General Election 2019: what is tactical voting and will it make a difference to the result?

“Voting is a chess move, not a Valentine” says author and activist Rebecca Solnit, in a quote that gets a lot of airplay during election time.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 12:54 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 1:00 pm
Tactical voting can be compared to a game of chess. (Picture: Shutterstock)

In such divided times, and with so much at stake, some would argue you should vote pragmatically rather than purely on principle.

With numerous websites now offering tactical voting guides, it’s worth asking whether trying to out-strategise the opposition actually works.

So, should you treat your vote like a chess move? Or are you better simply going with your gut?

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What is tactical voting?

Tactical voting is where you vote in the way most likely to produce the results you want to see - rather than simply picking the party or candidate most in line with your views.

That might seem like an odd distinction: surely voting for your preferred candidate improves their chance of winning, and is therefore the best way to get the results you want?

While that makes sense in theory, in reality there are parts of the country where certain candidates have absolutely no chance of gaining a meaningful number of votes.

For example, even if the Green Party is most in line with your political beliefs, there are places where they have no reasonable chance of winning.

Because Britain uses a First Past the Post system, whereby the winner of the General Election is the party that wins the most constituencies, getting a lot of votes does no-one any good if they are spread out amongst lots of second places.

In such circumstances, it can make more sense to vote for a candidate you wouldn’t normally support if they have a better chance of defeating the candidate you want to see kept out.

Tactical voting is essentially designed to prevent your worst-case scenario from coming true.

Does it actually work?

Tactical voting is believed to have played an important role in past elections, such as Tony Blair’s landslide Labour victory in 1997.

And for this year’s election, politicians themselves have made it clear that they will be acting tactically.

The Brexit Party have announced they will not stand in certain constituencies in an effort to drive all pro-Brexit voters towards a single party.

A number of websites and apps have already appeared, offering advice on how best to vote depending on which constituency you are a part of.

For many people, this election boils down to Brexit, so by voting tactically you can attempt to influence what happens next.