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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Tactical voting - trick or treat?

If your party of choice doesn't stand a chance and you don't want to waste your vote, you could always cast your lot with the lesser of the remaining evils.

Tactical voting could be a way of ensuring that your least-favourite choice does not get elected where you live. Now the Internet has made it easier to barter your votes with a similarly disgruntled constituent elsewhere.

In the last general election it is estimated that tactical voting caused 24 seats to change parties. Vote swapping also gained prominence in the US presidential election.

Will the Internet prompt you to buck the system? Do you think this a legitimate form of political expression? Or is this negative behaviour a sad reflection on the state of British democracy? Is it better not to vote at all?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

I'll definitely be tactically voting. I'll tell my wife I'm off to vote and go to the pub instead!
Andy, Lincs


Tactical voting is a disgusting abuse of democratic privilege

Jolyon Smith, Cambridge
Tactical voting is a disgusting abuse of democratic privilege. Yes "privilege", not "right". Men and women died and suffered so that we could benefit from a democratic system - it is not something handed down to us from on high. To abuse this privilege by voting against something rather than positively expressing a choice is an abomination in my mind. Whether the outcome is then "fair", as those pro-PR would argue it is not,(curious that those pro-PR are those that persistently fail to achieve power - hmmm), is a wholly different matter. But I have yet to see any proposed alternative which would have any better outcome than the current system.
Jolyon Smith, Cambridge, UK

Jolyon Smith says voting is a privilege, not a right. A privilege bestowed by and maintained by whom, may I ask? The monarchy? The global corporations? Given that a very senior member of the Thatcher cabinet once said that his party regarded democracy only as a currently expedient means to an end, Jolyon Smith's view is rather sinister. The objective of moving the Liberal party to become the main opposition is a valid and very positive objective. The level of political debate in this country would be vastly better. Even Edward Heath said that the Tories' reaction to everything is to yell blue murder. People who vote tactically are therefore doing so for the best of reasons.
Hadrian, Rugby

Jolyon, why is it a "disgusting abuse of democratic privilege" to say I want a Lib Dem MP, but if I can't have one, I'd rather have a Labour MP than a Tory representing me (or "I want a UKIP MP, but if I can't get that, I'd rather have a Tory than a Labour MP")?
Dave Riley, Cambridge, UK


I will select a fringe candidate - the loonier the better - to register my disgust

George, Hull, Yorkshire
Since when have people had to justify the way they vote? In the past I might have refused to vote tactically because of my strong socialist ideals, but after the fiasco of New Labour I am convinced that there is little to choose between the main parties so will select a fringe candidate - the loonier the better - to register my disgust.
George, Hull, Yorkshire

The current voting system is biased and unfair. It does not allow most people to get the MP that they voted for. However if people can not vote positively, then the system does allow them to vote negatively to prevent the election of the candidate that they like least. If this is the only way to make my vote count then I, like many others, will use that opportunity. The fact that at least 65% of the votes cast will not be for Labour and yet Labour will have 100% of the power is a national disgrace. It may suit Mr. Blair, but one day Labour will lose power and he may rue the day he spurned the opportunity to give our country a fair voting system. The voters are angry and volatile and support for Labour is shallow: next time Mr. Blair may find HE is the victim of "tactical voting".
James Oates, London

I voted tactically in the last election. A Lib Dem was elected and it was the worst mistake, he has a council mentality which makes him unable to comprehend national issues. I will vote with my convictions in the future, tactics are alright in a sporting context but not in a political one.
Sandy Ward, Cheshire

Ultimately the only people to gain by tactical voting are the Liberals. They do it against Labour in Newcastle at the local elections and against Conservatives in Berwick at the general elections. Their attachment to PR is pure self-interest, hoping to wield disproportionate influence playing the majority parties off against each other.
Steve Scott, Newcastle, England

I'll be voting tactically - anything to avoid returning Blair!
David Moran, Scotland/Australia


We need to ensure that the pressure is kept up for a fairer voting system

Geoff Hanlan, Cardiff, UK
Whilst I shall almost certainly vote tactically, against the Tories, we need to ensure that the pressure is kept up for a fairer voting system. This will be a long and hard road. For example, the experience of the Welsh Assembly will not endear all Labour members to PR despite it being a morally fair system. The lesson is simple: those in power are reluctant to share it. Consequently PR is unlikely to come without sustained campaigning after the election. This should also be part of a wider campaign for constitutional reform, e.g. for a written constitution.
Geoff Hanlan, Cardiff, UK

In the absence of a None Of The Above option, or being able to say what you want in a referendum, tactical voting is the only option unless you choose not to vote.
P, UK

I must say how delighted I am by the comments in this thread. I was first attracted to the old Liberal Party in the 1960s by their advocacy of PR, and it seems to me that the majority of the comments registered favour tactical voting as the best immediate response, with the introduction of PR as the best long-term solution. The British electorate seems to be gaining in sophistication and intelligence. Keep going to the logical outcome!
John Farrand-Rogers, Toluca, Mexico

Joint tactical voting empowers the individual voter and makes true the politicians' spin that "every vote counts".
Cliff, Johannesburg, South Africa


The Conservative would win if he were a pig with a blue rosette

Ron Blow, Louth
My situation is exactly the same as that of Mark from Middlesbrough - with the exception that I live in a rock-solid Tory seat. It was won in 1997 with 43% of the vote. The problem is that the centre-left vote divides almost equally between Labour and Lib Dem. Last time, although a lifelong Labour voter, I voted tactically Lib Dem on the basis a rural mid-Lincolnshire constituency would not elect a Labour MP until hell freezes over. So much for my opinion - Labour came second (though with only 29% of the vote). Do I stick with the Liberal Democrats or switch to Labour? Regrettably, the answer is neither. The Conservative would win if he were a pig with a blue rosette. I am not an atavistic Tory hater, but I have no sympathy at all with any of the things the Conservative party stands for.
Ron Blow, Louth, England

You vote for the policies you want if you have a chance of getting them. If everybody did vote for the party they wanted to win, the party who gains most from tactical voting would win many more seats! PR is the only solution in the meantime it is the right of individuals to make the best of it. Stop whining about tactical voting and have a fair system generally
Darren Watson, Newcastle UK

Let's give the Tories what they roundly deserve; a crushing defeat. And move them into third place behind the Liberal-Democrats.
Stan Thomas, Wrexham,UK

I know one person who is standing in this election who would be more than happy to talk to anyone in the constituency he is standing in - Hartlepool. Not Mandelson who is too busy scuttling round with a party of helpers at breakneck speed and is disinterested in the ordinary electorate - but Arthur Scargill, prospective parliamentary candidate for the Socialist Labour Party - a man of principle, humility, and one of the friendliest people you would ever care to meet. His policies demonstrate his commitment to real people, full employment, eradication of low pay and discrimination and a better deal for pensioners. Unfortunately, not everyone may get the opportunity to see him face to face because unlike the present incumbent of the House of Commons, Arthur is not being paid just for getting re-elected - he also has a full time job and more to do besides.
Linda Muir, Hull, East Yorkshire

First Past the Post encourages tactical or negative voting. It is time for the country to change from an old fashioned system of voting to a system where votes count and power is given back to the voter.
Douglas Maudsley, Lancaster, England


We are so disenfranchised that despite overwhelming public support for PR, we have no means of forcing a Government to listen

Chris, York, England
It's pleasing to see so many have made the one most obvious observation: tactical voting is a natural result of an electoral system which denies the electorate sufficient choice to vote both for a candidate and against a candidate, for a party and against a party. Multi-vote systems such as STV or AV+ are clearly more democratic. But we are so disenfranchised that despite overwhelming public support for PR, we have no means of forcing a Government to listen. The people are sovereign, not the political parties. Listen to us!
Chris, York, England

If it means getting rid of more Tories, then I think that tactical voting is the best thing since sliced bread.
Peter Lewington, Scrooby Notts.

I'm voting tactically on June 7th. Given the xenophobic Tories, taxation crazy Lib-Dems and politically correct, sexist (women only shortlists!), shallow non-ideology of Labour, my ideal candidate is Howling Laud Hope and cat. Unfortunately, they are not standing in my constituency, so it has to be my least offensive choice - nobody. I'm "staying at home"!
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

The only vote which is wasted or non-defensible is a vote not cast at all. Everyone should use their vote as they see fit and a lot of people today know that by voting tactically their vote can actually make a difference probably for the first time.
Martin, Colchester, England

In such situations, we have to see what statesmen said on the issue, not just run of the mill power hungry politicians. For example, in the case of Mahatma Gandhi, the means always justified the end rather than the other way round. If a party won by 'grey' means, then it could not be certain that it had democratically won the mandate to govern. This can only result in parliament being further alienated from the needs of the people, and the country weakened as a result.
Thedonkil Luminati, London, England

There is an alternative in vote swapping, which is better than outright tactical voting.
Simon Kilby, UK


Tactical voting only ensures that people's true wishes aren't represented

Claire, Huddersfield, England
Tactical voting only ensures that people's true wishes aren't represented. Take the plunge and vote for the party you believe in!
Claire, Huddersfield, England

It really is ironic for Tony Reeves to talk about losing respect for The Labour Party for suggesting his Lib Dem vote is a waste. The Lib-Dems and their ragbag of predecessors are and were the ultimate political opportunists. The likes of 'The Gang of Four' in the 80s were handed an unwarranted life raft through their espousal of tactical voting - how poetic that due a change in circumstances, it's possible that it might rebound on them in 2001.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

I had to register for a postal vote and the ballot paper took 8 days to reach me here in New Zealand. I cannot possibly get it back to the UK in time. I have effectively been disenfranchised. I wish I could say it was a tactical use of my right to vote however it is a disgraceful abuse of my right, where every vote against this arrogant Labour government needed to be counted.
David Page, Auckland, New Zealand

An attempt to rig tactical voting shows a blatant disregard for the thousands of people in the world who have given their lives in order for others like us to vote. Out of respect for them we should all use the opportunity and vote for whatever party in an informed way, so that as true a representation of the country as possible is made at an election. We are lucky to have the opportunity!
Paul Tiernan, Plymouth, UK

Rhodesia was 40 years behind us here in Australia, where we've had AV since the 1920s. Most of the time we've had Tory Governments, thank goodness. Voting tactically is a great idea, if you use it to get rid of Tony Blair and his fake compassion merchants. Freedom is waiting, if only Britons are still strong enough to take it up.
Peter, Australia

New Zealand had the British problem of First Past the Post and we changed to Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). This system would still allow British electors to use tactical voting in deciding who would be best as their local MP, but would allow them a 'party vote' to decide the overall make-up of the Commons. This would seem sensible but could hand excessive power to the Lib-Dems, who would ultimately have the balance of power all of the time.
Nick Leggett, Porirua City, New Zealand


I will vote with my heart, because in my constituency my heart has a chance of winning

Peter Cudmore, Edinburgh, Scotland
I will vote with my heart, because in my constituency my heart has a chance of winning, but it is fatuous to believe that these questions are black and white. My priority is still to exclude the conservatives at any price, but here they have no hope so I can safely vote with my conscience, which is and always has been Lib-Dem. That much is not controversial; this may be: if you want serious opposition to the next government, vote Lib-Dem, because sure as eggs is eggs, the Tories are going to continue tearing themselves apart.
Peter Cudmore, Edinburgh, Scotland

The first comment is nonsense - the system is already rigged. Hasn't everyone noticed that out of 650 odd seats around 150 have been bombarded with speeches, visits and battle buses - this is because first past the post dictates that only marginals count. Why shouldn't voters grab attention by making their constituency marginal as well, if this means voting against a party as opposed to for one, so be it. As the Lib-Dems argue, this is simply DIY-PR, and perhaps the best example of public engagement in politics.
Russell Allen, West Sussex, UK

Tactical voting is fair and democratic. As is voting for any other reason. There is no God-given law that says people have to vote for the candidate they want. They can also vote against something they don't like. That's why it's a democracy.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

If Anthony Walker doesn't understand that tactical voting means 1% of voters have the power to control the decision of the remaining 99% then I guess he doesn't understand maths at all.
Paul R, UK

I think that the a large number of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters agree that the Tories should become the 3rd party of UK politics. After the election they will rip themselves apart whatever happens so to get an effective government and opposition we need to use tactical voting.
Guy Robinson, Aylesbury, UK


Voters should not have to act like lemmings when they go to the polls

Jason, Aldershot
Watch out pollsters because the recent growth of support for the liberals and slight drop in the Labour rating could be down to the tactical voters who are stuck in seats where a Conservative sits nearly unchallenged. I want Labour to win but I am voting Liberal Democrat to try to get change things. Voters should not have to act like lemmings when they go to the polls but instead are forced to by this current unfair system.
Jason, Aldershot

It's funny, but the only parties that actually gain from tactical voting are the Lib-Dems or the SNP. I think it says a lot about the people who do tactically vote, that they would vote for a candidate who they know very little about and whose policies they probably have not looked at in any detail. Is it democracy? Absolutely not. We talk about politicians as having no principles - think about it.
Tim Whyte, London

I live in an area that has had a conservative MP for the last 75 years! Labour and Liberal pole within one percent of each other. So my tactical voting will consist of choosing Liberal or Labour. As a student who opposes tuition fees it will have to be the liberals this time around.
Ant, Cambridge, UK

The Tories have become a far right extremist party and anything that reduces their representation is a good thing. Voters should vote for whichever candidate stands the best chance of defeating the Tory. In most cases that will be the Labour candidate but in many cases it will be the Lib-Dems or even the SNP. TVAT - Tactical Voting Annihilates Tories!
Richard Cotton, London, UK

Can I ask for guidance on voting tactically in Brentwood, where Martin Bell is standing as an Independent. My instinct tells me that only disgruntled conservatives will vote for Bell, leaving open the possibility of a Lib Dem victory - but there are a number of "white suit" posters on display. Help.
Joy, Brentwood, Essex, UK

PR is not the answer to tactical voting. It merely produces weak coalition or minority governments without local representation. Indeed, in Italy, they have recently converted from a proportional list-based system to First Past the Post. The answer lies, in my opinion, in the alternative vote system where a voters picks a hierarchy of candidates, i.e. first choice second choice, etc. The first choice votes are counted and if no candidate has a majority, the bottom candidate is removed and his second choice votes distributed, and so on! This is a more proportional system although it usually still produces a majority government, provides local representations and is more accountable (as the candidate now requires over 50% of the votes to win)
Eddie Akerman, nr Chippenham, Wilts

Tactical voting means that one is voting against a party, instead of for a party. That's perfectly legitimate. In this case, as an inveterate BBC-watcher I have been quite shocked by the broadcasts of the Conservative Party. Very, very similar to the kind of material the "Vlaams Blok" puts out in this city. I would vote against them if I could!
Manu, Antwerp, Belgium

I tactically voted at the last election because I thought it was bout time the Tories realised that they had become a bitterly divided party. Never again will I do this. A woolie self-publicist of the Lib Dem party was elected and had a local council mentality, not able to grasp national issues. Far better to have a system similar to Australian where I believe there is a box which states "none of the above" so that if you don't agree with any of the parties at least you can say so. Tactical votes are negative giving a false reading to government's and peoples alike.
sandy ward, Cheshire


Tactical voting is smart modern politics

Wayne, London, England
Tactical voting is smart modern politics. It shows electors thinking about how to get the 'least worst' option in their constituency. This country has a progressive centre left majority split between Labour and Lib Dems. Tactical voting brings the two together to keep the troglodyte Tories in never-never land. It's a victory for common sense.
Wayne, London, England

Conventional tactical voting is not good enough for this general election. One extra New Labour MP will have no political effect because such people have to keep quiet and do what they are told. One less conservative MP might have the perverse effect of driving policy slightly to the right as New Labour attempts to appease its newly converted Tory supporters. If you are progressive, you should not worry about fantasy Tory threats but real dangers from New Labour's right wing excursions. The only way for a progressive to have any influence is to consider votes rather than MPs and that means voting for one of the smaller parties such as the Socialist Alliance or the Green Party. New Labour might then be deterred from its more extreme ideas of privatising and bullying the public sector.
G.Wexler, Cambridge UK

