Vote tactically for usssssss

When Lord Adonis wrote in the Independent this morning, urging Lib Dems to vote Labour tactically to keep the Tories out, I was no worse than amused. “Oho,” I thought, “Ha” and other noises. There’s very little any Lib Dem can do about the increasingly desperate scrabbling of fingernails on the vertical deck of the Bad Ship Labour except close their eyes and wince.

Then around about lunchtime the Prime Minister (in what may yet prove to be a monumental error) told Labour supporters they should vote tactically for Lib Dems where necessary. “Hrrrm,” I thought, “Fnnnuurgh.” Stop telling people how to vote, you cynical bastards.

And so it was that I was mildly irritated, but still, on the whole,  a bit amused. The reason it may be a monumental error is that it can only push people wavering between Lib Dems and Tories towards the latter. That’s the exact opposite of what Labour want. If Brown is trying to build a Great Big Liberal Left Alliance to Oppose Teh Evul Toriez, a la Liberal Conspiracy, he’s going about it in as ham-fisted a manner as we’ve come to expect of a man who regularly tells audiences of hardened political hacks how much he wuvs his wife. He has actually just made a Tory majority ever so slightly more likely. Of course, it’ll be at our expense, but what we lose on the swings we’ll gain on the roundabouts. If I were wavering between Labour and the Lib Dems, I can’t imagine being that impressed with these cynical messages. I think I’d probably think, “Well, sod you then.” The only net losers in this desperate manoeuvring are likely to be Labour.

All good clean fun. But now, like a sudden cat turd in the herb bed, comes this.

Gordon Brown today accused the Tories of turning their backs on their traditional stance of being tough on crime by refusing to support Labour plans for the DNA database.

Conservative proposals to remove all innocent people from the database – apart from those accused of the most violent crimes – would mean more criminals escaping punishment if they win the election, he said.

…Brown told a meeting of Labour activists at a community centre in Stevenage: “This is a big issue and a big dividing line at this election.

“I’m sorry to say that the Conservative party has turned its back on their tradition and said they will destroy that [DNA] data.”

He was joined by Linda Bowman, the mother of Sally Anne Bowman who was brutally murdered and her body raped on the driveway of her home in 2005. Her killer Mark Dixie was convicted in 2008 on the basis of DNA evidence which also cleared her boyfriend, who had just dropped her off, of the crime. Dixie’s DNA profile had been added to the database after he was arrested for a violent assault.

She said: “If it wasn’t for the DNA found on Sally Anne her boyfriend would be serving a sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.”

Bowman has previously suggested that the DNA database should include profiles of everyone in the country in a bid to solve crimes.

The home secretary, Alan Johnson, who was accompanying Brown today, said: “Linda Bowman is a remarkable and brave woman who has suffered the most unspeakable tragedy yet still manages to be a compassionate campaigner for good.

“As Mrs Bowman says, the use of DNA helps the police put the most dangerous criminals behind bars but can also exonerate the innocent.”

Did you see what just happened to you? Or rather, what would have just happened to you if you weren’t so smart and well-informed? (And just generally a pretty cool and all-round fabulous frood with great taste in blogs, actually. Fantastic jacket, is that new?)

On a casual reading, and if you were a casual reader, you would have come away with the very distinct impression that Sally Ann Bowman’s killer was caught and an innocent man saved as a result of the DNA database and that this  would not have happened under the Conservative p0licy of removing innocent people from that database. (Needless to say, this is also the Lib Dem policy).

But you’d be wrong as the murderer, Mark Dixie, was caught because he committed a violent offence and had his DNA taken, not because he was an innocent man already on the database. He was caught because he was caught, and that  is all there is to it. It has never to my knowledge been Lib Dem or Conservative policy that people charged with violent offences shouldn’t have DNA taken and checks run.

(And as it happens, Dixie already had a violent criminal record when he committed the murder, but his known crimes are so long ago (pre-1993) as to predate the database. There is just no criterion whatever on which his case is a justification for retaining the DNA data of innocent people.)

The boyfriend, meanwhile, has even less to do with the database. It appears from the article that he was simply cleared when his DNA was taken, compared with the DNA at the scene and found not to match. No need for a database to do that. The irony is that the poor sap is probably still on it.

And yet this hopelessly unconnected and unconvincing case is being  slyly presented by association as supporting evidence for Labour’s microchip-the-population project.  It’s so full of holes it’s just one great big bloody hole. It doesn’t stand up to even the slightest thoughtful scrutiny (though I suppose at this point we should remind ourselves that the audience were Labour activists).

