Anti-New Labour tactical voting
Most people are now familiar with tactical voting. It is an adaptation to our out-of-date “First Past the Post” electoral system (for more on this, see Getting Rid of First Past the Post). It basically means not voting for your first choice of party in order to ensure that your vote is more effective in ensuring that the party you really don’t want to win, does not win.
Through the 1980s and 90s, the most common tactical voting was anti-Tory tactical voting, with Labour, Lib Dem or other parties’ supporters voting for each other in order to try to prevent the Tories from winning the seat.
The Iraq War was probably the biggest spur to a new phenomenon amongst progressive voters: looking for left of New Labour electoral alternatives. This was difficult, as supposedly, in the traditional view of the political spectrum, left of Labour there are only fringe parties, who typically find it very difficult to succeed in First Past the Post elections – and so, “there was nowhere else to go”.
The Sept 2003 by-election in the formerly rock-solid safe London Labour seat of Brent East gave the lie to the New Labour view that anti-war voters had nowhere else to go, and/or couldn’t wise up to a new electoral game of anti-New Labour tactical voting. 16 candidates ran, of whom 14 professed an anti-war stance. Brent East’s voters looked at the 14, and saw that a split vote would let Labour win, allowing the Blairites to claim their outrageous lie that “Iraq was not an issue with the voters on the doorstep” was true. So, they swung behind the perceived strongest challenger – the Lib Dems, who came from a poor third place in the 2001 General Election to take the seat.
The 2004 Euro elections were not a simple first past the post election, allowing for a much greater expression of support for other parties clearly sitting to the left of Labour – the Greens and the newly-formed Respect Coalition (and leading to the election of a Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert). Meanwhile the Lib Dems also successfully attracted a lot of unhappy formerly Labour-voting progressive voters.
During the 2005 General Election there were a number of websites promoting anti-New Labour tactical voting for progressive voters. These included ones which targetted the removal of Labour’s absolute parliamentary majority and those which merely looked to “send a message” to Tony Blair by reducing his majority, but to leave him in power.
Anti-New Labour tactical voting by progressive voters made some impact at the 2005 General Election. Labour lost a number of safe seats in areas with a strong progressive/anti-war voter presence, including, in London, Hornsey and Wood Green to the Lib Dems and, spectacularly, Bethnal Green and Bow to George Galloway and Respect. The Greens suffered because they were considered the lead challenger in very few seats , and tactical voting saw their vote squeezed.
But, all in all, anti-New Labour tactical voting did not succeed. Labour won a 63 seat parliamentary majority on 34% of the votes cast, and who knows how many progressive voters were conned back into the fold late in the campaign by New Labour scare-stories that an anti-war protest vote “would only let the Tories back in”.
Strategic Voter 2005
Strategic Voter 2005 (www.strategicvoter.org.uk) had a unique approach and strategy backed up by a very clever mathematical tool.
The core concept of Strategic Voting was that of a form of tactical voting primarily focussed on engineering the best realistically available overall result in the election as a whole.
Our objective was a hung parliament (no majority to any single party), on the basis that this was the best chance we would have of both removing Blair from power and getting rid of the First Past the Post electoral system that was creating the need for tactical voting in the first place.
Across the various tactical voting websites, undoubtedly the most controversial issue was whether progressive voters should ever vote Tory as a tactical vote in seats where the First Past the Post battleground was between Tory and New Labour, with the Lib Dems and others far behind.
Strategic Voter’s unique approach was to look at the place each individual seat would have in the overall election result. It was therefore able to recommend a “strategic” Tory vote in some Labour/Tory marginal seats but not in others – enough to ensure a hung parliament but not so many as to incur any risk of the Tories winning an absolute parliamentary majority. Our unique tool was an electoral model that translated the latest published opinion results into a seat-by-seat result forecast, allowing the website’s seat by seat recommendations to be adjusted weekly to take into account the way the electoral campaign was going.
Although the site was in many ways a success (with many lessons learned for future elections), sadly the overall objective of a hung parliament was not achieved.
But never fear, the approach, the model and the website will be back at the next General Election, when a hung parliament will be an eminently targetable result.