I will not be voting in this election for the simple reason that I don't believe any of the parties are capable of running a successful administration. If the UK were a company it would now be in receivership.
Andrew Caswell, Durham, UK

Voting tactically is wasting your vote because, by definition, you are not voting for the party you want to win. It therefore distorts democracy. What is unknown in Britain is just how much tactical voting has been going on for years. I live in a Tory/Lib-Dem marginal (majority 56) but I don't want either of them to win so I won't vote for either of them. The only message the local Lib-Dems ever put out is "vote for us because Labour can't win here". The only reason they can challenge the Tries is because Labour voters have voted tactically all along. On another point, can someone who supports tactical voting tell me when they vote again for the party they support. I ask this because once you get the Tory out you have to keep voting tactically to keep them out. Does this make you a permanent Lib-Dem voter? My view is that if everyone voted honestly the Lib-Dems would be almost wiped out. When we had Constituency based European elections here the Lib-Dems came fourth because people voted honestly.
George Forsyth, Tolworth, Surrey, UK

I don't think it matters who you vote for, tactical voting only highlights the dishonesty in our society and ourselves. What we need is, proportional representation, the only honest decent democratic way. The people must have noticed that the Labour party has become the New Tory Party and that the old Tories have become an unelectable, Nationalist, Isolationist Party. As for the rest, they have no real say at all. The only certainty is that if elected, all Parties will, lie, cheat, deceive and line their own pockets at our expense. I think it is time we had a revolution in this country and became a real democracy
Steve Rothery, Stowmarket Suffolk


A tactical vote is as legitimate as any other

Kevin Parker, UK
A tactical vote is as legitimate as any other - and is just as principled. I could accept either the Lib-Dem's or Labour's manifesto, but desperately want to avoid a return of a Conservative government. I would most certainly vote tactically to keep the Tories out.
Kevin Parker, UK

Of course, everyone has a right to use their vote as they wish. It's the pragmatists who cast their vote tactically for the party or candidate with the policies that come closest to their own beliefs. We should realise that all systems have their flaws, and we could discuss the merits of alternative systems all day. Tactical voting is the recognition of the flaws in the current first past the post system.
Van Dieu, London, UK

A lot of people have been advocating PR. I am totally against the system as a Libertarian, because I think we should put people before organisations; in this case candidate before party. This would be lost under the glorious PR system that everyone loves to support.
Dave MM Watson, UK


Tactical voting is really no different from PR

Steve, UK
Tactical voting is really no different from PR, especially the preferential voting version. The Tories are the natural losers from tactical voting and would suffer even more under PR because most people basically want a centre-left coalition. Its time for the Tories to come to their senses, otherwise Charles Kennedy may become leader of the opposition and then the pressure for electoral reform will really mount.
Steve, UK

People have as much of a democratic right to say whom they DON'T want elected as much as who they do want.
Peter Kinsley, Bournemouth, Dorset

Tactical voting is democracy for our time - once again rather than wait for the government to provide something people want (fair votes) we have to go out and arrange it ourselves.
Dave Riley, Cambridge, UK


It is very amusing to hear the Conservatives complaining about a system that kept them in power for 18 years

Dr D.J Brooks, Braintree, Essex
This is the third General Election in which I will be voting tactically. It is very amusing to hear the Conservatives complaining about a system that kept them in power for 18 years, but now seems to work against them. The simple answer to the problem is to have a PR elected chamber as the Upper House, with more power to prevent Parliamentary excesses such as the Poll Tax.
Dr D.J Brooks, Braintree, Essex

Tactical voting is unfair, and it is why there is so much apathy in the public because it shows how the system can be rigged.
Simon James, Wolverhampton, England

Tactical voting is ethical, if not idealistic. I voted tactically at the last election. I favoured Gore, my cousin favoured the Greens. If a few more people had done the same the gas and oil party might not rule the US today.
J Quinn, Texas, USA

Watch out pollsters because the recent growth of support for the liberals and slight drop in the Labour rating could be down to the tactical voters. Voters should not have to act like lemmings when they go to the polls but instead are forced to by this current unfair system.
Jason, Aldershot Constituency

Tactical voting is a wasted vote. I did this at the last election as a protest against a complacent Tory government. The MP elected was a Lib Dem who it transpired did a worse job than his predecessor. I will not make the same mistake again. The system should be changed, possibly to the Australian one of having a box to tick stating 'none of the above.'
Sandy Ward, Cheshire


Tactical Voting can only help by raising political awareness

Steve Tripp, Iowa, USA
The Electoral system here in the US has become such a farce that a simple gimmick like tactical Voting can only help by raising political awareness. Our system may be beyond fixing. There is simply too much corruption in our government. It cannot help its own people anymore.
Steve Tripp, Algona, Iowa, USA

A Labour canvasser asked me who I was going to vote for, and when I answered "Libs Dems" he said that was a wasted vote. What respect I ever had for the Labour party vanished at that moment. It is not a wasted vote because it registers my opinion and preference. PR or AV is the way to resolve the unfairness that true voting can sometimes result in.
Tony Reeves, Scunthorpe, N. Lincs, UK

Labour and the Tory party cannot complain. They have been using the tactical vote argument for a century and more. If they don't like people using it against them, they should sort the voting system out.
Malcolm Hewson, Bradford on Avon, England

