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I want to remain in the EU. How should I vote?

Deciding how to achieve Remaining in the EU is not easy. I explain my thinking and review the advice on tactical voting.

Summary

Posted 30 November 2019. Updated 6 December 2019.

I am sharing my thought processes as they may help you decide what to do.

We vote in one constituency out of 650

The UK’s general election is not citizens voting in the UK as a whole. We vote in 650 individual constituencies to elect 650 Members of Parliament.

Power in the new Parliament depends on how many MPs each political party has after the general election. If one party has over 325, it is guaranteed the ability to form the next government.

As a voter, my vote may help to determine who becomes the MP in my constituency. That is its only relevance.

How I vote depends upon two things:

  1. What outcome I want nationally.
  2. Which candidates in my constituency have a realistic chance of becoming the MP.

The reason why (2) matters is that we have a voting system that easily produces perverse results.

For example if 60% of the people in my constituency want to Remain in the EU, and 40 % to Leave, if the Leavers all vote for one Leave supporting candidate while the Remainers split their votes 30% each between two Remain supporting candidates, the new MP will be a Leave MP.

See my page “Why we need a better voting system” for more details.

I have more than just one goal

Most of us want more than one thing. I certainly do.

Right now, I have two fundamental political goals:

  1. I want Britain to remain within the European Union. For more background on this, see my website page "Why I have voted Remain in the EU Referendum".
  2. I do not want a majority Labour government because I regard its economic policies as very harmful to the UK.

Do my goals conflict?

If they did, I would have real difficulties deciding what to do. Fortunately, they do not.

All of the polling indicates that the risk of a majority Labour government is almost zero. (Nothing is ever completely zero in the real world!)

Here's why poll guru John Curtice says Jeremy Corbyn has 'close to zero' chance of winninghttps://t.co/622H2NqA4W

— The Scotsman (@TheScotsman) November 14, 2019

Accordingly, I can concentrate on achieving my first objective, Remaining in the EU, without worrying about the risk of a majority Labour government.

What about a minority Labour government?

Frankly I am not worried about a minority Labour government.

The reason is that it would not have the votes in Parliament for the major spending increases, nationalisation, and tax rises, that the Labour Party is promising. The other parties would simply not let Labour implement most of its manifesto.

That applies regardless of whether Jeremy Corbyn becomes a minority Labour Prime Minister, or whether the other parties insist upon a different senior Labour MP becoming the Prime Minister as the price for allowing Labour to form a minority government.

What Remaining in the EU needs

The vital requirement is that the Conservative Party must not have an absolute majority after the general election. If it does, Mr Johnson will take Britain out of the EU on 31 January 2020, or possibly earlier.

Once Britain has left the EU, it has left. Then there is no possibility of revoking the UK’s Article 50 Notice, not even during the transition period to 31 December 2020 which is part of Mr Johnson’s departure deal. All possibility of a second referendum also disappears.

The only way to stop this is if there are enough MPs in Parliament to prevent Mr Johnson forcing his departure deal through.

Once that happens, even if Mr Johnson is the PM of a minority Tory government, he is likely to bow to political reality and put his withdrawal agreement to the public in a referendum. That is what Prime Minister Theresa May should have done, but didn't. I suspect that she was concerned about dividing the Conservative Party.

If a different person than Mr Johnson is PM, we are likely to have an alternative departure deal negotiated rapidly and then put to the public in a referendum.

What happens if the departure deal wins the referendum?

Then we leave the EU. However, I will accept that the public voted for this particular departure deal.

The reasons I do not "respect the 2016 Referendum result" are set out in my piece "The problem with referendums."

The 2016 Referendum was a classic example of what that article calls “A pig in a poke” referendums. Instead we need a referendum with the choices being Remain or a negotiated departure deal, which we is what we would be having. See my page written 11 months ago: “Brexit: What choices should any second referendum offer?

How is a referendum on the departure deal likely to go?

Almost all polls for some time have shown that the UK has a Remain majority. The chart below is from NatCen Social Research.

EU referendum voting intentions, excluding don't know.

How should I vote to achieve my objectives?

How to vote depends upon the facts regarding my constituency.

Liberal Democrat incumbent

I want the sitting MP re-elected so will vote for him or her.

This is not just because I am now a member of the Liberal Democrat Party. It is because I believe that the Liberal Democrats have the best policy on the European Union and now have better economic policies than either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party.

However, even if I were a Labour Party supporter, I would probably still vote Liberal Democrat.

I would only vote Labour if I could be certain that my voting Labour was not going to let the Conservative Party candidate win by splitting the anti-Tory vote.

Labour Party incumbent

Even though I am a member of the Liberal Democrat Party, I would vote for the incumbent Labour Party MP.

The reason is the mirror image of the above. For me to vote Liberal Democrat would risk splitting the anti-Tory vote and therefore letting the Conservative Party candidate win.

The only circumstance in which I would vote Liberal Democrat is if I could be certain that even with the anti-Tory vote split between Liberal Democrat and Labour, there was still no risk of the Conservative party candidate winning.