London Strategic Voter 2006
Our prime objective for this election is a result that does the most to impact on the national political scene and move us towards our goals of getting rid of Tony Blair and getting rid of the first past the post electoral system.
This generates a much simpler methodology for London Strategic Voter 2006 than national General Election Strategic Voter 2005. Our objective is that New Labour should win as few seats and lose control of as many London Boroughs as possible.
**New improved LSV methodology and revised recommendations**
Please go to the page Summary of New Recommendations for details of our new methodology and revised recommendations following publication of candidates’ nominations by the London Boroughs.
Guide to our terminology & ward-by-ward recommendations
We have used the 2004 election results to define the “electoral battleground” in each individual ward into one of six categories:
Labour -v- “Anti-War 3”
Tory/UKIP -v- “Anti-War 3”
Labour -v- Tory/UKIP
“Three way battle”
Labour -v- “Anti-War 3” wards
In many wards, particularly in inner London, the electoral battleground is between Labour and one or more of the three parties we have defined as the “anti-war 3” (Greens, Respect, Lib Dems), with the Tories in a poor third or fourth place, with no chance of winning. In such wards our objective is for all progressive voters to set aside their differences and (if necessary) their first choice of party, and to get behind the lead challenger to New Labour in that particular ward.
We have taken the 2004 election result as only the starting point for identifying the lead challenger. A prime objective of this site is to use feedback through the forums to follow the actual campaign going on on the ground, and identify who the lead challenger really is. In many boroughs, the Greens and Respect will be focussing on a small number of target wards, where they have a genuine chance of winning seats. In some cases it may be that these are not Lib Dem target wards, and in fact the Lib Dems are focussing their efforts elsewhere. If we get good feedback that these are the circumstances, then we may modify our recommendation in favour of the Greens or Respect, even if the Lib Dems were the lead anti-war party in 2004. This is partly because this will assist an overall more proportional result in each individual borough (if the Greens get 5% of the vote in a 60 seat council, they deserve to get 3 councillors elected), and across London as a whole. But it will be used sparingly, as it is disastrous for tactical voting for the identity of the lead challenger to be unclear, and the vote split.
In some wards, the best and most effective anti-war and anti-New Labour candidate will actually be a Labour candidate. We call these “Anti-War Labour” candidates. A key objective of the site is to use feedback through the forums to identify the bona-fide anti-war anti-New Labour Labour candidates and debate which individual Anti-War Labour candidates merit modifying our overall approach of “vote against Labour”.
Tory/UKIP -v- “Anti-War 3” wards
In this type of ward, the electoral battleground is between the Tories and the Lib Dems, with the Labour Party in a poor third or fourth place and no chance of winning. These type of wards are often in boroughs where the Lib Dems control the Council (eg Kingston). In this type of ward we are recommending a Lib Dem vote.
There are very few safe Lib Dem wards where non-Lib Dem progressive voters can Vote Expressively for their first choice party (say, the Greens) without incurring a risk that the Tories may take the ward by one vote.
Labour -v- Tory/UKIP wards
In this type of ward, the electoral battleground is between the Tories and Labour, with the Anti-War 3 parties in a poor third place as a combined bloc, and no chance of winning. (We are assuming that most of the 2004 UKIP vote will go to the Tories in 2006, although in places it may not.)
These type of wards are often in outer London boroughs where a third (or fourth) party presence has never got established, and traditional post-war two party politics has survived. Vast swathes of the English Midlands are like this, but these kinds of wards are surprisingly rare in London.
This is the type of ward that is the most difficult for the progressive voter, and where LSV’s recommendation is at the most controversial.
In this type of ward we are recommending to “Vote Strategically” – meaning, following the logic of the Strategic Voting concept, you should vote Tory in this type of ward, even if you dislike and traditionally never ever vote Tory.
This is because lost seats is the only language New Labour understands, and only by his losing seats will we hurt Tony Blair, and get the Labour Party rattled enough to depose him. New Labour showed after 2005 that, although they will scare progressive voters back into the Labour fold by playing on fears that “all you will do is let the Tories in”, after getting your vote, they will immediately thumb their nose at you, ignore your views, and act like ideologically extreme Tories anyway.