A vote is a vote - it can be used to vote for something, or against something. I would vote against the Conservatives, and if that coincided with that vote actually being for the party I preferred, then so much the better.
Carol Mason, Somerset, UK


People will do anything to wipe out the Tories

Jon Bithrey, Newbury, UK
Tactical voting in this election is just another way of saying people will do anything to wipe out the Tories. Until that party realise they need to increase their number of gay and lesbian MPs, it will continue to suffer in this way
Jon Bithrey, Newbury, UK

Here in Maidstone the majority of people either did not vote for Ann Widdecombe or they abstained. Labour have managed to reduce her majority to under 10,000 - overtaking the Lib Dems in the process. Lets have one last push and get rid of this woman! All you Lib Dem voters who really want to see the back of her - you can do it this time! Vote Labour.
Denny, Maidstone, Kent, UK

To vote is a right, and how you use your vote is also a right. The only people who seem to be against tactical voting are political parties. If they offer the voter a realistic chance to make a change then they will get the people's vote, if not people will vote for the least of the evils on offer. So if the electorate vote tactically and the parties don't like it, they have only themselves to blame.
A Tym, Northwich, Cheshire, UK

In some ways tactical voting is better than PR. With tactical voting in this country you vote to keep one party out of government, and the other has a sensible majority. Compare this to the German system where PR is in force, and for many years the third party (approx centre) has had control by forming a coalition with either left or right. As they always have the ability to say "well if you don't do the policies we like then we'll form a government with the other side" then they are in effective control with the minority of the vote. This is clearly unfair on the electorate, probably even more so than tactical voting.
Mark, Cambridge, England

Life would be free of this sort of tenuous moral decision if we had a system which reflected the actual wishes of the electorate: one where you could vote against your least favoured candidate/party.
David Buxton, Cambridge, England


Tactical voting and vote-swapping are natural outcomes of a system which denies the voter choice

Chris Keating, Cambridge
Tactical voting and vote-swapping are natural outcomes of a system which denies the voter choice. Rather than abstaining, making a hopeless vote, or spoiling their paper voters can trade votes to try to reach their preferred outcome. It's a clear sign that voters want to be able to indicate preferences between candidates, and that they want to elect an MP who closely shares their views. Single transferable vote is the best system for this, though AV+ is a good second best. The government should pay attention and help the electorate do what they're going to do anyway.
Chris Keating, Cambridge

Internet tactical voting sites help voters to inform themselves. They are playing a valuable role in our democracy. Further, by allowing voters in marginal constituencies to swap tactical votes they are helping to smooth out the wrinkles in the first-past-the-post system by reducing the number of 'wasted' votes. Until we get a more proportional electoral system, tactical voting allows voters to make more of their opinions count.
David Pepper, London, UK

Do I vote for the party or candidate who most closely represents my views (and "waste" my vote) or do I vote so that the party I least want to see get in doesn't? Do I decline to vote as a "protest" and dishonour those who died for my right to vote? Unfortunately democracy in Britain really is a sham. With the first past the post party system for your vote to count at all you have to decide whom to vote against. Even PR (of whatever flavour) is not truly democratic. If we are to have a truly representative democracy we have to get rid of the party system altogether and vote for the person who most nearly represents our views. Let's devise a fair system of non-party voting and campaign for that.
Rafiq Mahmood, Edinburgh, Scotland

Tactical voting would be pointless if either the SDP-wing of the LDs became annihilated, leaving a real Liberal Party, or the current election system was replaced by a simple yes/no vote of confidence in the sitting MP at the dissolution.
James Dowden, Birmingham, UK

Over the last few years I have begun to realise how undemocratic the system is in this country. In my constituency about 40% of the electorate will "waste" their votes on Thursday - voting for candidates who have no hope of winning. PR is a much fairer system. If the Tories can do badly enough in this election then hopefully they will see that they stand to gain by a system of proportional representation. Taking up a point made by an earlier respondent I agree that we should be able to officially abstain by voting "white" as is done in some countries, thereby showing that we can be bothered to vote but that no candidates appeal sufficiently.
Tony, Horsham, UK


I have decided to use the internet's tactical voting to make my vote count

Verity Odd, Sutton, UK
I am a 19-year-old voter. This will be my first general election. In my constituency it is a Tory/ Lib Dem race with Labour and other parties having no chance. I have decided to use the internet's tactical voting to make my vote count. It is a good way of being counted and could make the fist past the post voting system a little more accountable. I believe that PR could solve some problems and give the Lib Dems a better chance of being heard.
Verity Odd, Sutton, UK

If people want to vote tactically, that's their right, so long as it doesn't degenerate into vote rigging. It seems to me that most of the people whining about PR are Lib-Dem voters. Surprise, surprise: they can't get anywhere in the current system, so they wish to change it. I don't want PR, it will lead to weak coalition governments as seen on the continent. I would rather have a strong government, even if they're the antithesis of my political views - at least the country will have some direction and focus and not completely dilly-dally.
Malc, London, Canada

Making the best of a system which isn't based on proportional representation - but should be - is quite understandable and should be encouraged. This is especially so when tactical voting between Labour and Lib Dems involves political parties which share certain values and policies
David Bowtell, Wokingham, UK


