Vote swapping was credited with taking seats from the Tories in the 2001 general election, so should claimants be doing it now?
This election is on a knife edge.
The Conservatives are pouring huge amounts of money into identifying and contacting a tiny number of undecided voters – perhaps 40,000 – in key marginals. If they succeed in persuading them to vote Tory, the election may well be theirs.
This is a tactic that won’t even show up in the polls.
So, should claimants – who have the most to lose if the Tories get in – also be resorting to ‘under the radar’ tactics, such as vote swapping and tactical voting?
Vote swapping is a kind of DIY proportional representation, allowing your vote to be placed somewhere where it might count, rather than being pointless.
So, for example, if you are a Labour supporter in a safe Conservative seat then your vote is wasted.
But there may be a Green supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal with a very small Labour lead. Their heart says vote Green, but their head says that doing so increases the chances of the Tories getting in.
So, you swap votes.
The Labour supporter in a safe Tory seat votes Green. It won’t get the Greens a seat, but it will increase their national vote share. The Green supporter votes Labour, knowing that they’ve helped reduce the chances of a Tory success and also added an extra vote to the Green’s total.
The same could be true if you’re a Labour supporter in a very safe Labour rather than Conservative seat. You may feel that your vote could be put to better use elsewhere and look to do a vote swap.
If swapping votes with a Green or labour supporter appeals to you, there’s the Vote Swap website devoted solely to Labour/Green swaps which you might want to check out.
When we visited, the site claimed to have arranged almost 10,000 swaps already.
Lib Dem/Labour swaps
Labour and Green supporters are likely to be fairly equal in their antipathy towards the Conservatives. So there’s a good chance your vote swap partner will honour their side of the bargain?
But what if you are in a Lib Dem/Tory marginal?
Perhaps you can’t stand either party, but one of them is going to get the seat anyway.
However, every seat the Lib Dems take from the Tories reduces the Conservative’s chances of being the largest party. And the Lib Dems have said they wouldn’t support the full £12 billion in benefits cuts.
So you might be prepared to vote Lib Dem if a Lib Dem supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal will vote Labour for you.
But could you trust a person claiming to be a Lib Dem supporter to vote Labour, when the party clearly favours another coalition with the Tories?
Well, perhaps. There are undoubtedly still some left-leaning Lib Dems and the Swap My Vote site gives you a chance to make contact and check out their political opinions, because you can only register using your Facebook or Twitter login.
But, even if they don’t keep their end of the bargain, you’re probably no worse off. Your vote will not have helped the Tories and their vote in their own constituency will make no difference.
Does vote swapping work?
Vote swapping is not new.
According to a 2005 article in the New Scientist:
“In the 2001 election, the Lib Dems captured Cheadle in Cheshire from the Conservatives with a majority of 33. Online vote trading had seen 47 Labour supporters in Cheadle agree to vote Lib Dem. Assuming they kept their bargain, these vote-traders turned the tide on the Conservatives. There was a similar result in South Dorset, where a Labour majority of 153 followed 185 internet vote-trade pledges.”
So, it’s legal and it quite possibly does make a difference.
The tactical voting alternative
In some circumstances, an alternative to vote swapping is traditional tactical voting. If you’re in a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal you could vote Lib Dem simply to try to deprive the Tories of a seat.
Clearly, whichever way the seat goes it’s still going to be part of any Tory/Lib Dem coalition. But, as noted above, the Lib Dems have said they will oppose the Conservative’s £12 billion benefits cuts plan, aiming to move it closer to their £3 billion cuts. Whether you believe them is another matter.
But voting Lib Dem will also reduce the chances of the Tories being the largest party, making it harder to argue that a Labour minority government lacks legitimacy.
Is it worth it?
Even if vote swapping is effective, could you bring yourself to trust a stranger with your vote?
Likewise, tactical voting definitely works, but could you put your cross next to a Lib Dem candidate?
Is it better to vote as your beliefs dictate and take the consequences, whatever they might be?
Only you can answer those questions for yourself, but many of our readers would be interested to hear your opinion.
So, please leave a comment below or complete our Vote Swapping and Tactical Voting Survey. It’s anonymous, there’s only 4 questions and the results are posted online as they come in.
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 Apr 2015
> Is there a General Election on the horizon or something ? The Tories are getting all concerned about the North East…
Growing the economy in the North of England and closing the wealth divide with London and the south east was one of the major themes of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, spoke repeatedly about backing the North in his keynote speech at the conference.
The focus may seem surprising given that the party has few MPs in the North East.
Guy Opperman in Hexham, Northumberland, and James Wharton in Stockton South are the party’s only North East representatives in the Commons, although Tories believe they have a chance of taking Liberal Democrat-held Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, at the next election.
But William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary regarded as unofficial deputy leader of the party, pointed out to journalists that there were many more Conservative MPs in the North West and in Yorkshire.
Mr Osborne, who represents a constituency in Cheshire, even told the conference: “I am also the first Chancellor for almost forty years to represent a constituency in the north of England – and I can see the risk of our capital city’s dominance.
> Yorkshire and Cheshire are quite different from the North East. That’s exactly why they do elect Tories.
“It is not healthy for our country or our economy.”
He pledged: “Let us choose today to make reducing the gap between north and south, London and the rest, one of the central ambitions of the next Conservative Government.”
And he highlighted the Government’s plan to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, saying: “The answer is to build up the rest of our country. To create a Northern Powerhouse of the cities across the Pennines.”
The Chancellor’s plan is to turn the North into an economic powerhouse rivalling London by investing up to £15 billion on local transport links, picking a scientific speciality for universities to become world-leaders in, possibly building a high speed line across the Pennines, linking the North East and North West, and giving cities more autonomy and cash – if they agree to transform local government by introducing directly-elected mayors.
Mr Hague insisted the party was on course to win in the North.
He said: “At the last general election we made a major breakthrough in the North – if you take the North as being Yorkshire, the North East and North West. We went up at the last election from 19 MPs in the North to 42. That was a huge expansion, including in the North East of course, where we gained Stockton South.
> And… and… oh, just Stockton South, then ? Along with Hexham, that’s a really huge expansion in the North East.
“I hope we can add to that – there will be seats we will be targeting in the North including the North East.”
Major announcements at the conference included plans to freeze working-age benefits – including benefits received by working people on low salaries – for two years.
This means cutting benefits in real terms, because of the effects of inflation.
Conservative leader David Cameron, in his conference speech, announced plans to raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500. This would take one million more workers out of income tax entirely and give a tax cut to 30 million more, Mr Cameron said.
An estimated 51,000 North East workers would pay no income tax at all because of the change. Many others would pay less tax.
> Isn’t this because wages are so poor to start with ?
Mr Cameron also announced plans to raise the threshold at which people pay the 40p income tax rate from £41,900 today to £50,000.
It means a tax cut for many people earning above-average salaries. Mr Cameron said the 40p tax was supposed to be for the rich, but it’s currently paid by some senior nurses, teachers and police officers.
But critics pointed out that the Conservatives had failed to explain how they would pay the £7 billion cost of cutting tax.
Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “Nobody will be fooled by pie in the sky promises of tax cuts in six years’ time when David Cameron cannot tell us where the money is coming from.
“Even the Tories admit this is an unfunded commitment of over £7 billion, so how will they pay for it? Will they raise VAT on families and pensioners again?”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Oct 2014