We know from the 2005 election that this line is very controversial with progressive voters. We welcome feedback on this issue – at the moment by means of email, shortly we hope, through the forum pages.
If you really can’t bear to vote Tory strategically, then we suggest you vote expressively for your first choice party, even though it has no chance of winning. But if Labour win your ward by one vote, then you will have only yourself to blame when they claim their right for winner to take all, and spin it as a great success for Tony Blair, and the justification for bombing Iran, or whatever comes next.
“Three way battle” wards
In these type of wards, all three party blocs identifiable from the 2004 result have a significant share of the vote, and the third-placed bloc is not in a hopeless position – in other words, an open field with all to play for, anyone could win.
In this type of ward, our initial position is to recommend a tactical vote in favour of the best-placed anti-war party in 2004, even if the “anti-war 3” as a bloc were third placed in the ward in 2004.
We very much need feedback on the actual situation on the ground in these wards. If seats we classify from the 2004 results are actually crystallising in the 2006 campaign as Tory/Labour marginals, then we may need to revise the recommendation in favour of a strategic vote.
All feedback via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org please, until we get the discussion forums up & running
The Tory/UKIP lead in these wards is so great, that it is virtually guaranteed that the Tories will win it this time around. As there is no meaningful tactical vote the progressive voter can cast, we recommend you to “Vote Expressively”, meaning, vote for your first-choice party. You won’t win, but your vote will register for the party you actually prefer, and will appear in the London-wide overall party share of the vote.
“BNP risk” wards
In these types of wards, the BNP did well in 2004, and are targetting to win them in 2006. This is the only type of ward where we are recommending Vote Labour, in order to keep the fascists/racists out.
They are few, and all the ones we have put in this category based on the 2004 results are in Barking & Dagenham. But we need feedback on whether any other “BNP risk” wards emerging elsewhere.
Vote swapping is a sophisticated form of tactical voting made really viable by the internet. The concept is simple – you use the voteswapping Forum on this website to identify someone who will tactically vote for your first-choice party where they live, if you’ll tactically vote for their first-choice party where you live – and then do an informal vote swap deal with them.
Say Jenny is a Green living in a New Labour-held ward where the Green Party are fielding a candidate but have little support. She has little sympathy for the LibDems, and is not too happy about tactical voting in general, but she acknowledges that LSV’s data shows they are the leading challenger to New Labour in her ward.
Meanwhile, Simon is a LibDem supporter living in the Green Party’s top target ward in his borough. Simon wouldn’t normally consider voting Green because he thinks their policies are too green for him, but he acknowledges that they are fighting a strong campaign in his ward. But he is so fed up with Tony Blair and the Iraq war, and is really keen to deliver a blow to New Labour by helping to defeat them in his ward.
To make them happier about tactical voting for parties they don’t really support, Simon and Jenny can use our vote swapping forum and do a deal with each other. Simon the LibDem promises to vote Green in his ward, where the Greens are the party that can beat New Labour, and Jenny promises to vote LibDem.
On 5 May, New Labour are shocked to discover that they have lost two seats they formerly considered safe, in part because Jenny and Simon have worked together to beat the stupidity of our first past the post electoral system, and maximise the impact of their vote in the ward that they live. Within a week Tony Blair is pushed out of 10 Downing Street by the cabinet, and British plans to join the Americans in an airstrikeon Iran are cancelled. A result worth going to LSV’s voteswapping Forum for!
Definition of terms
This is the opposite of tactical voting: you vote for your first choice party even though you know it has no chance of winning. Strategic Voter recommends voting expressively in circumstances where a ward is so safe (the party that holds it being so far ahead) that there is effectively no chance of defeating them and therefore no point in tactical voting – you may as well register your vote for your first choice party, and at least get counted in the overall London-wide party share of vote result .