Rhodesia had the single transferable vote in the early 1960s

David Leaver, Cicinnati, Ohio, USA
There's one country with a poorer historical reputation for global justice than even the UK or the USA - and I'm a citizen of both. That paragon of electoral virtue Rhodesia had the single transferable vote in the early 1960s. Way ahead of both so-called leading democracies, which persist in electing reactionary non-entities (any number of Tories is one too many).
David Leaver, Cicinnati, Ohio, USA

If you are a Liberal prepared to vote tactically you have no right to moan about Labour. Who's getting desperate now Mr Blair?
R Paul Williams, Delyn Constituency, Wales, UK

The tactical voting debate makes the previously arcane arguments about PR much sexier. The direct threat of imminent political death (e.g. remember Michael Portillo in 1997) makes for great, dramatic television. Now that the merits of PR are much easier to explain to the electorate because of such concrete examples, tactical voting must surely be endorsed by anyone who wants to see a fairer election system for UK General Elections.
Christopher Norris, London, England

Like many of the others, I think some sort of PR is the only solution to tactical voting. My preference is the single transferable vote, since that allows you to express both who you would ideally see in government and who you really don't want.
Michael, Glasgow, Scotland

There are now several left-of-centre parties who agree on many issues. There is only one major party on the right which wishes to implement policies of reaction and intolerance. With our present unfair electoral system tactical voting is a natural result.
John Shipton, Whitland, UK


voting tactically is perfectly acceptable

Chris, Nottingham, England
Since it's my vote then it is surely for me to use as I see fit. As ordinary members of the public we have few opportunities to make our feelings known to Parliamentarians and so I feel that voting tactically is perfectly acceptable.
Chris, Nottingham, England

Tactical voting is a form of PR that the public have realised works in our unfair system - instead of voting first and second choice though, we simply leave out our first choice if they can't win, and go straight for our second choice. So if you believe in PR then vote tactically. If you hate PR then don't.
Alex Last, Oxford, UK

Labour are only advocating tactical voting, because they're scared stiff of proportional representation.
David Gatenby, Duesseldorf, Germany


I do not want a Local MP

Blake Edwards, Rugby, UK
There would be no need for tactical voting if we had PR. Gone are the days where we actually need a local MP representing us in the commons. The whole election is more geared up to which government you want rather than which local MP you want. I do not want a Local MP.
Blake Edwards, Rugby, UK

The big players in tactical voting are the DUP. It is disgusting how they can play parties off each other for the sake of the "Union".
Robert Beckett, Derry, N. Ireland

The increase in tactical voting suggests the electorate is getting more intelligent about voting. People are now seeing the system for what it is, and how it works, and using it accordingly. A fair, democratic system, in which everyone's vote counts without having to resort to "tactics" has to be the answer.
Cath, Scotland

Tactical voting is a by-product of the current unfair voting system. Of course, proportional representation has its fair share of disadvantages as well, such as the lack of any "local MPs". The best compromise is to go the way of the Australian electoral system - preferential ballots. Such a system would not only benefit smaller parties, but also give voters more of a feeling that their vote counts.
Toby Inkster, London, England


The only party who have officially gone on the record as promoting tactical voting is the Conservatives

Robert Irons, London, UK
To all those who think that the Lib Dems are always promoting tactical voting: this is complete and utter nonsense. The party distanced itself immediately from the candidate in Norfolk who instructed voters to vote Labour. In fact, the only party who have officially gone on the record as promoting tactical voting is the Conservatives today. We can only hope that after this election, we either get a fair and representative voting system in the shape of proportional representation, or that the Conservative party splits in two just like Labour did in the early 1980s!
Robert Irons, London, UK

Why should tactical voting always be talked of as anti-Tory? They are not in power. They are not likely to be in power. Labour are and if you want to send them a message you should vote against them for their nearest opponents.
Neil, Manchester, UK

Even if yours is a safe seat for your last-choice party you should consider a tactical vote for the likely second placed party. The same number of seats for more share of the vote adds to the case for PR - a system in which every vote is taken into account.
John, London, UK

Voting for a political party is only a limited form of expression, in that parties' policies are rarely 100% what you wish for. Tactical voting simply substitutes the voting-in of a party you only half like for the voting-out of a party you wholly despise.
Paul Hankinson, London, UK


Tactical voting by partnership with another tactical voter is a form of proportional representation

Allan Rankine, Beds, UK
Tactical voting by partnership with another tactical voter is a form of proportional representation. The major parties are selfishly ignoring the wish of the people for better democratic representation. The trend of apathy will steadily increase until they are either forced to do something about it, or give way to a party that will.
Allan Rankine, Beds, UK

1983. Labour poll 27.6%, get 209 seats. Lib/SDP alliance poll 25.4%, get 23 seats. Almost same number of votes equals 8 times the number of seats. Meanwhile the Tories, having polled just 42.4% have a huge majority. And this is democracy is it? Until the unfairness of first-past-the-post is dealt with, tactical voting is all we can do to 'correct' the result, albeit only slightly. Stop the madness - introduce PR.
Mufit Bolgil, Bordon, Hants, UK

If you need to cheat the system for your vote to be counted, then the system is wrong and not the cheating.
Dave Lock, Cardiff, Wales

I have just had a brief play with the wonderful BBC virtual poll and even when 70% vote for other parties the labour party will win by 61 seats. Hardly a democratic country is it? Can we all not learn that there is only one option in this election? Tactical voting is unlikely to achieve anything. The voters must all avoid voting for the two main parties and vote only for those that will change the system to that which truly represents the wishes of the majority.
Dr James McCormick, Norfolk

Any legal vote is valid. If it leads to a result that some don't like then they need to live with it.
Chris Hann, USA


The majority of people here wish to elect a centre-left MP

Mark Bailey, Ribble Valley, UK
I live in the Tories' twelfth safest seat where Nigel Evans has a 6000 majority (with 26,000) over the Lib Dems. Labour have always come third with around 9000 votes. As 55% of the people here don't want to see the Tory party, more right wing and extreme than ever win the seat, the Lib Dems are urging Labour voters to tactically vote for them. In my opinion, as long as we are still able to exercise our democratic right, then tactical voting is fair enough. After all the majority of people here wish to elect a centre-left MP, not a right wing one.
Mark Bailey, Ribble Valley, UK

Having moved constituency, there is no chance of the party I have always supported winning this seat. Therefore I vote tactically in the hope that the party I like the least will not win the seat. This I consider to be a legitimate use of my, repeat, my vote.
A F Mylam, Cornwall, UK

Anything is justifiable if it keeps the Tories out. The Tories have abused the system for decades with "back pocket" press and media toadies and huge spending advantages. The boot is on the other foot now! To Blair and Kennedy I say "Kick 'em hard".
Graham Walker, Brownhills, England

Just to say that I believe in tactical voting. As long as we keep out the Tories any kind of tactical voting is great. We cannot have them destroying the working class again, and I am ashamed to think that Billy boy was born in my town.
Alan Earnshaw, Rotherham, S Yorkshire, UK


We should be allowed to spoil the ballot paper

Martin Gower, Winchester
I think that rather than tactical voting we should be allowed to spoil the ballot paper, and the number of spoilt papers declared would give a true representation of what the voters think.
Martin Gower, Winchester

Personally, as an ideological liberal I could never vote tactically. Yet all voting is a matter of making, often imperfect, moral choices. I have every sympathy with those who believe that, in a country with a perverse system of popular representation and little positive to choose between parties, they must cast their vote for a lesser evil.
Tim Cooper, Oxford, England

When we get PR I will vote green. Until then, if I am living in a Conservative area like Salisbury, I will vote Green to register my opinion, and if I live in an area that can return Lib Dem or Labour I will vote for whoever stands the better chance of winning.
Richard Scrase, Brussels, Belgium

Tactical voting is in the interests of only one party. The Liberals have long been moribund, with a non-entity as a leader. They will try any trick to get votes. Lord Taylor will tell you all about that when he contested and lost the Cheltenham seat in 1992. More recently look at the spurious and offensive logic Simon Hughes came out with linking William Hague to the Oldham race riots. As for me, I'll be voting Labour
Robert, Reading, UK


The definition of tactical voting is surely to restrict one's choice to the two front-runners

Laurence Boyce, Cambridge, UK
The Lib Dems are always urging people to vote tactically - for them of course, not anyone else. But the definition of tactical voting is surely to restrict one's choice to the two front-runners. Whatever the local situation may be, nationally the two front-runners are Labour and Conservative. Now while a seat may be won with 40% of the vote or less, to form a government, at least 51% of the seats are required. Therefore by voting Lib Dem, the best one can hope for is a hung parliament, which in practice means a Labour based coalition.
Laurence Boyce, Cambridge, UK

Any system will result in people behaving in such a way as to best get what they want; this extends to voting systems. If tactical voting is a logical way in some circumstances to achieve a goal, then to believe that this is unacceptable is to believe that the system must be changed.
Jon, London, UK

Until the unfair British electoral system changes, tactical voting will continue to be a positive option in supporting the candidate most likely to keep out the most hated one, probably the Tory in most constituencies.
John Gordon, Glasgow, Scotland

I wish there was no such thing as tactical voting. If you don't want it, then support PR. If you love the first-past-the post system then shut up bleating about tactical voting and learn to live with it because it is here to stay, and it is the Tories that will continue to be the main losers.
Jon, Doncaster, England


I signed up to a tactical voting web site and am delighted!

Dr Richard Hoskins, Bath, UK
Tactical voting is an excellent way for people to maximise their voting intention and avoid wasting a vote. Without proportional representation the current system means that a majority of people often do not get their wishes. I signed up to a tactical voting web site and am delighted!
Dr Richard Hoskins, Bath, UK

At the last election Labour got 44% of the vote yet got about 65% of the seats. They were a minority government with a big majority. Tactical voting is just another result of an unfair voting system. Something to point out to Fraser, if there was a fair voting system the Lib Dems would have about 110 seats in Parliament compared to the 47 they have just now.
James, Fife, Scotland

Sometimes tactical voting is the only way your vote will count in the present first-past-the-post system. The vote was hard to come by for most of the population so not voting should not be an option. Maybe we should be like Australia and fine those who do not vote.
Lin Beckett, Broadstairs, Kent

Francis Maude was spot on today when he said that the Lib Dems say to Labour voters that they are 'anti-Tory', and then turn around to Tory voters masquerading as 'anti-Labour'. It seems to me that there is no point in voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats, as nobody knows what they really stand for. Tactical voting is a statement on the country's disillusionment with politics, but it would be an even bigger disaster for democracy if Britain were left with a House of Commons full of left wing MPs.
Mark Pengelly, Reading, UK

Tactical voting is a symptom of the ridiculous first-past-the-post system which we have in this country. With the system of PR and constituency seats as proposed by the Jenkins Commission called AV+ all votes would have significance, eliminating the problem of tactical voting and voter apathy which will undoubtedly be huge on 7th June.
Chris, Cambridge, UK


