May 2015 is not the time to stop voting tactically – Mainly Macro


Anyone voting Green (or failing to vote) in a seat that Labour can win but the Greens cannot will in part be responsible for the consequences of a future Conservative government, writes Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his latest Mainly Macro post.

Syriza has won the Greek election, which is the result I hoped for. For some this heralds the death of neoliberalism. To celebrate, George Monbiot – whose journalism consistently tells me more than most other journalists – says that here in the UK we should no longer vote tactically, but instead vote for what we want. What dangerous nonsense!

Anyone who votes Green in any seat where Labour has a chance to win, aside from maybe a few seats where the Greens have a chance (more realistically one or two), is voting for a Conservative government… (Not voting in a seat Labour has a chance to win is almost as bad.) This is going to be a tight election, so it matters.

There is a huge difference between Labour and Conservative fiscal plans beyond 2015. It is quite possible that we will see very little additional fiscal tightening under Labour, and a lot more public investment.

Monbiot says “Fearful voting shifts the whole polity to the right.” Where is the evidence for that? Neoliberalism did not triumph because the left decided to compromise. Yes Greece voted for Syriza, but only when half of its young people were stuck in unemployment. Is that the future that he hopes for by abandoning tactical voting?

Monbiot described voting No in the Scottish referendum as “an astonishing act of self-harm”: no matter that the SNP tried to deceive the electorate that they would at all times be better off independent; a sorry claim given what has subsequently happened to the oil price. No doubt some said in 2010 that a future Labour government would be much the same as a Conservative government.

This is an article that re-states many of the themes Vox Political has been exploring over the last few weeks: The victory of Syriza and its implications for the future; the realities of voting Green in the UK; the facts about Labour policy; and the deceptions of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

Please visit Mainly Macro for the important details.

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47 thoughts on “May 2015 is not the time to stop voting tactically – Mainly Macro

  1. Damien Willey

    Only because of the failings in the electoral system we have now, I will not vote tactically and anyone with a conscience shouldn’t either, its an affront to democracy, its a vote to keep the current broken system

  2. Sinky

    If your beloved Labour party had reformed our archaic and unrepresentative voting system to something more proportional whilst in office maybe we wouldn’t *have to* vote tactically and could vote for a party which actually best represented our views. (Never mind doing away with the totally undemocratic House of Lords) It’s almost as if they *want* to be able to campaign on ‘Vote for us – or else!’
    Also, not everywhere is a vote for non-LabCon a vote for conservative – whoever I choose to vote for in Glasgow, I can rest almost 100% assured that I won’t end up with a Conservative MP.

    1. Sinky

      Also I forgot to add – if not now – then when? Or do you just want it to be Labour vs Tory permanently?

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        The answer to that is obvious: When it’s likely to do some good.
        It’ll be up to each individual voter to look within their souls and decide when that will be.

    2. Mike Sivier Post author

      Hasn’t there been a referendum on proportional representation since the Labour Party were in office? And how did that go again? Wasn’t it 2-1 AGAINST proportional representation?
      (I voted in favour, by the way).
      Oh, and Labour intends to dispense with the House of Lords.
      The article by Prof Wren-Lewis makes it clear that there are seats in which alternative votes are possible, so of course your final point is redundant.

      1. Sinky

        Why didn’t they dispense of it 10 years ago? Why didn’t Labour push for PR or similar whilst in power? LabCon seem very happy with sticking to the 2 party status quo for as long as possible.
        The article suggests that there are “two, maybe three” seats where an alternative vote may be possible – which is a gross understatement of the number of seats where the Conservatives have no significant chance and where people should feel totally happy to vote for the party who truly represents their views.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        The article suggests that a small number of seats may be winnable by the Green Party. It’s not saying a large number of seats won’t change hands.

      3. Andy

        The proposed system for PR in this country was not what people wanted even advocates of PR didn’t like it. Me included. What was proposed was a complicated “preferential” system that people just didn’t get. What any advocate of PR really wanted was a “party list” system. Where were the LibDems on that one?

      4. HomerJS

        To be accurate, it was a vote against the ‘alternative vote’. It might have been a different score if we had been talking about proportional representation. I probably slightly favoured FPTP to AV, but I also voted in favour because I knew that if we voted against then people would say that we’ve had a vote (and it could take a generation before we got another chance).