For London 2006 local elections, LSV is only recommending progressive voters vote expressively in very safe Tory wards, where there is no chance that an anti-war party can win, and no risk that New Labour could take the ward. We are adopting the stance that there are/should be no impregnably safe Labour wards at this election, and therefore tactical voting to get behind the best-placed anti-New Labour party is always worth a try in Labour-held wards (except “BNP risk” wards, see above).
This is our code for “Vote Tory”, if you can bear it. Where our analysis shows that there is virtually no chance of an anti-war party beating New Labour in a given ward, then the logic of the strategic voting concept (of focusing on the overall result) points to voting Tory. We know this is controversial amongst progressive voters, but we think logic is on our side (and among other things, it’s what makes Strategic Voter one of the more interesting tactical voting sites).
In fact, for the 2006 London local elections, LSV is more interested in drawing attention to the potential for ensuring that New Labour loses seats it thinks safe in inner London, rather than focusing on Labour-Tory marginals in outer London. The Tories are probably going to do quite well anyway this time without much help from the progressive voters.
However, if you are a progressive voter living in a Labour-Tory marginal ward, with the anti-war parties running poor third and no chance of winning, vote swapping is potentially an option to make strategic Tory voting more acceptable to you. The concept is explained in the section on Vote Swapping.
New Labour we define as non-socialists who have infiltrated and taken over the Labour party, and have acted to make it the agent of the UK-US establishment/the rich/big business within the political arena. A key characteristic is their commitment to privatising public assets and public services, in order to make them a profitable area of activity for New Labour’s big business sponsors – spun as “public service reform”. As Tony Benn has pointed out, a remarkable fact about the hardcore of New Labour is that it doesn’t really have a political support base at all. Its project is entirely dependent on borrowing/stealing Labour’s traditional support base, and using spin to conceal what it is doing.
We define this as the traditional support base of the Labour party. It includes different types of people, but their shared characteristic is that they are rock solid – they always vote Labour, come what may. It includes those who haven’t yet fully realised what Tony Blair has done to Labour, and still think that New Labour at its core acts in their interests rather than in the interests of the rich elite. It also includes those who are anti-Blair and anti-New Labour, but who think that internal differences should be fought out in private within the Labour Party and a united front always presented at election times. And it includes those who don’t really think about it, but simply vote Labour on auto-pilot – a rich seam of votes that the New Labour project is about controlling, and using in the interests of the rich elite.
The Anti-War 3
The Anti-war 3 is a term used on this website to collectively describe the Lib Dems, Greens and Respect, and is not to our knowledge used elsewhere. It is not an alliance of parties, and it is not an electoral pact. The three parties have fundamentally different political philosophies, they don’t particularly like each other and at the local level they may be actively competing and slinging mud at each other.
LSV’s stance is that this wouldn’t matter under a fair voting system. However, under first past the post, if its net result is to allow New Labour to win in areas where the majority of voters are really keen to see them lose, then such division is hardly productive. As progressive voters, more unites us than divides us. As strategic voters, our objective for the 2006 local elections is maximum damage to Tony Blair; and so we should see the need to vote tactically for whichever of the anti-war 3 is best-placed and is working hardest locally to beat New Labour.
Strategic Voter’s stance on the parties
The Lib Dems
The question of whether “left of New Labour” and particularly anti-war progressive voters should vote Lib Dem generated much heat at the 2005 General Election, but come the election itself progressive voters showed that in the main they considered Lib Dem a very acceptable anti-New Labour tactical vote.
New Labour people often affect a visceral hatred of the Lib Dems, and affect to be appalled at Lib Dem election tactics (they lie etc). Often the claims are true, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Often tribal Labour’s real problem with the Lib Dems is to be offended that they should be subject to competition in wards they have long considered “safe” and not had to fight for in living memory.
Some Labour people say things like “the Lib Dems look all cuddly on the telly, but they are actually viciously right wing when they get into power in local authorities”. There may be something in this (feedback please!), but overall Strategic Voter doesn’t buy it. 2006 is the election to hurt Tony Blair, and if New Labour loses previously safe seats to the Lib Dems, then this will be widely interpreted as Labour losing voters to a party to its left.