Tactical voting is the only way for us to feel our vote is worth something

Jon Upton, Feltham, Middlesex, UK
Until we have an electoral system of proportional representation, it seems that tactical voting is the only way for us to feel our vote is worth something. I will be voting for a party I don't normally support simply to register that I don't want to see a Conservative returned to parliament.
Jon Upton, Feltham, Middlesex, UK

I believe that the House of Lords should become a place where we can express our vote in a proportional way. The authority of the House of Lords should be increased and renamed. The lower house should remain the same as it is today so that I can directly vote for my representative and if people wish to vote tactically that is their choice. If people decide to vote tactically they should vote to prevent labour from having such a huge majority.
Greg Yerbury, Bolton, UK


The left is at an inherent disadvantage

Dan, Cambridge, UK
With two parties of the left fighting against one party of the right in a constituency-based system, the left is always going to be at an inherent disadvantage. If the Tories take 22,000, Labour 15,000 and the Lib Dems 12,000 then it is clear that a majority of the electorate desires a centre-left MP. But what do they get? A Tory. Tactical voting is not the ideal solution - proportional representation is the answer - but until the electoral system is fundamentally reformed, it remains the best mechanism to prevent the Tories winning seats through the back door.
Dan, Cambridge, UK

Tactical voting is all very well, but sometimes a respected MP has to bear the brunt of it.
David, Alton, Hampshire

The constituency I live in is a fairly strong Tory seat. I have no desire to see this continue, preferring the Lib Dem candidate as being the strongest for this area. Sadly I know they won't get in here, so my labour vote will help remove the Tories. Yes it's tactical voting, but it gets us closer to where we would like to be.
Matt Seymour, Stamford Bridge, UK

Would it not be better if Britain adopted a combination of proportional representation and constituency seats, to avoid 'wasted ' votes?
R Gani, Johannesburg, South Africa


Tactical voting is a necessary evil

Stewart Morris, Cambridge, UK
Tactical voting is a necessary evil. Britain has a centre-left majority split between two parties, while right-wing voters only have one party to choose. This enabled the Tories to win four successive elections with the majority of the country against them. The only solution is STV, which allows you to vote with your first preference for the party which your conscience tells you to vote for, and with your second preference for the party with the best chance of defeating those who you completely oppose.
Stewart Morris, Cambridge, UK

Time to introduce a fair voting system where the popular vote is considered and shortfalls are compensated with additional seats. True Democracy is about different parties and opinions coming together and compromise on issues, as they do for example in coalitions. Until we introduce a wider spectrum of opinions into Parliament our democracy will continue to decline.
Ralph Benker, UK

People should be allowed to vote as they see fit. However, it often makes for a wholly unrepresentative and undemocratic result. In Scotland for example the Lib Dems take a number of seats with approximately half of the Conservative vote, while the Conservatives get none. Tactical voting tends to benefit only one party, the Lib Dems, giving them disproportionate representation. It amazes me that they want to change a system in which they are the only benefactors.
Fraser Crawford, Erskine, Scotland


Tactical voting will continue until proportional representation is introduced

Charles Lucy, London, UK
Tactical voting is a just response to a distorted system of democracy. The two major parties are in the "pay" of big business and the British establishment; hence tactical voting will continue until proportional representation is introduced. Although by that time a British Parliament will probably be even more irrelevant and redundant.
Charles Lucy, London, UK

According to the BBC's "virtual vote", if the Lib Dems, Labour and the Tories each got 33% of the vote, the result would be: Labour 335 seats, Tories 193 and Lib Dems 100 seats. Tactical voting is the only opportunity to bring some vague semblance of fairness to the insanely undemocratic first past the post system.
Joe McNamee, Brussels, Belgium

Joe of Brussels said that with 33% of the vote for each main party Labour would have a huge numerical advantage over the others. So why do Lib Dems want to help Labour more when Labour do nothing for them? Vote for who you agree with, not out of expediency.
Guy, Derby, UK

Since we don't have PR I'll vote tactically. I'm a Labour voter traditionally, but I'm new to this area, and the best chance to keep the Tory out is by voting SNP. If your party is going to be a poor third in your constituency it is a waste of time voting for their candidate, until we have proportional representation where every vote does count.
Simon, Dumfriesshire, Scotland


We should consider banning opinion polls


Paul R, UK
Tactical voting is a cynical attempt by a minority to overturn the wishes of the majority. If the practice proves to be widespread I think we should consider banning opinion polls.
Paul R, UK

Paul R says that tactical voting is an attempt by a minority to beat a majority. Not very good at maths, Paul? Tactical voting is exactly the attempt of the majority to beat the minority. It wouldn't work otherwise.
Anthony Walker, Oxford, UK

There is nothing wrong at all with voting tactically to avoid the outcome you don't want. I have not voted for my party of choice in this election for that very reason.
Paul, UK

I couldn't vote tactically: my conscience wouldn't let me. Besides, can you see Helen Liddell or Brian Wilson telling the people of Perth to vote SNP?
Richard, Edinburgh, Scotland

First-past-the-post is a rigged system, designed to suit the needs of the Labour/Conservative duopoly rather than the needs of the electorate. Until we get a fair and proportional voting system, tactical voting is a perfectly legitimate form of democratic expression.
Daniel Blackburn, London, England

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15 May 01 |  Vote2001
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