In most countries – almost all of them on this planet in fact – voting is a pretty straightforward process. People vote for the party whose policies are most closely aligned with their own goals and values. But in the UK that is not the case.
First published in November 2019.
For months now, I have been inundated with advice and counter-advice on ‘tactical voting’. If you don’t live in a country like the UK, and most people on this planet do not, this term makes no sense to you. You just vote. That’s it.
‘Tactical voting’ is an attempt to disguise the demeaning fact that voters in the UK have very little power. Because of the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, most votes are actually ‘lost’ in every election (or, as the British like to say, ‘wasted’). If you didn’t vote for the MP in your constituency, your voting mandate disappears. You might as well never have voted.
I know several British voters who say that their vote has NEVER counted in their whole life. That’s one of the reasons why so many people don’t vote here. And then there is the monstrosity of ‘safe seats’ where majorities for one of the two biggest parties are practically guaranteed. If these ‘safe seat’, seen as the property of one of these parties, are ever in danger, voters are publicly berated as ‘volatile’.
This particular election is, of course, about Brexit. So, what is it like to be a British voter in this election who wants to stop Brexit? Sadly, it seems to be the role of a gambling contortionist.
There has been a majority for Remain for about 2 years now, and it is growing every day. But while that would matter in a referendum where everyone has a straight up vote, this election is run on the bad old system.
It is not possible to vote for a nationwide party list. But the individual MP who gets voted in in your constituency will only follow their own party line. Not you. Ruling parties get absolute majorities in parliament with around 35% of the votes. Then they are a very powerful government. Parliament struggles to control that government. And of course it’s the party that rules, and your local MP has to tow the party line.
This autumn, Tory MPs were kicked out of the party for opposing a no-deal Brexit, a hard right policy that their party only adopted very recently, and after these MPs were voted in. Their only option in this election is to try to get elected without a party, as independents in their constituency.
Labour MPs and members are over 90% remainers but seem to have no power over their party leadership. Most of them obey and generally tow the party line of being unclear about Brexit. A Brexit that is less than 3 months away.
This system was broken before. But given the disaster of Brexit, it is grotesque.
British voters feel forced to frantically exchange the latest tips on how to get the ‘lesser evil’. Some told me they are looking for a way to vote for the party least likely to kill them. Voters are trying to ‘swap’ votes with someone else in a different constituency where the party of their choice has better chances. Some even campaign in other constituencies because their own is a ‘safe seat’, and therefore hopeless.
To me, this is a desperate act. By desperate, I mean permanently disenfranchised voters who are forced to try to find ways of gaming the system. Rather than dignified citizens who can vote for what they really want, no matter where in the country they live, confident in the knowledge that their vote will translate into a mandate in parliament.
‘Voters are powerful’ say the desperate tweets, messages and articles. Perhaps because it is so blatantly clear that, in the UK, they are not. Individually, voting in the UK is a postcode lottery, just as quality of health care is a postcode lottery. Collectively, nationally, it still means that the two biggest parties are at a huge advantage.
And, seemingly feeling secure in that knowledge, both these parties show nothing but utter contempt for their voters. Both arrogantly assume that they will get the bulk of the votes, no matter what they do.
The desperate act of tactical voting is ultimately a gamble that can backfire in all directions because tactical voting by its very nature is based on assumptions, hopes, and guesswork.
I am struck by the fact that so many who ‘lent’ the Labour party their vote only 2 years ago, because they were against Brexit, and who were subsequently claimed by the Labour party as pro-Brexit voters, are willing to do exactly the same thing again.
Do they really think this will produce a different outcome? To me it looks as if the Labour Party shamelessly takes tactical votes and then gobbles them up, making no concessions whatsoever to the voters who gave them these extra votes. Instead, they chase the votes of Brexiters who are quite likely to vote for the Brexit Party anyway.
The Conservatives have done almost the opposite but with the same contempt. They kicked their Remainers out of the party, and have transformed themselves into a Brexit party, which means that the actual Brexit Party is a huge threat to them, hence the deal they did with Farage.
I am of course completely disenfranchised because I am not British. But what would I do if I had the vote?
If I had the vote, voting Labour would be voting for another stay of execution. Better than dead, of course, I will give you that. Last week, for half a day, I believed that Labour had finally decided to support the continuation of Freedom of Movement. I relaxed. I could feel a return to health and well-being. Then they took it all back and are again talking about EU citizens, people like me, as less human than themselves. As servants to be used and discarded. As if we had no value of our own.
Note of the Editor: The Labour manifesto published since Nyla’s article shows the party now plans to give EU nationals automatic right to stay after Brexit:
But if I wanted to vote for the only party that has the declared policy ‘Stop Brexit’, a party that I don’t agree with in many other ways, I might gamble my vote away altogether. Most British voters say they don’t feel ‘brave’ enough to vote for the Lib Dems just this once to stop Brexit. Voters have to be brave?
If I look at it rationally, it is obvious that this election, even with the gamble of cross-voting, will likely produce another Conservative Government and Brexit at the end of January.
In other words, what I feared all along will probably happen.
Like gamblers who have lost everything because, however clever your gambling system, the house always wins the rigged game, the British voters and their children will be dragged out of the EU against their will.🔷
Share this article now: