the underlying morality of the behaviors.” – Bilz & NadlerThe Oxford Handbook of Behavioral Economics and the Law

On May 13, The Green Party launched its manifesto for gender equality at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The manifesto suggests a number of policies that are meant to increase gender equality via different routes of legal regulation. I believe that legal regulation constitute of one the most efficient ways of facilitating wide-ranging behavioural and attitudinal changes, and I also believe that ensuring gender equality is essential in the process of creating a greener economy. To me, the most important aspects of this manifesto are therefore those that concern the safety and well-fare of women, as well as those that concern equality in the labour market. It is also my belief that the former category precedes the latter: namely, that we cannot achieve gender equality anywhere before the female body is worth as much as the male.

Why is legal regulation in the context of gender equality morally productive, and how does it benefit the (green) economy?

It is a commonly held view that human beings accept and follow laws which they believe to be just and reasonable. It is also commonly held that laws help shape and strengthen public perceptions about what is morally right. The law that ensures universal suffrage is one example of a law that encompasses both of these views. Although many 19th and early 20th century Britons may privately have believed in the moral benefits of allowing women to vote, legislative action was still required in order to render universal suffrage a publically accepted norm. A law that gives women the right to vote strengthens the perception that women and men are equals and that they therefore ought to have equal rights and opportunities to shape society. Conversely, where there is absence of law, perceptions of moral justice and injustice are undermined.

In the context of women’s welfare and safety, the Green Party’s pledge to de-criminalise prostitution presents itself as a particularly good example of how laws can serve to change moral perceptions and also protect certain members of society. The law that criminalises prostitution have two particularly damaging effects:

1) it effectively criminalises the right to own one’s body and, by implication, it labels prostitutes as deviants. In criminological terms, the concept known as labeling theory states “that deviance is a socially constructed process in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants, and they, in turn, come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act accordingly.” In other words: the criminalisation of prostitution associates women with a type of deviance that society purports to reject, and it therefore undermines the sovereignty of the female body.

2) it forces sex workers to operate outside of legally protected contexts. Their status as deviants imply that their physical sovereignty is compromised, to what end they risk physical and mental abuse by men who perceive them as without right.

To decriminalise prostitution is a measure that will protect the sovereignty of the female body, and it will remove the status as deviants from many women who have faced prosecution as a result of a legal framework that curtails their right to own their own bodies. It is my conviction that these kinds of measures will, in the long run, lead to changing perceptions about the status of the female body, and therefore I support this idea.

**

In terms of policies and legal regulations that increase equality on the labour market, the Green Party’s manifesto on gender equality contains plenty of promise on several fronts. Amongst these pledges, a few stand out as particularly exciting:

  •  1. The initiative to “create Green jobs for more women in STEM in renewables and sustainability. Currently, just 5% of engineering apprentices are women. The Green Party would ensure that the roll-out of Green Jobs would be accompanied by specific initiatives to train and encourage young women, in particular, to fill these roles.”

report released in 2010 by Raul Romeva MEP showed that female-dominated work sectors, such as retail and services, were among the worst affected by the financial crisis. These sectors generally tend to offer less job stability. As Britain becomes increasingly geared towards creating a greener, low-carbon economy, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that men and women have equal access to employment that will support this process. This pledge will see more women engaging in science, technology, engineering and math programmes, and will consequently serve to unlock unprecendented amounts of potential

  • 2. The pledge to guarantee parental leave rights, regardless of gender. 

One does not have to look far to realise that many people today hold the belief that men are more work prone than women, and that women are more family prone than men, and that therefore we don’t need to impose regulations that destabilise the framework that supports the gender gap. A law that encourages shared responsibility of early child care may just work to show why those people are wrong. As an article published in The Economist in 2015 argued:

“when childcare responsibilities fall exclusively on the mother, the effect is to depress women’s wages. Time out of the labour force deprives them of experience and promotions. When men shoulder more of the childcare burden, the effect is lessened.”

Paternal leave enables women to make greater career progress and to ultimately make more money. It effectively creates greater equality on the labour market and greater social equality, as both women’s influence on the work place and their purchase power increases. Measures such as these seem increasingly relevant and necessary when research shows that in three years from now, women will have lost “twice as much income as men due to the Conservative changes to our tax and benefits system”.

  • 3. To increase diversity with a “50/50 Parliament” through measures such as enabling MPs as well as other “full-time” politicians to job-share – a practice which has been shown to increase representation of women, disabled people and those from ethnic minorities.

