In Brief

Is tactical voting a threat to the Tories?

Pundits argue it’s ‘back with a vengeance’ – and could transform the electoral arithmetic

A Liberal Democrat canvasser found himself in a quandary last week as he made a final push before the by-election in Tiverton and Honiton, said Toby Helm and Michael Savage in The Observer. Every vote was crucial, yet the house in front of him had a huge Labour poster in front of it. Was it even worth knocking? He decided to give it a go – and was delighted to find that although the homeowner had intended to vote Labour, she had decided to switch to the Lib Dems.

She was just one of many Labour supporters who made that choice, helping the Lib Dems win the Tory stronghold. In Wakefield, Lib Dem voters returned the favour, and helped Labour’s candidate to victory. These voters had worked out for themselves how to punish the Tories. “No pacts, no deals: just common sense.” If this tactical voting catches on at the next election, the Conservatives will be in trouble.

‘Back with a vengeance’?

We haven’t witnessed much of this sort of thing for the past decade, said Peter Kellner in The Guardian. Labour voters were loath to lend any support to a party that had gone into coalition with the Tories, while Lib Dem voters were too opposed to Jeremy Corbyn. But tactical voting is “back with a vengeance”, and it could transform the electoral arithmetic.

I’m not so sure, said Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. Voters often lend support to other parties in by-elections, but they tend “to troop back to their tribal banners” at general elections.

It’s true that by-election voting patterns are never replicated exactly in national polls, said Philip Collins in The New Statesman. Some of the Tories’ worst by-election losses (Christchurch in 1993, for example, or Corby in 2012) reverted to being Tory seats at the subsequent general election. But if the “unspoken pact” between Labour and the Lib Dems holds at all when the country next goes to the polls, “which it surely will, then the Tories are going to come second in a lot of places”.

Almost all the seats being targeted by Labour and the Lib Dems are held by the Conservatives, which makes them particularly vulnerable to tactical voting. Add in the fact that “there are a lot of people who really do want Boris Johnson out”, and it doesn’t augur well for the Tories.

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