I believed in tactical voting for 18 years: long enough to make a voter.
In the early morning of 10th April 1992, I stayed awake until it was clear that Labour would not win – that we were in for five more years of Tory government with a 21-seat majority. No one predicted that.
“Tactical voting is disgraceful. You should vote for your party of choice, in the sure and certain knowledge that doing so is a complete waste of time, and your voice will never be heard.”
In the realms of what-if: If Labour had won, and Neil Kinnock had become Prime Minister, would Tony Blair – then Shadow Secretary of State for Employment, soon to become Shadow Home Secretary – have succeeded in becoming Prime Minister? (Certainly not in 1992.) If Kinnock had still been Prime Minister in 2003, would he have lied to the House of Commons to get Labour to vote for a war in Iraq? That’s one of the great what-ifs of history – would any other Labour PM but Blair have committed this crime in order to have the UK follow the US into war with Iraq against the clear will of the British people? Would Black Wednesday have been such a disaster if Gordon Brown, not Norman Lamont, had been Chancellor? (Quite probably.) Would the NHS be lumbered with so many hugely expensive PFI hospitals if Kinnock had won in 1992? (Probably not.) Was the delay in the Northern Ireland peace process caused by John Major’s dependence on the DUP vote for confidence and supply?
Yesterday, for the fourth time, the European Court of Human Rights ruled again that the UK is in breach of human rights by having a blanket ban on allowing convicted prisoners serving a custodial sentence the right to vote: it’s nearly ten years now since the UK was first ordered to make some change in this ban, and neither Labour nor Conservatives have cared to do so. (The ECHR has made no order for monetary compensation, which is the only thing likely to move either party.)
In October 2014, there were 7,755 prisoners serving a custodial sentence in Scotland: the imprisonment rate in Scotland is 147 out of 100,000 people (via the Howard League). Since August 2010, there has been a statutory presumption against convicted criminals being sentenced to short periods of imprisonment, unless the court can show reason why this should be so. From the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
“a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of three months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.”
If a person goes to jail, it will under most circumstances be because they committed an offence that the court decided mandated a sentence of four months at least. The general rule for any sentence of 12 months or less is that a prisoner will be released automatically on probation after they have served half their sentence.
At 3:44 PM on 4th Feb 2015, Kezia Dugdale, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, tweeted “FACT: The biggest party gets to form the next government”, added the hashtag #voteSNPgetTories, and a link to a Youtube video on the Scottish Labour Party channel.
While “Vote SNP Get Tories” is a valid slogan for the Labour Party to use – a tad simplistic, given the options of the Sorting Hat, but valid electioneering – to claim as “fact” that the party with the most seats gets to form the next government is wilfully misleading.
First-past-the-post voting systems don’t lend themselves to coalition government. But that’s what we’ve got, and there are four possible governments we could have after the General Election on 7th May 2015.
How we vote on that Thursday in just over three months time has very little to do with the government we’ll end up with. The rise in support for the Greens across the UK no more translates into increased numbers of MPs than the rise of support for UKIP means they’ll become a major party.
But the SNP are likely to be the third or fourth largest party in Westminster after May 2015. Electoral analysis shows a huge swing to the SNP across Scotland, which – if we had a more representative electoral system – could translate to over forty seats for the SNP (Labour down to seven MPs and LibDems to one), But just as the tremendous fall in LibDem support isn’t likely to be reflected in an equivalent loss of seats – Greens are more popular than LibDems but aren’t likely to do more than retain their one MP – the Labour wipeout isn’t expected to be as extreme as a naive reading of the polling figures would suggest.
Toscafund, an established asset manager based in London and Dubai, chaired by former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir George Mathewson, commissioned Professor Richard Rose to carry out seat by seat analysis of polling across the UK. For Scotland, their report says:
“A uniform ‘national’ movement of votes is unlikely because the SNP must jump from third to first place over different challengers in different parts of Scotland. Because the median Labour seat is held with a margin of 31.6 per cent over the SNP, any recovery by Labour would reduce the depth to which Labour plunged.”
I’m discounting the Voldemort option – Tory majority or Tory/UKIP coalition – because this is not a probable option. The Tories can’t win a majority, and UKIP can’t win enough seats to help them out.
In 100 days time, we go to the polls.
The next General Election for the UK will be held on 7 May 2015. The 2010-2015 Parliament will be dissolved on Monday 30 March 2015. The official timetable on the UK Parliament website is here.
Who will win?
To see a month-by-month poll of the polls for the previous month – more accurate than any individual poll could be – check out Electoral Calculus. You can also see the odds the bookies are placing on each party winning at BestBetting.
Conor Pope of LabourList wants to believe the Green Party are not a threat to Labour’s chances of winning in May and are not a major party.
In fact, Conor Pope thinks the Green Party are a joke and Labour shouldn’t be frightened of saying so.
He writes of the Green surge:
The latest Green surge, I would wager, comes largely from ex-Liberal Democrat voters. They are another party whose supporters are seen by too many within Labour as faithful who have lost their way, rather than actual opposition. A huge number, of course, ‘came home’ to Labour following Nick Clegg’s foray into the rose garden with Cameron five years ago. We have come to lose them because we have already treated them as though they are our voters by some divine right.
There are certainly left-wing voters who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 who will never be voting LibDem again – they voted Liberal Democrat because they believed this was a party that would push Labour from the left, not a party that would give us a Tory government most of us never voted for. Those left-wing voters were already lost to Labour because of the Iraq war, because of hospital PFI, because of tuition fees – for any of many reasons for rejecting Labour on the left. I think Conor Pope is right to say that Labour assumed that it could simply scoop up those votes as the only left-wing party remaining, without needing to change any of the right-wing policies which drove left-wing voters away from Labour.
I was a fairly consistent Labour voter: I plan to vote Green in May 2015. I am not alone.
On Thursday 7th May 2015, there will be a general election in the UK.
And then, short of hugely unlikely circumstances, there will not be another general election til 7th May 2020. (Or, with the approval of the House of Commons, any time up to two months later.)
There can only be a general election earlier than 7th May 2020 if either a majority vote in the Commons agrees “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government” and a saving majority is not found within fourteen days: or if at least 434 MPs vote to call an early parliamentary general election.
Neither is a likely option. If a party can command the loyalty of 434 MPs they have a 109+ majority in the Commons and are very unlikely to want an early general election.