Predominantly Conservatives and those on the right wing of the political spectrum will argue that laws that promote gender equality by means of quotas or affirmative action are insulting or demeaning. They will say that they support whoever is best suited for the job, regardless of gender or ethnicity. As much as that sounds perfectly fine in theory, one would have to say that most works places and public institutions today are not equally represented, either in terms of gender or ethnicity. Therefore, if one follows the logic of aforementioned right-wing thinkers, one would have to assume that it is mainly white men who fall within the category of best suited. Although I agree in principle with the idea that the best candidate should win, I do not believe that there generally is only one candidate that is suited for a particular position, and I do not believe that board rooms and work places are unequally represented simply because the best candidate always won. A 50/50 rule is an important measure directed as instigating much needed cultural change in public institutions. What better place to start than the House of Commons?

The Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality is an important document, full of innovative as well as morally instructive policies. Many of these ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. To #VoteGreen2017 is signal your support of these ideas, and to make sure that you’re represented in the House of Commons.


N.B. In this blog post I have but scratched at the surface of what’s in the Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality. For further reading, click on the link below:

It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid.

When more and more new research challenges the notion that the targets set out in the Paris Agreement — targets that were set two years ago — will ever be met, and when the government succeeds in delivering economic growth but fails to protect its population from poverty and homelessness, then it is essential to bring voices of change into Parliament.


“We’d have to say, ‘it was all too difficult’, and [our grandchildren] would reply, ‘well, what was so difficult?’ What was it that was so difficult when the earth was in peril? When sea levels were rising in 2015? When crops were failing? When deserts were expanding? What was it that was so difficult?”

David Cameron, speech to the COP21 summit in Paris, 2015

In December of 2016, the independent think thank The Green Alliance published a report in which they stated that renewables spending in the UK had fallen by £1.1bn in the last six months. The think tank further stated that this spending reduction could not be accounted for by falling renewables costs, and that it was sooner the consequence of a declining number of environmental projects.

“Most significantly,” the report reads, “there is… a 95 per cent fall in investment between 2017 and 2020. This cliff edge needs to be avoided if the UK is to meet its world leading carbon budgets and Paris agreement pledge.”

The report from The Green Alliance followed another report released in September of 2016 by the Energy and Climate Change Committee, which stated that the UK, as things were going, would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy target. Following the release of the report, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements. Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership.”

Time and time again, Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May have repeated the statement that the UK cannot be run well if the economy isn’t strong. For the UK to succeed, argue the Tories, it is imperative that the country continues to be governed by the fiscally responsible economic principles of the Conservative Party. In spite of this recommendation, few people seem to understand what it is, in practice, that makes the Tory economy strong, when so many Britons rely on food banks; when so many Britons are homeless; when real wages have gone down by 10%; when the government’s deficit reduction targets demand severe cuts to disability benefits; when poverty affects one in four British children; when the NHS is doing worse and worse for each passing year; and when the government fails to design policies that make meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement a possibility.

When so many people fail to see the benefits of this type of economy, then it may just be that the Tories haven’t got it right. It may just be, that in spite of their good intentions, the Tory economy isn’t strong at all. And it may just be, that GDP isn’t the only indicator of prosperity.

The Green Party won’t win the General Election of 2017, but in light of the current government’s struggle to govern in the best interest of the whole of society, it seems more important than ever that the electorate sends as many Green Party MPs as possible to the House of Commons in 2017. Green Party candidates, it serves to be mentioned, have a slightly different understanding of what makes an economy strong.

For one, they support the emergence of an economy which recognizes the limits of natural systems, and which makes sure that the political ambitions of all of humanity are compatible with those limitations.

For another, they hope to achieve a society in which resources, wealth, opportunity and power is distributed fairly, and in such a way that it enables personal as well social development.

And for a third, they believe that

gross national product (GNP) is a poor indicator of true progress and does not adequately measure people’s sense of well-being. It measures only the activity in the formal sector, regardless of what that activity is. In consequence, current economic theory fails adequately to reflect the real effects of human activity within a finite ecosystem, and is used to ‘validate’ economic activities which are ecologically unsustainable and/or socially unjust.”

When more and more new research challenges the notion that the targets set out in the Paris Agreement — targets that were set two years ago — will ever be met, and when the government succeeds in delivering economic growth but fails to protect its population from poverty and homelessness, then it is essential to bring voices of change into Parliament. It is essential to bring  into Parliament those voice that may offer it an ideological direction that is grounded on principles such as fairness and equality, and in the conviction that the interests of human beings should be put before the interests of corporations. The key to the economy isn’t more austerity or higher taxes — the  key to the economy is to put human beings in the centre of it.

The electoral system may or may not be rigged, but one way to #ChangeTheGame and to make sure that your interests are represented in the House of Commons is to #VoteGreen2017.

Further reading:

“Stress that [you’re] the candidate of change, stress that [you’re] the candidate of the economy, and get mad about something. Don’t be so cool. Show some anger about what’s happened to the country.” – James Carville in reply to the question “How do you think Obama can win in the 2008 election?”