The Greens are a clearly anti-war “left of New Labour” party (whilst not being socialist in core philosophy), that most progressive voters consider a very acceptable choice for an anti-New Labour tactical vote.
As the fourth or fifth best-supported party in London, the Greens have been disgracefully badly served by the first past the post system. In the PR-format Euro elections of both 2000 and 2004 the Greens received over 8% of the vote and one of London’s seats in the European parliament.
In the 2002 council elections, the Greens still got 5.5% of the London-wide vote, even though their vote was squeezed by the First Past the Post election format. This should have been worth over 100 council seats with a proportional representation result. In fact the Greens have one single councillor in one ward in one borough (Lewisham), and Green voters everywhere else in London go utterly unrepresented in their council chambers.
The 2006 election is a big opportunity for the Greens to make a bigger breakthrough, because they have established themselves in a number of local areas and wards as the lead challenger to the incumbent party under first past the post rules, and so can start to become the beneficiaries of tactical voting locally and squeeze the third and fourth party’s vote.
Because it is disastrous for the effectiveness of anti-New Labour tactical voting for the identity of the lead challenger party to be unclear (the anti-New Labour majority vote is split, allowing New Labour to get in first past the post), London Strategic Voter has been meticulous in its starting position of only recommending the Greens in those wards where they were the lead anti-war party in the 2004 London Assembly election. This is 29 wards (which would yield 87 councillors).
However, if we receive feedback that the Greens are mounting a strong challenge to Labour in a ward, and the other anti-war parties are not making such a strong campaign effort locally, then the LSV recommendation may be modified. We justify this on the basis that (a) our objective is to do maximum damage to New Labour, and the 2004 data is just a starting point which can be modified to take account of what is actually happening on the ground in 2006; (b) it will assist in achieving some Green representation on in every borough and overall a more proportional result.
Respect is a clearly anti-war and “left of New Labour” electoral choice, which LSV thinks progressive voters should consider a very acceptable choice for an anti-New Labour tactical vote.
Respect is a new phenomenon since the 2002 local elections, being founded at the end of 2003 with the aim of bringing together key elements of the anti-war movement. It is a coalition or broad front not a party, with its basic “principles of unity” (as set out in detail on its website www.respectcoalition.org) being summarised by RESPECT: Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, Trades Unions.
Respect replaces the Socialist Alliance (of out-and-out socialist and revolutionary socialist parties) that fought the 2002 local elections, although not all the parties that made up the Socialist Alliance agreed with that move, and some are not supporting Respect.
As Respect brings together the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, George Galloway, and a number of Muslim community/Islamist groups – each of whom being considered controversial in their different ways by many – it does have its critics on the left as well as the right, and it generated a lot of heat on 2005 General Election tactical voting websites.
However, LSV emphatically does not buy the line that Respect is beyond the pale for the progressive voter. Its policies resemble mainstream Labour Party policies of the 1980s. The venom poured on Respect by the New Labour machine (given the threat it poses to New Labour’s tactic that there should be thought nowhere else for its traditional working class support to go) should alone commend it to the progressive voter.
LSV doesn’t consider UKIP a fascist party, and therefore beyond the pale, like the BNP. They are not.
UKIP actually opposed the Iraq War and is technically an anti-war party. However, we didn’t include their 2004 vote in our defined “anti-war 3” bloc (too confusing), and all-in-all we don’t consider UKIP a recommendation for the progressive voter in any circumstances at the 2006 local election.
Feedback on how hard they are campaigning in this election would be useful, especially in wards classified as safe Tory where they may be splitting the right-wing vote, and possibly allowing space for others (eg the Lib Dems and/or New Labour) to come through to win. In these circumstances we may have to revise our definition of the UKIP/Tory vote as a bloc thatis likely to go to the Tories this time.
There is obviously active opposition to Tony Blair and the war within the Labour Party, and it is particularly strong in London. It is true to say that New Labour is not the Labour Party itself, and of course many many progressive voters will have supported Labour in the past.
London Strategic Voter’s view is that the London local elections are the progressive voters’ opportunity to deal a massive blow to Tony Blair, decisive within a process of the Labour Party itself trying to get Blair out. Therefore, even Labour loyalists if they are anti-Blair should vote against Labour this time.
