Listen To Me, Ed Balls
Friday, 7 May 2010
The most instructive result in the country?
In the run-up to yesterday’s General Election, schools secretary Ed Balls appeared to endorse tactical voting. He said he recognized there was an “issue” in Lib Dem / Tory marginals.
The constituency where I live, Hampstead & Kilburn, was just such a marginal. The old constituency of Hampstead & Highgate was a pretty safe Labour seat for Glenda Jackson, but a boundary change had chopped off a vital area for her, and merged with a new one; all the literature through the door, from the Tories and LibDems, emphasized the close race between them. Friends of mine who live in the same district, people I like and respect, who might otherwise be Labour voters, were choosing (some even urging) the Lib Dem vote to “keep the Tories out”.
Whichever way I vote myself (and I feel oddly old-fashioned about saying; as a journalist I like to make my opinions pretty clear, sometimes, about specific issues, but think the actual vote is essentially private) I don’t like tactical voting under any circumstances. I was shocked that Ed Balls - who should surely have more party-political conviction than any of us, given his job - would endorse such a thing. I think people should vote for the party they most believe in, not against the one they don’t, then give way to the majority decision: that’s what democracy is. I felt more conviction than ever, this year, about the party I wanted to win - and could never have voted other than for them - but I also wanted the election to be won by whichever party was most wanted by the country. If it wasn’t my own choice, well, fine. But I’d vote for my choice, hoping everyone else would vote for theirs and that the result would be, at least, democratic. The debate about electoral reform and PR… well, that’s a different question. Dealing with what we have now, there were plenty of reasons for voting Liberal Democrat but “keeping the Tories out” shouldn’t, in my opinion, be one of them.
Nevertheless, Ed Balls advocated what he advocated; the Lib Dems actually appear to have had disappointing results but I’m sure plenty of people in the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency (and others) voted for them “against the Tories” in the belief that it was the better option in a two-horse race.
Be warned, Ed Balls and tactical voters. In Hampstead & Kilburn, the Liberal Democrats finished decisively third. The seat was won by the Labour party, pushing the Conservatives into second place - by 42 votes.
Never fail to use your vote in an election, and always vote with your heart. Sometimes it matters even more than you realize.