7 May 2015

The first mass tactical vote in UK history?

Labour people are stunned by the BBC exit poll, and saying it does not tally with their experience in the key marginals they are fighting. After the shock of seeing it, I think many of them would accept the rival, YouGov one.

It’s early days. The BBC poll, if correct, tells a story of widespread switching from UKIP to the Conservatives, and from Lib Dem to the Conservatives, in both cases probably driven by a desire to ensure a majority government to keep the SNP out of influencing a Labour-led coalition.

That is plausible – but if correct it will reflect one of the first mass tactical votes in UK history. It’s been clearly helped by calls from the right-wing press but my sense right now is that, while it might be right tendentially, it would be truly mould-breaking if it was correct.

What it would mean is that (a) the SNP have destroyed everybody else in Scotland and (b) in fear of that a lot of centrist English voters have voted tactically for the Tories in response.

That would not just put Scotland on an exit path from the UK. It would put – again I stress if correct – the Conservatives in a position to govern with the DUP and the two projected UKIP members. That is, it would harden Euroscepticism and social conservatism in government.

On top of that it will create a new dynamic in Wales. Welsh Labour will have to come up with a new story to tell people in the principality if the BBC-version comes to pass: it basically means Labour has no future chance of winning a majority in Westminster as long as Scotland is the driving issue of Westminster elections.

But, as I say, we have to be hugely skeptical of a poll so at odds with all the other opinion polls, and indeed at odds with a perfectly respectable YouGov one.

10 reader comments

  1. Andrew Peacock says:

    Very odd results. Regarding your comment: “as long as Scotland is the driving issue of Westminster elections”, I suspect that might not an issue much longer if it’s another Tory-led government.

  2. David says:

    YouGov haven’t done an exit poll. They did a ‘re-contact survey’ and saw no need to change their last opinion poll results.

  3. Therese says:

    A technicality: the YouGov poll is a recontact poll not an exit poll.

    Oh and you might do well to follow a few statisticians. Fascinating from that point of view. ;-)

  4. Charles Xavier says:

    Why do people go through all this trouble and pretend to be a democracy? the structural coercion of first past the post, the advertising dollars and corporate media, make a mockery of it all. Owen Jones said it’s like believing in the weather, but it’s more like believing in Santa Claus.

  5. Anastasia says:

    Thank you for your ray of hope in not believing the exit polls. I have not believed the BBC for years anyway! But frankly as you say, Tory, DUP And UKIP? There will be riots. Guess that’s why Boris bought his water cannon.

  6. Turncoat says:

    Very disappointed by the Labour campaign north of the border- lacking in position/policy & future given the election next year. Nicola Sturgeon & SNP have campaigned based on that. They have been very ‘local’ in their campaign- back to basics – seems to have worked

  7. Ian Murdo Macleod says:

    If that’s the case I am packing my bags and heading for England to stay! IAn

  8. Andrew Dundas says:

    There may have been a lot of tactical voting by electors in England & Wales. They were probably disturbed at the prospect of a Labour Government where Alec Salmond claimed: “we’ll write their budget”. And his puppet, Nicola Sturgeon, proclaimed her party would be able to control their neighbour’s policy, however those neighbours had voted. All of which is quite a frightening prospect for our neighbours, and very likely caused hundreds of thousands to switch their votes to the Conservative Party.

    So far from enabling Labour to form a coalition, the SNP by its aggressive boasting, has guaranteed the continuance of the Cameron Conservative government with an even stronger mandate. The SNP is causing Scotland to suffer the dire consequences of its exaggerated claims.

  9. Clive Bush says:

    Great interview with Suzi Weissman on Beneath the Surface. Thanks for your work: its a really hopeful example of intelligence and sympathy..

  10. John Jones says:

    Two important electoral tools from which Labour has benefited disproportionately since the 1980s just derailed the party’s hopes of getting back into power at Westminster.

    On the one hand Labour now fully understands (far too late) that stirring up nationalistic feeling in Scotland as a potent anti-Conservative weapon can also get out of hand and be used very effectively by Labour’s own opponents inside the country. It worked a treat in the 1980s and 1990s and especially in 1997 when the Tories won no seats at all after Labour had successfully delegitimised the very idea of being a Scot and a Conservative. But the SNP have long since learned how to use it even more successfully than Labour (as Tam Dalyell always predicted, when he long opposed his own party’s Devolution scheme).

    On the other hand they’re also now having to come to terms with the fact that tactical voting, by which Labour candidates long borrowed votes from Lib Dem and SNP supporters in certain seats in order to “stop the Tory”, isn’t something on which the Left have an exclusive copyright. The same logic looks like it’s actually been used in reverse by Lib Dems and Kippers across England to keep out a worryingly left-wing and economically illiterate Labour government in hock to aggressive Scottish Nationalists with their own agenda.

    Quite whom Labour chooses as its leader with these two big problems to address is going to be very interesting to see.

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