      5. Damien Willey

        That was a loaded referendum just like Camerons vote on Europe will be. Lords reform would be welcome i would hope they’d keep to that but im too used to broken promises from the big 3

  3. Claire

    I’m sorry but your comment saying that there is no evidence that tactical voting does not produce a shift to the right is just plain wrong, look at Tony Blair and his third way. The Labour has moved so far to the right that they are now centre where the Liberal used to be; they are no longer the party of the people which is why they have been voting for, or abstaining from voting against the TTIP, they commissioned PFI, the war on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, the list goes on.

    I have come to the sad conclusion that the only way to kill off the Tories and their neo-liberalism is to vote by your conscience because it is the only way people will fully understand how morally bankrupt the unregulated free market is. And equally how the Tories and their advocates should never ever be able to hold positions of power due to the levels of greed and corruption.

    Believe me I don’t want them anywhere near positions of power. As a single mother at Uni having to scrimp every single day I fully understand how close to destitution I am but the Labour party are no longer the party of the people for the people, otherwise they would have re-nationalised our utilities when they had the chance and given the unions back their rights.

    For the real change that we need in this country things will have to become a whole lot worse, only then will people stand up and say enough is enough like Syriza has in Greece.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s funny how mention of Third Way politics has proliferated here since I used the term a little while ago. That Blairite style is long gone from Labour yet it seems some voters have yet to realise that. I wonder why. Labour’s stance on TTIP is increasingly negative; the Tories introduced PFI – you need to read up on why Labour continued with it (hint: Treasury advice plus the fact that the Tory government of 1979-97 had practically destroyed the NHS and left nothing with which to rebuild it); regarding the war on Iraq, perhaps this will illuminate you
      Basically, you have a list of excuses for giving your vote to someone else.
      I agree with you about the unregulated free market. Labour proposes regulation on a large scale but you don’t want to vote for that.
      Labour is considering renationalising the energy companies – and plans a national rail company to take over franchises when they come up for renewal, but you don’t want to vote for that.
      Labour is also proposing changes to union law, but you don’t want to vote for that either.
      Are you sure you really mean the Labour Party at all?

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Who’s saying I’m trying to justify the war in Iraq? I didn’t. I merely passed on a deadly-serious news report from October last year than casts a different light upon the claims surrounding that war.
        If you want my opinions – well, let’s see…
        Do I think that Iraq had anything to do with the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 or with Al-Qaeda’s campaign at that time? No. No, I don’t.
        Do I think that the UK’s involvement in the war in Iraq was about these terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction in that country and/or their possible use in further terror attacks on western countries? No. I think our involvement was part of a strategy to distract the British public from domestic issues by giving them a bogeyman to replace the USSR. Look at the state in which Iraq was left and the rise of Islamic (a misnomer – it should be Barbarian) State thereafter.
        Do I think there were weapons in Iraq that could have been used to threaten life on a massive scale? Yes – or at least I do now. I think Saddam Hussein did not intend to use them in the time preceding the invasion and I think his attempts to stall the weapons inspectors were in order to stow these weapons away out of sight. He knew he wasn’t strong enough to fight the West, and he knew that the weapons could not be used against the West in any other way at that time.
        So I think that the UK ended up doing something right for the wrong reasons, and amid a lot of other things that were extremely wrong.
        Those weapons are now out of commission and cannot be used against anybody. The damage that was done by the war outweighs that, but it must not be discounted altogether.
        That’s my current thinking.

      2. Andy

        Sorry I looked at that in the wrong light and I agree with your thinking. I was against the war from the start. There was a total lack of hard evidence.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        I agree with Labour’s current attitude, which is not to jump in straight away behind any damn-fool mission the USA cares to dream up.

  4. Starving Peasant

    All Labour need to do in order to win the next election with a massive landslide is simply this; pledge now to abolish Benefit Sanctions and remove conditionality from claiming JSA. The ball is in their court…

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      They have pledged to abolish sanction targets, but I don’t think anybody will remove conditionality from JSA; you have to be able to show you’re looking for work, otherwise the system is laid wide open to fraud. A better solution is for the conditions under which any claimant receives JSA to be tailored to take account of conditions where they live, their own abilities and other factors in order to make them more realistic. That’s where the problems lie.

  5. untynewear

    “To celebrate, George Monbiot – whose journalism consistently tells me more than most other journalists – says that here in the UK we should no longer vote tactically, but instead vote for what we want. What dangerous nonsense!”