Conservative Party incumbent

As explained above, if the Conservative Party succeed in electing more than 325 MPs, we can be sure that a Boris Johnson led government will take Britain out of the European Union.

Accordingly, as a Remain supporter, I need to vote in a way that leads to somebody who is not a Tory being elected.

What about the Liberal Democrat "Revoke" policy?

The Liberal Democrat Party will revoke the UK’s Article 50 notice outright, but only if it wins more than 325 seats in Parliament.

That would be a democratic outcome as it is a manifesto commitment and the people would have voted to elect a majority Lib Dem Government.

It is a theoretically possible general election result, but realistically is not going to happen. If the Liberal Democrats do not have a majority in Parliament, the party will support a second referendum.

Every other political party standing in the seat, whether Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party in Scotland, or Plaid Cymru in Wales, is committed to supporting a second referendum with the choices being leaving with a departure deal or Remaining in the EU.

Who is best placed to beat the sitting Tory MP?

That is the key question.

I must identify that person, and then vote for him or her. Otherwise the Remain vote will be split, and the Tory will get re-elected.

Can I just look at the 2017 general election result?

It seems obvious to look at the 2017 general election result, and see which party came second. The BBC website page "Election 2019 Find a Constituency" lists every constituency in the UK, and gives you:

  1. The 2019 candidates.
  2. The 2017 general election result.
  3. The 2015 general election result.

There are several reasons why just looking at the 2017 general election result is a bad idea:

If there is a specific opinion poll just for my constituency, I will look at it. Otherwise, I need tactical voting advice.

Tactical voting websites

Using them is very easy. You enter your postcode and the website tells you who to vote for. The problem is that there are many of them.

Which one should I use?

The good news is that, for most constituencies, the tactical voting websites agree.

I was going to review them in detail and make a recommendation. Fortunately, someone else has done that for me, so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Jon Worth Euroblog

I have discovered Jon Worth’s Euroblog. I always want to know a person’s credentials. He sets out his as follows:

“I am a member of the Europe Policy Group of World Economic Forum and the Advisory Group of Transparency International’s EU office. I was in the 2012 cohort of Europanova’s 40 Under 40 European Young Leaders programme (2012), and am a former President of the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe, 2003-2005). Euractiv listed me as among the 40 most influential Britons on EU policy.

I’ve previously worked as a civil servant in London, and as an assistant in the European Parliament in Brussels. I speak French and German well, and Swedish and Italian badly, as well as my native English. I hold a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Merton College, University of Oxford, and a MA in European Politics from the College of Europe, Bruges.”

This gives me some confidence that he will have looked at the issues in depth.

I recommend Version 8 of his Tactical Voting Guide.

He has been looking at all five online tactical voting sites. Their recommendations are grouped together on the page "The big tactical voting comparison."

He also has a page of videos. You can get to the right one by selecting your constituency from the list. Note that all constituencies are not listed. The bottom item in the drop down menu is "My constituency is not listed" and there is also a video for that.

If you don't know your constituency name, you can enter your postcode into a search box on that page.

Short summary of what Jon Worth is saying

I strongly recommend reading his page in full. However, I would summarise it as follows:

  1. In England and Wales, with 573 seats in total, the tactical voting sites agree on the recommended way to vote in 506 of them.
  2. In England and Wales, out of the 573 seats, in 21 of them the incumbent is so safe that tactical voting is likely to make no difference.
  3. In England and Wales, out of the 573 seats, 46 of them need more careful consideration.

Jon Worth also looks at Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I won’t try to condense what he says about them.

What I will do

I am registered to vote in two constituencies: Manchester Gorton and Bermondsey and Old Southwark. That is perfectly legal. However, I would break the law if I actually voted in both places; I can only vote in one, but can decide which one it is.

Manchester Gorton is held for Labour by a personal friend, Afzal Khan. All 5 tactical voting sites recommend voting Labour. As in 2017 he got 76.3% of the total vote, he is going to win anyway and there is no point my voting for anyone in Manchester Gorton.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark has been held for Labour by Neil Coyle since 2015, and was previously held for the Liberal Democrats by Sir Simon Hughes. The tactical voting websites do not agree about this constituency.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark is one of Jon Worth’s “46 of them need more careful consideration” constituencies. He classifies it as one of 4  under his heading “Free choice between Remain Parties seats.” There are two strong Remain parties, “and the Conservatives far enough back to not be able to win.” In the 2017 General Election, the result was:

Labour

53.2%

Liberal Democrat

31.1%

Conservative

13.0%

Even if the Remain vote splits equally, there is little risk of the Conservative candidate winning. Accordingly, I will vote for my Liberal Democrat Party’s candidate.

What should you do if you want to Remain in the EU?

Look at the tactical voting websites summary, and read Jon Worth’s blog.

Accept that unless you want to see the UK leave the EU on 31 January 2020, you need to vote for a party that you might otherwise not want to vote for, such as Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, or Green.

Vote to either keep a non-Tory MP in place, or to remove a Tory, based upon the tactical voting recommendations.

Be reassured that you are not at risk of electing a majority Labour government. That is just not going to happen. All of the data is clear about it.

 

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