Brexit tactical voters could disrupt Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to strengthen her majority in Parliament.
A poll by the Electoral Reform Society reported that 20 per cent of Britons are planning to vote tactically on 8 June. This forecast – together with a YouGov opinion poll from last week, which showed that the Conservatives lead over Labour by only four points – could spell trouble for May.
Tactical voters are voters who support parties, which are not their first choices, but have a better chance of winning.
Many voices – such as Gina Miller, a pro-EU campaigner who launched a legal case against the possibility of the government to trigger Article 50 without consulting the Parliament – have asked the electorate to cast their votes for pro-European candidates. Their hope is to elect as many MPs as possible to ask for a soft Brexit or even a second Brexit referendum.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to say voters betray any particular party by voting tactically,” said Nicholas Allen, professor of politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, regarding the people who base their votes on the fight against a hard Brexit.
“In terms of morality, it is ultimately everyone’s right to vote how they wish. The decision to vote is complex and based on multiple factors, which vary from person to person,” Allen said.
“I don’t think morality is relevant,” said Ivor Gaber, professor of journalism at the University of Sussex. “The choice that voters make will depend on a number of factors, including the enthusiasm they feel for the candidate they vote for and the extent to which they believe that, although their party has no chance this time, they will eventually be competitive in the constituency and hence require a vote as part of this long-term process.
“Finally, some people feel so strongly about the Brexit issue that they will ignore all the above considerations and simply vote for the people whose Brexit views are the closest to theirs.”
Open Britain is one of the main groups advocating against a hard Brexit. They have shared two lists of 40 candidates and advised people who voted Remain to vote for pro-European MPs.
Nineteen Conservatives and Kate Hoey, incumbent Labour MP for Vauxhall, have been named as hard Brexiteers. Among the Remainers, there are candidates from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.
Best for Britain, a group of anti-Brexit campaigners, set up a section on their website called “Vote tactically”. The page’s description invites users “to limit Theresa May’s majority and stop an extreme Brexit”.
Individuals tried to advise pro-European voters.
Becky Snowden, a 28-year-old marketing executive from West Yorkshire, created an online spreadsheet, which lists the candidates who are most likely to win against their Tory counterparts. Her spreadsheet was later used by the website Tactical2017.com.
“I didn’t expect it to take off like it did. I originally posted it on Reddit and I figured maybe it’d help a handful of people,” Snowden told the Huffington Post UK.
“But then it really took off and I shared it on Twitter. It just exploded from there. After looking at all 650 seats in detail, I discovered a lot of the seats won’t even take much to swing back from the Tories. It’s definitely doable.”
An analysis of the results from the 2015 General Election showed that there are 50 Conservatives that could be ousted by candidates supported by the Progressive Alliance.
Deals have been made in 31 constituencies, in which Liberal Democrats or Greens have withdrawn their candidacy to support other candidates who are more likely to win.
The Progressive Alliance was born in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. It is a cross-party alliance supporting politics considered progressive, usually in opposition to the right-wing parties.
There are no organisations advocating for Brexiteers. The Daily Mail published a voting guide on 6 June, aiming at the creation of a strong right-wing majority.
The Mail wrote: “In most constituencies, by far the best way to ensure that Labour is kept out of power, or the Tories gain a bigger majority, is simply to vote Conservative”.
How many people who will vote tactically is uncertain.
“We won’t know how much tactical voting goes on until Friday morning,” Allen said.
“I suspect that there will be relatively little tactical voting this time, not least because the smaller parties’ support has shrunk considerably. It seems that voters have become more polarised than in recent elections and those polarised against the Tories have coalesced strongly around Jeremy Corbyn. More generally, as reflected in the non-resurrection of the Lib-Dems, there seems to be little mileage these days in being a pro-EU party,” he added.
The chances of success of tactical voters will depend on individual constituencies.
“It’s possible for the tactical vote to succeed, but it’s going to vary from constituency to constituency depending on the strengths of the non-Tory parties in 2015 and now,” Gaber said. “There is no definitive general answer, only a case-by-case one.”