    Yeah but… I DONT want years more of austerity (for some) which is what Lab AND Con seem to be offering.

    If things are ever going to change in any meaningful way, that change has to start somewhere, so why not here and now ? A Sinky said above: “if not now – then when” ?

    The sad truth is that Labour no longer represent myself and many others

    Bottom line – I dont trust either Lab or Con (or Lib or UKIP for that matter) so I don’t see why I should cast my vote for any of them. If Lab lose, then it wont be MY fault, it’ll be THEIR fault for fighting on policies their potential voters don’t agree witth.

    The onus is on THEM to deserve my vote.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Labour isn’t offering anything like what the Conservatives are threatening to do. If you’ve been led to believe that, then you’ve been led astray.
      Certainly I would agree that there is a duty on Labour to be worthy of anybody’s vote.
      That also implies a duty for voters to actually check the parties’ policies and make sure they aren’t being misled – as you have been about Labour and austerity.

      1. untynewear

        Living in an almost solid Labour region, it’s been interesting to watch the sudden proliferation of new Green Parties in the various constituencies, all of whom seem to intend to field candidates.

        Who are these people ? Odds on the majority will be ex-Labour voters who are fed up with the status quo.

        To a lesser extent, we’ve seen the formation of the North East Party, founded by an ex-labour MP, who have confirmed they’ll be contesting 4 seats (so far). Recently they won their first election, a seat on Peterlee Town Council – the winner was an ex-Labour councillor.

        It seems to me that Greens and NEP are finally providing an alternative for ex-Labour voters and politicians – a role UKIP was formerly claimiing for itself in the North East, so that’s a good thing.

        Labour have to ask themselves WHY this is happening. Could it possibly be because they’ve moved so far from what their former voters believe in ? Well, as a former Lab voter myself, the answer is yes.

        (I’m not a member of any party, incidentally).

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        It’s a point of view that has been suggested several times before.
        The problem with the Greens is their insistence on promoting claims about Labour’s behaviour that are easily proved to be lies.
        Does anybody really want to vote for a party that has lied – blatantly – in order to steal votes from somebody else?
        And does anybody really want to vote for a party that claims to be left-wing but only attacks another left-wing party, rather than the right-wingers who should be its natural enemy?

      3. Callum

        “That also implies a duty for voters to actually check the parties’ policies”

        Well, that settles it – we should be voting Green. They are the ones who tend to come out on top on average when doing a blind comparison of policies after all!

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Well, no. Those whose scores on that comparison site showed they should vote Green, should vote Green. The rest of us should vote according to our own preferences.
        That way they Greens would get – what is it – 29 per cent of the vote, if I recall correctly.
        Can anyone remind me what the Tories would get?

      5. Callum

        Are you honestly trying to DEFEND us going to war in Iraq?!?!

        At least with all your pro-Labour propaganda I can believe that you are at least partly doing it due to your conscience, but to support our involvement in that illegal conflict…

        Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised given you’ve spoken in favour of nuclear weapons (by renewing we are breaking international treaties to which we are signatories, are morally repugnant, and a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money)

      6. Mike Sivier Post author

        No, I’m not defending the war in Iraq. But those who said we shouldn’t go because there weren’t any WMDs need to revise their opinions.
        My opinion is that we shouldn’t have gone to war because there was no reason to link Iraq’s then-leadership with Al-Qaeda (they’d fallen out) and there was no reason to believe there was a clear and present danger to our countries from Iraq.

        I should also clarify that I’m not in favour of nuclear weapons – certainly not under the current arrangement, by which we cannot use them unless the USA demands it. That is certainly a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money, for obvious reasons. We need to be able to defend ourselves. That being said, it is always wise to be able to speak softly but still be heard because you are carrying a big stick. If we were to abandon nuclear weapons, we would need to have a work-of-genius strategy to prevent anybody, anywhere in the world, from taking advantage of it.

    2. untynewear

      Mike, if you want a really good example of Labour in action in the North East try this story, breaking today:

      I think this illustrates why so many people are looking for someone new to vote for. As said before – if Labour wants the votes, it’ll have to shape up. They don’t get them by right – I sometimes think they’ve forgotten that.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. It could very easily be a sign of Labour in that area, shaping up – as you put it.
        Sheer speculation, of course; I don’t know anything about the area. I just don’t think there is only one possible interpretation. Is there any more information available?

