Friday, 10 April 2015

Myth of the "wasted vote"

With minor parties doing so well, the election will be dominated by questions of tactical voting.

Every five years, leaflets come through our doors: "Labour/Lib Dems/Tories can't win here! Don't waste your vote!" Only the party labels change, depending on the constituency.

Here is one of the best-kept secrets of politics: this is utter bollocks.

Unless your constituency election is decided by a single vote (unlikely), your vote is always "wasted", whether you voted Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP or the Petting Pony Pyjama Party. Somebody won; if you had stayed in bed, or voted any other way, the same person would still have won. Your vote wasn't pivotal.

So, you might as well vote for the party you like best, no matter what size it is in your constituency. In fact, if everybody did that, FPTP would probably work much better. It would still be hugely distorting. But at least it would be a distorted reflection of what people actually wanted.

Strange but true: the notorious bias of first-past-the-post in favour of the top two parties, and/or small highly localized parties, comes not only from electoral maths, but also from a quirk of voter psychology. If the party we voted for wins, we think that "we helped them win", even though nothing we could have said or done would have changed the outcome.