Why voting tactically for a different party may be the best way to support your own
Huw Prys Jones
Whatever their differences in aspirations, every opposition party going into Thursday’s election has one thing in common – they need a hung parliament as the outcome.
Their objectives and policies will come to nothing if the Tories win an overall majority in the early hours of Friday morning.
It is also patently obvious that a hung parliament cannot be achieved by one party alone. Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats must understand that whatever their attitudes may be towards each other, they must develop a symbiotic relationship if they are to succeed.
Likewise, even their most fervent members and supporters must also realise that the way they cast their vote must depend on where they live. In some places, the best way to support one’s own party may well be to vote for another.
It is clear that a hung parliament is the only way to avoid giving a blank cheque to Boris Johnson to do as he likes. And the only hope to avoid the kind of fully-fledged Brexit that has become an article of faith for the Conservative Party.
If there are Labour members who still hope for a majority government under Jeremy Corbyn, I suggest they seriously consider a visit to planet earth. Any Labour members squandering their votes by voting for their own party in Powys, for example, are jeopardising Labour’s chances of forming a minority government by risking Tory victories.
Recent reports increasingly suggest that the same may also be true in Ynys Môn.
It is also utterly bizarre to see Labour bringing members in to campaign in Arfon when they could be trying to defend or gain seats from the Tories.
On the other hand, with no prospect whatsoever of a majority Labour government, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats must see the advantage of any Labour advance where they have no chance of winning.
Any Labour gains against the Tories in those seats will be of direct benefit to them, by increasing the chances of a hung parliament.
For that reason, it was equally bizarre to see a Plaid Cymru politician in a story on Golwg360 yesterday campaigning in the Gower constituency. This is a Labour/Tory marginal held by one of the most consistent supporters of a People’s Vote among Labour MPs.
It will be easy for Plaid members and supporters to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in a few seats in this election, as the party has already made the decision for them in the Unite to Remain pact.
Their task has also been made easy in the Vale of Glamorgan where they can vote to unseat Alun Cairns without a Plaid or Lib Dem candidate there.
The real challenge for Plaid (or Liberal Democrat) supporters will be in those Labour / Tory marginals where their own parties run. This is where they will have to take matters into their own hands and make a hard-headed choice.
Be it in Cardiff North, Gower, Pembrokeshire or north Wales constituencies outside Ynys Môn and Gwynedd, supporters of the Unite to Remain alliance could well be in a position to help unseat the Tories if they vote tactically for Labour in sufficient numbers.
Many will rightly question the wisdom of giving their faith in a party that has been so equivocal towards Brexit over the past couple of years. Many will also recoil at voting for a party that has given succour to many anti-Welsh sentiments over the years.
Nevertheless, in the numbers game of this election, we also need to be cynical and ruthless in our alliances if we are to have any hope against the Brexit establishment.
Such a tactical vote for Labour in those constituencies would not mean that Plaid or Lib Dem supporters are letting down their own parties in any way. On the contrary, they would be empowering their MPs with far greater influence by helping to secure a hung parliament.
At the last election in 2017, it is worth noting that the combined votes of Plaid and Labour would have been enough to unseat five Tories in Wales.
It is true that one of the five, Guto Bebb, effectively switched sides to become a committed People’s Vote supporter during the last parliament.
In terms of the other four constituencies, however, just think how much more valuable four additional opposition members would have been to Plaid MPs over the last couple of years than the votes amassed for their party in those Tory seats.
National totals of votes may well be the subject of interesting articles by political academics, but are in reality of little significance. Like it or not, under the first past the post system, it’s only the number of seats won that count and it really is a matter of winner takes it all.
Party allegiance and loyalties run deep and especially at election time. Many of us in Plaid will think of the selfless commitment of past members who worked tirelessly to build a national movement in Wales.
To honour these past generations, it is surely incumbent upon us to ensure that we put our votes to maximum use at this election.
What we have in the Tories is an extreme anti-European and xenophobic party led by a shameless liar who is utterly devoid of any morality or decency. The kind of contemptuous English nationalist mentality that underpins their Brexit appeal must be seen as a direct threat to our identity and values.
For the future of Wales, a key consideration when we cast our votes on Thursday has to be which candidate in our local area is best placed to beat them.