Day 3 of my inadvertent stumbling into a nest of nationalist indignation at the idea of ‘tactical voting.’
In my first post I repeated the tactical voting advice that others have devised and circulated. Then I reported some of the reaction. Today a small meditation on the subject itself and some more feelings and facts that have emerged.
One of the themes coming to the fore in online debate with me is what I can only assume is naïve or faux outrage at the very concept, the claim that it is ‘unprincipled.’
This paints a fine and dandy picture of how and why people vote. It is as if every vote in every election has only been and only should be cast after full and considered deliberation of the manifesto of each contending candidate.
Er, yes. Dream on.
Since one of the joys of democracy is the secrecy of the ballot, who knows what motivates people as they place the ‘X’ on the ballot paper in the polling booth? But from everything I’ve heard over the years I can guess at some of the reasons that haven’t involved prolonged philosophical consideration:
- an emotional attachment to a particular political party and what they stand for in general terms, regardless of their recent performance or current programme
- an emotional abhorrence no less deeply felt about another party and what it stands for
- a belief that candidate so-and-so is the least worst of a bad bunch
- a more positive feeling about a particular candidate because they have helped the voter or someone they know with a problem
- ‘My dad and his dad before him have always voted for [name of party]’
- a last minute decision as the pencil descends on the ballot paper
- and so on.
So when I’m challenged about the unprincipled nature of tactical voting I can assure people I feel no shame at all.
A second, diversionary, theme that has been confirmed is the one I reported in my first post on the subject – the fact that one (or is it two?) minor (ex-?) figures in one party have (maybe) urged ‘their’ voters to vote for another party in particular constituency(-ies). The reaction to what might at worst be a small error of judgement – although it might also be good sense – has verged on the hysterical, as if the individuals concerned had proposed the immediate abolition of democracy. As I say, a diversion, and an irrelevant one at that.
Thirdly, the furore has given new life to the ‘Vote X get Y’ scare tactic, exemplified by the SNP’s ‘If you vote Labour you’ll get the Tories.’ This of course is code, and an incorrect one at that, for ‘The only way to keep the Tories out is to vote SNP’ (other combinations of X and Y are available). This has been accompanied sometimes by the claim that ‘You’ll never get Tory/Labour voters to vote Labour/Tory,’ a doubtful proposition. Anyhow, the proponents of tactical voting, including me, have enough respect for individual voters to believe that they’ll make their own decisions for their own reasons and not be ‘owned’ by one party as the SNP clearly thinks they are.
In this stramash, some SNP figures with a party role, not just an SNP twibbon on their Twitter profile, have put their heads above the parapet following the lead I mentioned previously of their strategic communications director: I noticed one MP (Pete Wishart) and a few MSPs. Their purported repugnance at the idea of tactical voting confirms to me again that they see this as a real threat to their ability to win seats in the general election.
Which leads me neatly (and I have to thank @ptr_nln for alerting me to this) to the SNP’s own position on tactical voting.
Guess what? They’re in favour of it.
This is what the First Minister says:
Even if you don’t normally vote SNP at Westminster, lend us your vote this time so that we can hold Westminster to account and make Scotland’s voice heard.
That’s called soliciting tactical votes. Of course, she wrote it back on 4th January, perhaps with a Hogmanay hangover still buzzing around. And before they realised others might play the same game. Except of course the others are just a bunch of ordinary and diverse citizens, not a slick party machine that has the wit to dress the thing up and call it ‘lend us your votes.’
I’m hoping for four things now:
- I don’t have to write any more on this subject (although I’m not betting on it)
- the nationalist hypocrisy about tactical voting ceases forthwith (also not betting on that)
- the movement to vote tactically and keep the #SNPout grows in strength, and lastly and most importantly
- those best able to analyse all the available data, including opinion polls, continue to do so in order to give the rest of us authoritative and up to date advice on how to minimise the SNP’s impact on 5th May.