On 23 June, two by-elections will be taking place – one in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and the other up here in Wakefield. In both seats, the by-elections were triggered after the Conservative MPs who held the seats were forced to resign – one after accessing pornography while in parliament, the other after being found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy. There is a good chance the Conservatives will lose both elections – one each to the Liberal Democrats and to Labour.
Tactical voting in the by-elections
To make this even more likely, campaigners are urging voters in both constituencies to vote tactically and support the party most likely to defeat the Conservatives, even if that’s not their party of choice.
For Labour and Liberal Democrat voters in these upcoming by-elections, the Swap My Vote website makes it possible for voters to swap their votes between the constituencies – so that Labour voters in Tiverton and Honiton, and Liberal Democrat voters in Wakefield, can link up and agree to vote for the other party. This way, these voters will get to vote for their party of choice and their vote will count, though it will be registered in the other constituency.
It’s a clever system and has been used in previous elections. It’s one of the more effective ways of working around the unfair ‘first past the post’ voting system used in many of our elections, particularly elections for members of the Westminster parliament. The Swap My Vote scheme is being rolled out across the country. It will ensure more votes count towards voters’ preferred party and may be an appealing prospect to those who wish to rid the UK of a corrupt government seat by seat.
For voters from other smaller parties in these by-elections, such as the Green Party, it’s not so simple of course. They can’t swap their vote in either Wakefield or Tiverton and Honiton, so they’ll simply have to decide what’s best on the day.
Voting Lib Dem in Yorkshire?
I was proud to live in Batley from 2011 to 2016, a seat held by the wonderful Jo Cox. Batley isn’t far from Wakefield; in fact, it has a Wakefield postcode! Cox was truly a revolutionary politician and her leaflets detailing her actions to improve local life were a delight to read. When it came to election time, it was Jo who made me proud to be a labour voter.
But Batley also had a strong Lib Dem presence at the time. To help ensure the seat didn’t pass into Conservative hands, discussions had been held on the possibility of vote swapping – encouraging local Lib Dems to lend their vote to Jo and to ensure that a Lib Dem candidate was elected elsewhere, ensuring that both parties benefited from the arrangement.
In recent years, the Liberal Democrats have worked hard to earn back the votes of those disaffected by previous events. Many feel that the coalition with the Conservative Party primarily served the will of the party’s then leader, Nick Clegg, rather than the will of Lib Dem voters whose politics broadly centre left. Clegg was desperate to attain office and swiftly reneged on promises that had installed him to the coalition.
In the wake of this, Lib Dem support suffered. But through a determined push forward into more pluralistic and representative politics, the party has recaptured the broad brush of sensible policies and is once again ready to paint a future vision for its base. That’s why I believe they deserve support from voters, but not necessarily in Wakefield, where our ruinous electoral system means the vote simply won’t count as it’s a two-horse race between Labour and the Tories, made clear by several pre-election polls.
Reciprocating in Tiverton and Honiton
Down in Devon, my hope is that Labour supporters will register to reciprocate and agree to vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate. Polling indicates that the Lib Dems are favourites to win, but as we all know, every vote counts and now is not the time to rest on faith, but to act decisively.
By registering with Swap my Vote, Liberal Democrat supporters in Wakefield can find Labour supporters in Tiverton and Honiton and agree to vote for each other’s parties. It’s a win win!
Making politics work for us
It’s clear from looking at national voting data that a majority of people don’t share the politics of the Conservative Party. People are angry about partygate, angry about the cost-of-living crisis, and angry about election promises that have not been delivered. So, let’s agree to work together to tell the government what we think in these by-elections.
Let’s agree to make politics work for us.