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Blogger explains why tactical voting in Twickenham this time around just won't do

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An influential local blogger explains why he is switching his vote from Lib Dem Vince Cable to Labour's Nick Grant.

Writer and blogger Paddy Briggs has previously voted tactically for Vince Cable, but in next month's general election will vote for Labour Parliamentary candidate Nick Grant. In the blog below, he explains why:

In the first General Election of 1974 the Liberal Party gained 19.3% of the vote – their highest since Lloyd George in 1929. But they only won 14 seats – a hugely disproportionate number. Over the next five elections they ( and their successors) ranged from 13.8% (1979) to 25.4% (1983) but their seat total never exceeded the 23 they secured in 1983. Then, in 1997, a breakthrough occurred. Although in that Labour landslide year the (now) Liberal Democrats vote fell to 16.8% they more than doubled their seats to 46 – and this was to rise to 62 in 2005 against 22% of the vote that year. What was happening?

The answer to the question as to how the Lib Dems improved their seat numbers even though their percentage of the votes only went up a few percentage points is twofold. Firstly excellent organisation on the ground. Second tactical voting.

In my Constituency of Twickenham the breakthrough came in 1997 when, despite the Labour vote rising on Tony Blair’s coattails, Vince Cable won the seat for the Lib Dems for the first time (they had been in second place since 1974). At the next three elections the Labour vote fell with the Conservative vote shifting little. Significant numbers of Labour tactical voters almost certainly voted for Cable to block the possibility of the Conservatives regaining the seat. Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour vote fell from 9065 to 4583 (-4482) while the Lib Dem vote increased from 26237 to 32483 (+6246). Cause and effect.

The point here is that not all voters voted tactically – Labour had a residue of 4583 votes in 2010 – but that sufficient did to help Vince Cable turn Twickenham into a “safe” Lib Dem seat

The First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system makes some people do strange things! I am a natural Labour supporter, but I haven't voted Labour for more than fifteen years! It seemed to me that in Twickenham the best anti Conservative option was to vote for Cable, a good constituency member and as an ex Labour and SDP man - my sort of person. Or so I thought!

Vince Cable has been a Cabinet Minister throughout the Cameron years. He has been loyal (good, I suppose) but hardly a force for liberalism (except, perhaps, economic neo-liberalism). Cable contributed to the 2004 LibDem “Orange Book” and while to the Left of other contributors like David Laws and Nick Clegg he remains in that broad neo-liberal economic consensus that many if not all Conservatives share. In 2010 Cable said:

"The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour party. There is no future for that; there never was."

As I have hinted I voted tactically in 2010 and in previous General Elections. Labour was not going to win in Twickenham and frankly Vince was the next best thing. So what about the 2015 General Election next month?

I don't want the Conservatives to be in Government but with The national Lib Dem vote falling spectacularly (possibly to the lowest level since 1959 when the Liberals got 5.9%) they are under pressure - here in Twickenham as well. The Labour Candidate Nick Grant (in the picture with me above) seems a good man but the hill he has to climb from the 7.7% Labour got in 2010 is steep. But a recent poll (see below) suggests that he is climbing it. It also suggests that the Tories have overtaken the LibDems. Cable has a fight on his hands!

So what to do? My tactical vote for Vince Cable in 2005 and 2010 wasn't really necessary but this time around he might need it. And yet I’ve decided he hasn't earned it (please excuse the personalisation of the argument!). I'm going to vote Labour. If Nick Grant over the rest of the campaign can prise a few more percentage points away from Cable it could be interesting. On the other hand in doing so he could let the Conservatives slip in!

When I met Grant recently he argued rather well that we should do what our consciences tell us, and see what happens. This resonates with me. Tactical voting is all very well but in truth voting tactically for Vince Cable in 2010 didn't really work did it? He was part of a Tory dominated Cabinet - so why should I vote for him potentially to do this again? And if others in sufficient numbers think like me well we may get a Conservative MP in Twickenham for the first time for nearly twenty years. Or we might, just, get a Labour MP – well that would be a turn-up for the book wouldn't it!

Paddy's Letter from London blog can be viewed here.

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