Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

Should First Past The Post be perverted by the Lib Dems?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 4, 2012 in British Politics |

I recently read a piece by Lord Ashcroft, the Tory strategist, who pointed out a very interesting anomaly about the British FPTP voting system. He remarked how a group of doctors were considering running as anti-NHS reform candidates in the next general election, and how, by draining votes away from Labour candidates who are also anti-NHS reform, they would actually be helping pro-NHS reform Tory candidates. It’s a curiosity that would be alien to Irish voters, as, due to our preference voting system, you can’t waste your vote unless you actually choose to, unlike FPTP.
The same applies to UKIP. Don’t forget, we are not talking about getting eurosceptic voters to realise the error of their ways. Instead, we are talking about getting potential Tory voters to waste their votes. A Lib Dem candidate in contention for a seat with a Tory candidate could do a lot worse than make sure that the UKIP candidate was well resourced, perhaps even going so far as to deliver UKIP leaflets with his own leaflets in strong Tory areas. After all, a voter who is primarily motivated by euroscepticism is very unlikely to vote Lib Dem. However, getting him to switch from Tory to UKIP is much more possible, and of benefit to the Lib Dem.
Is it wrong to do so? It used to be, up to the AV referendum. But as the British people have endorsed FPTP despite this flaw it must surely mean that they accept the possible of such an anomaly. Will Tories protest? Of course, but who cares? After all, there is an electoral system that would prevent just such a thing occurring, and we know where they stand on that.

3 Comments

Brendan
Apr 5, 2012 at 11:19 am

I think we call it tactical voting and people do it all the time. People regularly swap their votes under FPTP to keep out less preferred candidates – as unionists used to do by voting for SDLP in West Belfast to stop Gerry Adams getting the seat.


 
Thirsty Gargoyle
Apr 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

The big problem with this, of course, is that Lib Dem support has plummetted so massively that they’ll be lucky to hang on to half of their seats in the next election, and they hardly have the money to fund themselves, let alone their most ideologically distinct opponents.

Still, you make a good point overall. Aside from extraordinary legislative and constitutional complexity, one of the reasons why I think the same-sex marriage proposals are bound to fail in England — and Cameron’s already hinting at an exit strategy — is that UKIP has come out against them.

There are lots of Conservatives who don’t believe that redefining marriage could ever be a genuinely conservative policy, and the thought of these joining UKIP can’t be pleasing the Tory high command. In marginal constituencies, and there are many, it wouldn’t take many votes to UKIP for Conservative MPs to lose their seats to Lib Dems or — far more likely — Labour.

This, I think, would be an ironic price for the Conservatives to pay for having so corrupted the electoral reform referendum in order to preserve the current unrepresentative system.


 
Jason O
Apr 6, 2012 at 6:36 am

Brendan, I think the proper equivalent would be Sinn Fein delivering DUP leaflets to stop their voters going to the SDLP.


 

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