However, there are particular Labour councillors (more rarely non-sitting candidates) who genuinely are the best anti-war anti-Blair tactical voting option in a given ward. Therefore LSV is prepared to amend its overall anti-Labour recommendation in such special circumstances where the Labour candidate has a good anti-war and anti-Blair track record – a track record of actions not only words. This is going to controversial and good quality information (including challenge to feedback) will be essential.
Getting rid of first past the post
Strategic Voter’s two strategic aims are to hasten the demise of Tony Blair and to hasten the demise of our dire “first past the post” (FPTP) electoral system. This section sets out why LSV considers getting rid of FPTP should be a top priority for progressive voters, and how we can use strategic voting to bring forward the day when we get a referendum on electoral reform.
Why the FPTP system is destroying British democracy
First Past the Post is an electoral system designed for a situation where there are two parties (or no parties, and all candidates are independents). In a situation where there are three parties or more, it simply does not deliver a fair result. So, for example, in the 2005 General Election, New Labour won 55% of the seats in parliament on 35% of the popular vote – a result described by the pressure group Make Votes Count as “a travesty of democracy”.
However, it is not simply that the election results are a travesty that makes FPTP the cancer that is destroying British democracy. The cancer is that more than ever, it is not just that it is the result in the minority of marginal seats that determines who wins the election, it is that the marginal seats are the only place where the election is actively contested on the ground by the parties. This is as true of FPTP local elections as it is of our FPTP Westminster parliament general elections.
The cancer is that the two major parties’ entire political platform is increasingly based around trying to win the votes of the floating voters in the marginal seats – a minority of a minority, perhaps 100,000 people nationwide, whose opinions and prejudices are intensively analysed by the party strategists through use of focus groups. Policies are devised by party wonks to impress this minority and tested on the focus groups – and if they like them, the rest of us get them: as simple as that.
FPTP is not just the only electoral system that allows New Labour to win untrammelled power on 35% of the vote; it is the only system under which it can these days actually wage an election campaign. New Labour is haemorrhaging active members at the local level. The 2005 campaign was conducted by telephone canvassing of the marginal seats by hired call centre workers on the minimum wage, paid for (it now emerges) by secret loans from businessmen who fancied a seat in the House of Lords.
There was some limited public anger at the travesty that was the 2005 General Election. Around 30,000 people signed up to The Independent newspaper’s Campaign for Democracy statement demanding electoral reform. But overall the public did not get angry. Instead they got more alienated and switched off from democratic party and parliamentary/local council politics than ever.
Very few people in their 20s, 30s or 40s, who have strong ideas and activist energy about how to change our society for the better, are getting involved in electoral party politics. There is tremendous, extraordinary talent and dynamism in the NGOs and the global justice movement, but very few of the people working in it think it worthwhile to get involved in electoral or party politics, because it is a waste of their time. The road to influence is through direct lobbying of the executive, not wasting time with parliament.
The old generation of MPs and councillors, some of whom are interesting people with interesting things to say, are gagged by their party managers, for fear of offending the 100,000 swing voters of Middle England. The new generation of MPs and councillors are androids and party hacks, frighteningly disconnected with the real world beyond the daily game of playing the media agenda, whose ambition is limited to being an MP, not doing anything with it.
We have degenerated into a democratic system where all political effort and policy-making is focused on impressing an ever-more tightly defined group of swing voters in the Tory-Labour marginals of middle England. The progressive voter is disenfranchised, and those elected representatives that do speak for us are silenced or sidelined, and are dying out, and not being replaced from the new generation of “on-message” androids.
Re-energising British democracy through electoral reform
LSV believes that the system can be opened up through electoral reform that makes every vote count. Then, old and new parties will be able to compete directly for the support of the progressive voters, and if they get it, win seats. The progressive point of view (making up, say, 10-20% of the population) will be represented. The need for tactical voting, and the distortion of democratic politics that this creates, will go.
