A tactical vote is the only option for Remain

PUBLISHED: 22:23 23 November 2019 | UPDATED: 22:23 23 November 2019

Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Caroline Lucas, Anna Soubry, Liz Saville-Roberts and Ian Blackford. Photograph: TNE/PA.

Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Caroline Lucas, Anna Soubry, Liz Saville-Roberts and Ian Blackford. Photograph: TNE/PA.

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Traditional party allegiances are not enough in the Brexit era, argues TIM WALKER. A tactical vote is the only way to thwart the prime minister's plans

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Voters have been acting tactically since the dawn of democracy, but it's unusual, of course, for a candidate to do it. In Canterbury, where I was until earlier this month the Liberal Democrats' hope, I recognised that politics ultimately comes down to numbers. In the last general election in 2017, Labour polled 25,572 votes in the constituency, the Tories 25,385 and my party managed just 4,561.

Of course, it's the job of the candidate to fight, no matter how tough the terrain, but I found myself in the unusual situation where my own party's constituency association overwhelmingly wanted me to stand down. They saw what the numbers meant and recognised the almost inevitable consequence of my candidacy. The Remain vote would be divided, a committed Remainer in Labour's Rosie Duffield would be deprived of a job, and Canterbury would be gift-wrapped as an early Christmas present for Anna Firth, the Tory on the ballot paper and an avowed Brextremist.

My party subsequently imposed an external candidate upon the local association after my departure - not a single member locally was willing to stand - but the affair has highlighted how a great many people up and down the country now see a tactical approach to the general election as imperative. It showed, too, how passionately people now feel on the issue. Let's be clear that when life-long Lib Dems in Canterbury are saying that they will be voting Labour something very extraordinary is happening in our country.

Of course, I've no time whatsoever for Jeremy Corbyn, and the very fact we're now having to vote tactically shows how abysmally he's failed to offer a viable opposition that we can all rally behind, but desperate times call for desperate measures. All over the country, committed Remainers are now having to make decisions of the kind voters in my former constituency are making and take into account the special circumstances locally ahead of polling day on December 12.

Unlikely alliances are being formed, strange bedfellows brought together, and, in a great many constituencies, be in no doubt that there are candidates not campaigning terribly hard - either at the behest of their associations or their consciences or both - for the soundest of tactical reasons.

Encouragingly, there is a new aspirant voting class in our country for whom blind party politics - the way the older generation approached the ballot box for far too long - is now unacceptable. Young people in particular see it's party politics that's got us into this mess in the first place and the only solution now is to vote tactically.

There are a number of tactical voting websites to choose from to assist you in picking your local candidate most likely to thwart Boris Johnson and his bleak Brextremist vision for our country. The first thing to be said is that there is nothing to stop any individual googling the last general election results in their constituency, considering each candidate's position on Brexit and making an informed choice of their own. All that they must keep in mind is that getting what they want out of an election - every bit as much as politics itself - is always going to be about the art of the possible.

The over-riding aim of voting tactically this time around is to deprive Johnson of the majority he craves and the Commons being filled with wall-to-wall Brextremists. That would doom our country to the hardest and most destructive of deals - if not actually no-deal - and mean at least half of the electorate would be denied a meaningful voice in Westminster.

There are rules, of course. As tempting as it may be to vote for a sweet and cuddly Remain-friendly Tory candidate, any additional vote for Johnson is clearly the last thing we need. You may well still harbour a grudge against the Lib Dems for their years in coalition with the Tories, or never have forgiven Labour for Iraq, but this, honestly, is not the time to look back, but only to focus on the clear and present danger ahead of us.

I am still, despite my recent transgression, a fully-paid up member of the Lib Dems, the one party that has unequivocally undertaken to revoke Brexit, but, for all that, I can't say in every constituency voting for my party is necessarily the right thing to do. It's necessary always to take into account what's feasible by looking at the figures in the last election and to examine the positions of the candidates standing.

To assist you in making your choice, there are a wide range of tactical voting websites, such as those set up Best for Britain, People's Vote and Remain United, and I must declare an interest here and say that the last one named was set up by Gina Miller, who happens to be one of my closest friends and I've been proud to help her out in some of the campaigns that she has ran. All I would say is be tactical when you look at tactical voting websites and ask yourself some questions about them: Find out who is running and funding them, are they clear about their methodology and have they reputable, independent pollsters and analysts, and have they, above all, any obvious or covert political agendas?

The best websites accept, too, the basic reality of politics, which is that stuff happens and opinions change and therefore they see that their tactical voting recommendations have to be updated. The honest ones can admit some constituencies are still simply too close to call. Sam Gyimah and Emma Dent Coad are, for instance, both passionate Remain candidates in Kensington, but the shrewder sites are not rushing to choose between them. Gyimah, starting out as an unknown quantity for the Lib Dems, is already closing in on his Labour opponent.

What Remain United's research has found is that there's likely to be more tactical voting - on both sides of the argument - than ever before in this election. It is easy of course to throw up your hands in despair and give up when ruthless Brextremists such as Johnson have backed us all into such an invidious corner, but when seven our of ten Remain voters are saying they're willing to vote tactically, then I would say there is still hope. If there is one lesson Johnson should have learnt from Theresa May, it's never to take the electorate for fools.

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