  6. Julie Shackson

    Oh dear. Now I have to leave. There is little left to distinguish Labour from Conservative since Blair corrupted them. This is the first post of Vox Political that has pissed me off as I think the system is broken, that voting Green is a brave step towards a refreshing change. I mean when has tactical voting ever helped anything but perpetuate the current system? The Green Party has a cohesive and convincing set of policies that would completely change the status quo, and I’m sick of the so-called left bashing them now that they are gaining momentum. Go Green!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You’re going to leave because I posted excerpts from a blog by somebody else that challenges your opinion?
      Oh, wait a minute, you think Labour has been “bashing” the Greens, when my experience suggests the Greens have been continually on the offensive.
      Don’t let the door mash your posterior on the way out.
      (It’s sad that some are determined to see their favourites as the victims, in spite of all the evidence. When have the Greens attacked the Tories recently?)

      1. Julie Shackson

        Well I’m pretty sure you’re not posting excerpts that you disagree with. I think it’s you that doesn’t like anyone challenging your opinions. I’ve not see any evidence of Greens being on the offensive; they appear to be the only party that isn’t playing that game, and that’s why they are not attacking Tories either.

        Really? Doors? Posteriors? I didn’t realise you were crass too; in fact I’ve enjoyed most of your posts even if I didn’t agree with them all. Don’t worry, I won’t respond by challenging again.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I post excerpts from other people’s articles – and links to them – according to whether I think they are interesting or will take the political debate further.
        Regarding my final comment: I’ve come into contact with many readers like yourself who are quite happy until their own opinions are challenged and then kick up a song and dance about losing respect for the site and its owner/writer. It’s my standard response to these people.

        You lose credibility with your claim never to have seen Greens on the offensive. By that alone, it seems clear you haven’t been reading this site (at least, not for very long).

  7. Thomas M

    I want to vote TUSC or Green myself, as those are the only two parties that have something big to offer me, but I’ll vote Labour as otherwise my vote will be wasted because of the unfair voting system. Better Labour then the ones we have now.

  8. Andy

    I ‘tactically voted” LibDem in the last election and we got a LibDem MP (Labour only got 4.8% of the vote) who I really believed would help to keep the tories at bay, how wrong I was. This time I will vote Green as I did in the Euro election, if only for the reason that the candidate doesn’t loose their deposit. I agree with Simon Wren-Lewis under the current system you don’t have much choice. Things might get a little better with a Labour government but I’ll not hold my breath.

  9. HomerJS

    I think it might help if Labour showed a bit more support for tactical voting by not fielding candidates where Labour is not likely to win but another candidate may stand a chance. Perhaps we could be thinking about particular seats with unpopular MPs. I’m thinking Iain Duncan Smith, Nick Clegg . . .

  10. Ath

    I would rather shoot myself than vote liebour, they are just as bad as the tories, if not worse because at least the tories are not traitors. Labour have been talking about electorial reform and doing nothing for years.

    Your blog is normally quite good, please don’t keep thumping your chest for the neoliberal party that is labour, it is ofputting.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You think the Tories aren’t traitors to the electorate?
      Are you out of your mind?

    2. ErnstRemarx

      ‘liebour’ – that’s really clever. Did you think of that yourself? I’m told that Bliar instead of Blair is incredibly funny too.

      I doubt that you have the faintest clue what the Labour party is like now.

      I’m pretty sick of ‘holier than thou’ t**ts like you who preach online anonymously and yet who if asked to actually do a hand’s turn to change the reality of the situation always find some excuse to sit on their arses and do nothing.

      F***ing grow a pair and get out there and campaign, if you feel that strongly about it. I do, so I go and do some f***ing work. Do the same or shut the f*** up.

  11. Voice of Treason

    I’ve voted tactically a few times. Never once has it ever helped me or anyone else get what I wanted or even avoid what I didn’t want. Instead, all it ever did was make me feel crap, because it misrepresented my true beliefs.

    It doesn’t even make sense from a logical, practical perspective. How likely is it that your (one) tactical vote will actually alter the result of the election in your constituency, let alone the government of the country? The chance is vanishingly small, so why bother? Even if your single vote swung the result in your constituency, what’s the chance that it would change the government? Minuscule. You may as well buy a lottery ticket, instead.