Getting to electoral reform through strategic voting to target a hung parliament
LSV’s view is that we will only get the opportunity for electoral reform (probably in the form of a referendum) in the context of an FPTP General Election delivering a hung parliament. New Labour’s interest in electoral reform was abandoned instantly when FPTP delivered them a massive parliamentary majority in 1997.
One of the biggest lies to progressive voters spun by New Labour at the 2005 General Election was that, by voting anything other than New Labour, you would only shoot yourself in the foot and “let the Tories in”. That lie will be returning in 2009/10, or whenever the next election will be. In fact, the chances of the Tories gaining an absolute parliamentary majority next time are small. The pendulum doesn’t need to swing too far for Labour needs to lose the 30-odd seats required for it to lose its own absolute majority, but it has to go a very long way to give the Tories an absolute majority. The zone of the swingometer in which the result will be a hung parliament is almost 100 seats wide.
StrategicVoter.org.uk, as explained elsewhere, is based on the idea that a hung parliament result can be actively targetted, through use of a model of how British election results turn out (how a party’s national level of support translates into FPTP seats won). The methodology is to translate national polls into a seat-by-seat recommendation which targets the overall result of a hung parliament.
Strategic Voter is strongly supportive of anti-New Labour tactical voting to get “left of New Labour” parties in a position to actually win parliamentary seats under First Past the Post. 2005 was significant, for example, with Respect not only winning a seat in East London, but coming second in three others, providing a platform for it to be even more successful next time.
The 2006 London local elections are a part of the process of helping to crystallise out further the lead “left of Labour” challenger to New Labour in wards across London. For example, it would be good for the Greens to emerge as the clear second-placed challenger to New Labour in two, three or more parliamentary seats, which they can then really target with a view to actually electing an MP next time. Similarly, the more seats where it is clear that the Lib Dems are the lead challenger to New Labour rather than the Tories, the better it is for the progressive voter.
However, the Strategic Voter acknowledges that a hung parliament won’t be achieved next time through Labour losing seats to the Lib Dems, Greens and Respect alone. Tory wins in Tory-New Labour marginal seats will have to do much of the job – and many of these seats are in outer London. Progressive voters unfortunate enough to live in seats where the electoral battleground is between New Labour and the Tories can in fact play a most useful role in bringing about a hung parliament, and with it the chance to reform our existing rotten failing system.
Strategic Voter’s model will show the seats where the Tories need to be supported in order to achieve a hung result, and will also show the seats where they will need to be opposed, in order to head off the remote risk of them winning an absolute parliamentary majority. We agree that it’s quite absurd that progressive voters should have to twist themselves into such knots, but if the concept can be widely grasped, the day when the whole stupid system can be swept away may be brought forward.
Objectives for the 2006 London local election – the beneficial side effects of establishing a clear left-of-New Labour challenger
New Labour has based much of its strategy on exploiting progressive voters’ concerns that to vote against them will “only let the Tories in”.
But this system only works when there is “nowhere else to go” for the progressive voter. As soon as there is an alternative non-Tory choice to New Labour actually with a chance of winning under FPTP, the game quickly changes. When Labour senses that loss of its progressive voters will actually cost it seats, then the party quickly “tacks back to the left” (or tries to create the image of doing so), in order to shore up its support amongst the progressive voters. This was New Labour’s thinking behind associating the G8 presidency so closely with “Make Poverty History” last year.
New Labour hates progressive voters getting the idea that there might be a viable winning alternative to them. It absolutely hates the idea that it might have to actively fight to retain its traditional support from the working class. Not least because it no longer has the activists or resources to do so. That is why they pour hatred on Respect, the Lib Dems or the Greens, where they are managing to emerge as an attractive option for traditional Labour supporters.
But once that threat is established, they will tack back to try and retain that support. In this way, the local elections can form part of a process of ensuring that New Labour will be less right wing in its current term of office than it might otherwise have been. This may seem like cold comfort, but it might be as significant as New Labour deciding it would be politically impossible for it to follow the US into an attack on Iran (which it would otherwise do). So, something worth achieving, and worth fighting and strategically voting for at the 2006 London local election.