• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Tactical voting exemplifies the toxicity of ‘first-past-the-post’

BySimon Fern

May 6, 2015

I will not be voting tactically in the 2015 UK General Election. The political party I support has no conceivable chance of forming a government on May 8th when the results come pouring in, with only one MP at present they are unlikely to even have a tangible sway on the outcome of votes in the Commons.

We should not have to continue to vote for the party which we dislike the least, and we should never have to throw our support behind a candidate whom we do not genuinely support. The Guardian published a guide to voting tactically in this year’s election which suggested that to ensure a Labour win, some left-wing voters ought to lend their support to UKIP.

Our electoral system is outdated, ineffective and inspires antipathy and frustration. Though FPTP might guarantee a strong government, so too would a military coup or a one party system where we all rally unquestionably behind one glorious leader. There is nothing admirable about ‘strong government’; governments should be pliable to the touch of the electorate which mandates them. Why is it that the idea of coalition is seen as something terrifying by the tabloids? Why do we say ‘hung’ rather than ‘balanced’ parliament? Because powerful people favour systems which centralise and monopolise power, and are afraid of a more even distribution and reflection of political views.

When we feel that our vote counts for something more than an ‘other’ column in the post-election data-orgy, we are more likely to use it. In September 84% of eligible voters in Scotland showed out to vote on the referendum, because we cared about the decision we were taking and saw that it would have a genuine and tangible impact on the political landscape we inhabit. Maybe if we had a system where every vote counted, where governments were dependent on the outcome of the popular vote, more people would participate.

Yes, maybe that would mean UKIP gain representation, maybe even Britain First could end up with a seat, but so would the Green Party explode in representation, so would the Liberal Democrats see their number of seats increase. If we want to sing the praises of democracy, we need to accept that it will not always see our favoured position come out on top. For too long we have accepted political systems which are predicated on protecting the public from themselves, systems which once claimed to avoid mob rule by letting only the landed gentry vote, systems which compromise our agency in exchange for the patronising assurance that it is ‘better this way’. In the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats received 6.8m votes, by comparison Labour received 8.6m, because of the ludicrous nature of our system the former received only 57 seats compared to the latter’s 258 – this madness cannot continue. Change snow-balls over and gathers momentum, by siding with the established ‘major’ parties out of a fear of political instability all we do is reinforce toxic norms which hamper the progress towards a more proportional and representative system.

We do not need a ‘revolution’, as cappuccino sipping idiots might argue to their YouTube subscribers, we need reform, and for a mandate for such reform we need to demonstrate that the current system is broken. If we continue to return election results which show that the outcome is out of sync with the popular vote input, we can build an irrefutable platform for future change. If we vote for anything other than the party with which we most closely identify, we are complicit in a system which thrives on disingenuity. We should choose honesty over cynicism on May 7th.

Image: justgrimes, FLICKR


By Simon Fern

President 2016-2017 Comment Editor (2015-2016) Fringe Theatre and Dance Editor (2016) 4th Year History and English Literature student.

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