    On the other hand, if you vote for true belief, it has far greater consequences: It can change the whole tone of the political debate in the long run and it has immediate consequences for party funding, lost deposits, etc. If minor parties come close to winning seats, or even just influencing the result in a few constituencies, the big parties have to take notice and consider altering their policies accordingly – instead of taking people for granted and concentrating only on pleasing the swing voters of Middle England. That’s worth far more than any wasted tactical vote.

    Ah, but if ENOUGH people vote tactically … you might say. Sure, but if enough people just voted for what they really believed in, they’d actually get what they really wanted, for once.

  12. John B

    The Tories are doing exactly what they’ve always done, and very successfully; looked after the selfish interests of their class. Labour have betrayed the working classes (the people whose interests they were formed to represent) at every opportunity to prove to the parasitical elite that the boat won’t be rocked while they’re at the tiller. All the while, they’ve allowed British troops to be used as cannon fodder in grotesque wars to further enrich the Corporate pirates, and put up no effective opposition to the despoilment and destruction of the welfare state. And now we’re to trust Milliband and Balls to undo the damage the Coalition have done to the country, despite every published indication that they will do no such thing, and that we’ll have to put up with an austerity programme every bit as ruinous as the one the Tories have planned for us?
    Labour may be ‘the lesser of two evils’ but the difference is so small it barely registers. I am going to vote for the Greens, with good conscience, a party that stands for everything I consider to be moral and right; and to hell with your cynical ‘tactical voting’ which will, at best, just leave us at the behest of Tories with red ties.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your interpretation of Labour’s acts and intentions is your own.
      Your claim that “every published indication” is that Labour is lying about its intentions is laughable. Have you simply been reading the usual right-wing press nonsense or what?
      If you have been paying any attention at all to what’s going on, you’ll know that Labour has no intention of continuing Tory austerity; Labour’s plans are radically – to the root – different from those of the Conservatives. What’s your angle in suggesting otherwise? Ah yes – you support the Green Party, which resolutely continues to avoid engaging the Tories in any kind of opposition at all. What kind of left-wing party is that?
      Supporting Labour isn’t supporting the “lesser of two evils” and I have not suggested this. Labour intends to build up the UK and put behind us the devastation of the last five years – in a similar manner (although not using exactly the same methods) as after World War II.
      I won’t be voting tactically this time out. I did so in 2010, got the Lib Dem I supported, and he went into Coalition with the Tories – so instead I’ve been campaigning very strongly for Labour over the last few years and hope to achieve a change here. You confused me with the article’s author, I think.

  13. sp4mf15h

    Isn’t the whole point about voting that it is supposed to represent your own views about what you think the government should be doing for you.
    So by not voting for who you believe in you are being dishonest with yourself. And that is something i did not expect Vox Political to be advocating for.

  14. Claire

    Really Mike, you put a link to the New York Times?!? As neo-liberal a newspaper if ever there were one. Do you really think they don’t have an agenda of their own? I never took you to be so nieve. When Blair and Bush talked of WMD they were talking about nuclear armaments as you well know. If your talking about chemical weapons then look closer to home, we have them all. Their intervention has destabilised the entire region and lead to the rise or ISIS. Please don’t think to lecture me on Thatcher or Blair, I am old enough to have seen both come to power. I saw what thatcher did and what labour failed to undo when they came to power.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Paul Krugman writes for the New York Times. He’s hardly a neoliberal, you know. He’s a Keynesian.
      A weapon of mass destruction may be a nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. Any limit to nuclear weapons is entirely your own.
      Before you suggest I shouldn’t lecture you, perhaps you might reconsider your presumption in attempting to lecture me – for example on the rise of ISIS, about which I commented only this evening (and many times before).
      Since you did see Blair come to power, you will be aware that Labour was a very different party before he became leader. Why, then, are you unwilling to accept that it has changed again and is now a different party from what it was in his time?

  15. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I like and admire many of the Green’s values. However, they have no chance of winning the next election and, therefore, any votes for them is a vote against Labour and for the Cons. Give Labour a chance this time rather than repeat the failures of the Conservatives. You can always make another decision if Labour doesn’t perform as it has promised.

  16. Andy

    Mr Chivers may be conservative but I’ve always found his writing to be objective. In my previous comment I wrongly thought that Mike had posted that to justify the war on the grounds that something had been found. Don’t dismiss out of hand The New York Times or The Washington Post. Noam Chomsky reads the Wall St Journal and the FT!

Comments are closed.