On why I think anti-Brexit tactical voting (#ABTV) for anti-Brexit parties is necessary at the local elections in England on 3 May.
(TL:DR — In an ideal world we wouldn’t. That we need to is a shame and shows the failing in our system and the main two parties. Brexit is a local issue as well as a national one, and votes for pro-Brexit parties will be used to justify Brexit.)
I don’t like tactical voting in general. In principle, you should vote for who you think will make the best representative, and which party would form the best majority in whatever assembly or parliament the election is for.
Giving someone your vote is very significant. It is an act of trust in them. It is not just an expression that you agree with their stance, but that you trust their judgement and character as well.
There is also no contradiction in the people and parties you vote for in one type of election being different to those you support in another.
There are many local representatives of parties that I oppose who do an outstanding job for their communities. How you balance personal vs party considerations is tricky, and, ultimately, up to you in the individual situation.
All of this stands if, and only if, you a) have a fair electoral system; and b) we are in something close to normal times. Neither of these requirements now apply.
We don’t have a fair electoral system. We have one that is massively disproportionate, and in which an absurd proportion of votes are wasted. We have to work with it though until it is changed, and the ‘anti-Brexit tactical voting’ is a way to do this.
We tried tactically voting for pro-EU candidates. Research by Best For Britain has shown that this was effective in the 2017 General Election, and played a part in denying the Conservatives a majority.
But our tactical votes were just pocketed. They did not influence the Labour leadership’s policy on Brexit.
Most importantly though, our tactical votes for pro-EU candidates in 2017 were misused. Both major parties were perfectly happy to use the line that 82% of votes were for pro-Brexit parties as a justification for them supporting Brexit.
This was utterly disingenuous. A con trick.
A deliberate twisting of reality.
There is no reason whatsoever to think this would not happen again. And these are not normal times. The UK is facing a crisis of the magnitude it has never faced before in peacetime. One single issue that will adversely affect our ability to deal with almost every other issue facing the country.
But, why bother? It won’t make any difference. Well, it might, and not doing so certainly will make a difference for the worse.
We, and Labour members and MPs, have tried to reason with the Labour leadership to no avail. We have invoked self-interest to show that Labour cannot win a majority without the Remain vote. It’s made little difference.
Traditional supporters of the Conservatives such as local and national business leaders, the CBI, and the Institute of Directors have tried to make the Government see sense on the Single Market and the Customs Union, but to little avail.
We’ve tried and tried, and neither will listen. Neither will even support a #peoplesvote or #finalsayforall on the Withdrawal Agreement. We now have to use the ballot box, which is considerably harder for them to ignore.
And Parties do care about local election results. Opinion polls can be batted away, and holes picked in them by those that want to, but how people actually vote can’t just be ignored.
While, of course, some things are already ‘priced in’ to the parties’ expectations — like the Conservatives doing very badly in London — local elections still present the opportunity to send shockwaves through a party. Local party members angry at losing are powerful.
Local Council wards are much, much smaller than Parliamentary constituencies. A handful of votes can lead to a different outcome far, far more easily. The smaller the number of votes in total, the more weight yours has.
So, there is a much higher chance of making a difference to a result, or overturning a majority in a local council election than in a General Election.
But what of local issues? Surely we are sacrificing local issues if we vote on national issues? No. Not in this case. Quite the opposite in fact.
There is hardly a single ‘local’ issue that will not be adversely impacted by Brexit. Schools, hospitals, colleges, roads, rubbish collection, street lighting, policing, parks, 1-to-1 services all rely on funding from tax or borrowing.
Brexit will, by the Government’s own admission, lead to lower GDP, and lower tax-takes. It has already made government borrowing more expensive, and as the ability to meet the debt is less certain.
The European Investment Bank, a source of cheaper and more available borrowing for public investment, will not be available. Funding for poorer regions through EU funds will be cut off, and history tells us that the UK Government will not replace it.
Local services such as NHS clinics and hospitals are already facing an increased shortage of nurses and doctors as a result of Brexit, and this will only get worse. There just aren’t the UK nurses and doctors to replace them.
Councils can try to mitigate the lack of funding from central government, but it can only do that by putting up Council tax, which is particularly brutal at a point when people’s real wages are falling due to Brexit.
Economists and big companies talking about GDP, investment and productivity hits from Brexit may sound big and national, but the reality is local impact.
They mean lower demand for local businesses, factories closing or scaling back, fewer opportunities, and, ultimately, jobs being lost and incomes falling.
So, Brexit is a local issue as well as a national one, and one that almost all other local issues will be negatively impacted on by it.
Voting for a pro-Brexit party will not in any way help local issues. Even a great local councillor, a good mayor, or a well run local Council cannot mitigate the effects of Brexit.
If you vote for a pro-Brexit party, your vote will be used to justify Brexit and the harm it will bring to everyone. It will be used to justify persuing the single biggest impediment to solving local issues.
Anti-Brexit tactical voting alone will not stop Brexit, but I believe it can have a serious impact. So, I support #ABTV in the Local Elections on 3 May, and urge you to as well.
Think local, Vote anti-Brexit. #ABTV.🔷
(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)