Monday, May 20, 2019

If anyone tells you that "tactical voting" is possible on Thursday, they're either misleading you or they don't know what they're talking about

Over the last few weeks I've made the point a number of times that it's not possible to "vote tactically" in the European elections, regardless of whether the intended effect is to increase the chances of Scottish independence or to increase the chances of Britain remaining in the European Union.  We all just have one vote for one party, and seats in the European Parliament will be allocated in proportion to the share of the vote received by each party.  It's hard to think of a voting system less conducive to tactical voting than that.  And yet in recent days there have been two determined attempts to convince the public that pro-Remain tactical voting is both feasible and desirable.  First of all Gina Miller gave a suspiciously hazy summary of research based on "machine learning" that claimed, among other things, that Remain supporters in Scotland should tactically switch to the SNP on Thursday.  Then a website called 'Remain Voter' gave an even sketchier explanation for their advice that Scottish voters should switch tactically to the Liberal Democrats.

As there is a direct contradiction between the two recommendations (Miller and 'Remain Voter' also contradict each other in Wales and some of the English regions), it hopefully won't be too controversial if I say that both can be safely ignored.  But what's going on here?  I suspect Miller's initiative is well-intentioned but misguided - she's probably seen the dramatic effect of tactical voting in first-past-the-post elections (it cost the Tories a lot of seats in 1997, for example) and imagines that the same can be achieved in any election, regardless of the voting system.  She's used opinion polling to estimate the state of current voting intentions and then commissioned experts to judge which tactical movements between one Remain party and another would maximise the total number of seats won by Remain parties.  But that's where she hits the age-old problem: the results you get out are only as good as the data you put in.  She's betting the house on her poll results being exceptionally accurate, and if they're not, her recommendations will have no sound basis.  Yes, she's using the most advanced polling methods, but the extreme level of accuracy required for the exercise is simply beyond what is actually possible.  I would guess her experts must understand that perfectly well, but if you're being paid handsomely it's easy enough to turn a blind eye to that sort of fundamental snag.

I'm rather less charitable about the motivations of the 'Remain Voter' website, because their stated logic for the Lib Dem recommendation in Scotland is so mind-bogglingly perverse that it's hard to believe there isn't some sort of agenda behind the whole thing.  Here it is in all its glory -

"Scotland is interesting! Recent polling shows SNP confidently gaining 3 seats with undecided Labour voters blocking a 4th.

Remain Voter modelling shows LDs have the momentum to win a seat while helping the SNP win the 4th seat.

Smart voting can win a seat from a pro-Brexit party while capitalising on Labour's lack of commitment to their majority Remain membership."

Yes, folks, they really are saying that "tactically voting for the Lib Dems" can somehow "help the SNP to win a fourth seat".  Which is arithmetically impossible.  The lack of explanation for how they think the laws of mathematics can be bent on this occasion is rather deafening.  Someone suggested to me on Twitter that if a very large number of Labour voters were to switch to the Lib Dems, that could achieve the claimed effect, with the Lib Dems taking one seat and the SNP taking four.  But that's not "tactical voting" - that's voters switching sides from a Leave party to a Remain party.  The whole thing is absolute gibberish.

The only limited sense in which there's a grain of truth in the claims about tactical voting is that if you vote for a pro-Remain party that has no realistic chance of winning a seat in your electoral region (that would apply to Change UK in Scotland and in most other electoral regions), you're wasting your vote and you'd be better off voting for a more popular Remain party (ie. the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens or the Liberal Democrats).  But beyond that very narrow point, the system really can't be gamed, and you should just vote for whichever party you like best and agree with most.


  1. I live in Northern Ireland, which has STV voting. The Remain Voter website is advocating a tactical vote for the Alliance Party, the Lib-Dems' sister party.

  2. Having different electoral systems for Westminster, Holyrood, Council and EU elections is just crazy. No wonder people are confused.

    In the EU election the only course is to vote for the outcome you want. If that is Remain then the SNP are the obvious choice. However, if that is beyond what you can thole then Greens or at a pinch the Lib Dems are the way to go. Change has no chance and the rest are varying shades of Brexit/incompetence.

  3. Vote SNP. Websites like "Remain Voter" haven't a clue about Scotland.

  4. Holy guacamole.

    Britain Elects
    2m2 minutes ago
    Welsh assembly voting intention (constituency):

    LAB: 25% (-10)
    PC: 24% (+3)
    BREX: 17% (+17)
    CON: 17% (-4)
    LDEM: 9% (+1)
    GRN: 5% (+2)
    UKIP: 1% (-12)

    via @YouGov, 16 - 20 May
    Chgs. w/ 2016 result.

    Labour collapsing in Wales.

    1. Good for Wales. Labour have taken the country for granted over the decades and devastated it, as they did in Scotland. Red Tories is exactly what they are.

    2. We have the Yellow Tories in Scotland.

    3. Well done, Wales.

    4. Brilliant to see Plaid Cymru inching up the polls.
      According to the poll shown, they're just one point behind Welsh Labour - there's still plenty of time to see them jump to first position.

    5. I'd like to have Plaid Cymru inching up me.

  5. Replies
    1. Don't mention it. It was my pleasure. I enjoyed clarifying things for you. It was nice for me. And it was helpful for you. That's kind of how I live my life. Clarifying things. Good night, dear friend. Sleep well and have happy dreams allowing you to wake feeling rested and ready to face the day ahead.

  6. Labour's probably the least determined of the leave parties, so it seems plausible that there are a decent chunk of labour voters who would like to remain. So in Scotland if they're labour, unionist, and remain then going lib dem for this election could make sense. If they're labour, independent, and remain SNP makes sense. That's still not really tactical voting though, that's just prioritising objectives.

    1. When we leave the EU it is important we liase with other liberation movements in Europe to end the EU Mafia gravy train. Once all the EU documents are made public we will see the corruption that has been ongoing. The shredders will be working overtime once this happens.

    2. I'd like to join the Ann Widdercombe Liberation Front. She makes me feel ooogy.

    3. So you want to shag her.

    4. I don't think she goes for men. Even the Farrager doesn't get to stretch her elastic. So, you might stand a chance, Cordelia, although your wife might object to a 3rd lady in the relationship.

    5. She goes for Nigel and he goes for her. He got the hots for Widdecombe when he saw her gliding like a gazelle on Strictly Come Dancing, so he used her love of the dance to entrap her in his web of Brexitry. This is how he recruited her...
      NF: Morning, Widdy. Great day for a foxtrot or a tango.
      AW: Raaather, sir. Jolly good idea.
      NF: Would go care to trip the light fantastic with mine good self?
      AW: Capital suggestion. Which dance do you suggest... cha-cha, rumba, the twist?
      NF: I had some dirty dancing in mind. Some funky moves... Let me fuck with you, Widdy.
      AW: I say!
      NF: Come on, Widdy, let's funk. Let me funk with you till you scream "Tralafgar".

      And that's how the deal was done.

    6. You have a self inflicted large ego. Doris Karloff is an exceedingly nice bit of rumpy pumpy.

    7. Good for you, girl. Get your bit of rumpy with Doris.

  7. Hi James,

    It looks like don't know ow D'Hondt works for the Euro elections:

    They state "Under the D’Hondt system of proportional representation once a seat is allocated that party’s remaining vote share is divided by 2."

    Not true as it is the original vote that is divided by 1 + number of MEPs acquired up to the prior 'round'.

    More ignorance than malicious.

    1. Ignorant nat si swine. They make me want to puke my guts up.