This is just sick. Ghastly, gurning Gordon Brown is standing up there, side-by-side with the mother of a horribly murdered young woman, stroking his precious database and telling us utter lies. And these are the people who, only this morning, were picking their way delicately through the wreckage of Iraq, ID cards, reforms abandoned and promises broken, to suggest that we – the Lib Dems – had some sort of symbiosis with them. We’re all nice, sweet, lefty people really, aren’t we, they wheedled. Progresssssssive, they hissed.

I feel grubby. Get away from me, you loathsome, tragically corrupt little shits, and  get your clammy, undead hands off of people’s votes. Don’t insult people by asking them to vote for you in the morning, and then driving your great big state juggernaut over some of their dearest values in the afternoon and assuming they won’t notice your cack-handed deception. And stop pooing in my herb bed, I bet that’s you and all.


  1. Doesn’t poo make good fertiliser then?

    “Tactical voting” always struck me as a bit of a con anyway. I think it’s best to vote for your favourite candidate no matter their chance of winning; It’s highly unlikely that your vote will actually alter the outcome of the election i.e. the vote is tied or there is a majority of 1.

  2. Well, I reckon most of the tactical voting is going to be “anybody but Labour”. That’s what I’m doing anyway. That the guy will make a decent local MP helps.

    Mind you, both the Lib Dems and the Tories have given up around here – the Lib Dem candidate hasn’t finished his PhD yet (at a university 150 miles away from the constituency, to which he has no apparent ties.) They’re probably not wrong.

  3. Good post.

    Also, if Lib Dems vote for anyone else it will reduce their total vote count and reduce the effectiveness of their calls for PR after the election.

    Yes, I know Gordon is promising a referendum on PR but he also promised a referendum on Lisbon and we know where that ended up:

    “Cecilia Ivimy, for the Government, said: “A manifesto promise is incapable of giving rise to a legally binding contract with the electorate. It is a point which is so obvious that I don’t want to labour it.””

  4. Totally agree. Tge Tories too are say a vote for lib dems is a vote for labour. well no its not in the lib dem lab marginals is it?. I always dislike this vote grap of lib dem votes both the other two parties. A vote for Lib Dems is a vote for Lib dems not Labour or the Conservatives. wish one of them was 3rd so they can see how they like it

  5. To those criticising tactical voting: My political allegiances lie closest to the Green Party but I’m in a LibDem marginal — I should stick to my principles, campaign for the Green candidate and hopefully, well, let the Tory win, yeah?

    1. You do zactly what you think best, mate, and I wish you joy. My complaint is not so much against tactical voting (except, obviously, inasmuch as I object to the need for it in the first place, and would prefer you to be able to vote 1. Green 2. Lib Dem) as against these complacent authoritarians blundering about the newspapers telling people en masse how to vote and daring to invoke “shared principles” in the process.

      1. I’m sure *you* wouldn’t tell me how to vote, Alix. And I realise voting LibDem is the quickest route to PR…

        But you can bet your bottom dollar that local LibDems will be trotting out the line: “The Greens can’t win here – vote for us to keep the Tory out,” as if principles don’t count.

    2. I think tactical campaigning makes much more sense than tactical voting!

      If A. Voter sits on his arse all day during the campaign and then totters off to the polling booth to mark his ‘X’ then he won’t (probably) change the outcome of the election. So if he votes Green or Lib Dem or Tory it doesn’t really make a difference.*

      If he actually goes out to campaign from doorstep to doorstep, day in day out and tries to persuade people and influence their votes then he probably can affect the outcome. So who he chooses to support** just might make a difference to the outcome of the election. In that case it makes sense to be tactical.It probably even makes sense to go around telling people to vote tactically.

      *To the election result anyway – it will probably*** mean a fair bit to Mr. Voter.

      ** Of course he could be a sneaky bugger and campaign for the mainstream party but vote with his principled heart in the privacy of the booth. As Krusty the Clown said, “I campaigned for the other guy but I voted for you!”

      ***Ok I’m done now – the ‘probably’ button on my keyboard just broke.

  6. What I find most incomprehensible is that Labour are apparently rising in the polls. Who the flaming fuck ARE they?

    No, they can fuck off if they want to scare me with this bogeyman of Camoron, saying Mr. Jones will come back if we don’t rally behind Napoleon. I find it the most repulsive form of “argument” Labour deploy. The second worst is their assertion that they’re handling the recession so well.

    I have been turning my mind to this giant anti-Labour sentiment that Surreptitious Evil alludes to. Are we really like-minded (for example, has the expansion of state power made people more liberal as a response), or do we just all hate Brown & agree on nothing else? Will I still be agreeing with the libertarians this time in 2 years? If nothing else it will be interesting to see how the currents of thought shift.

    I do know I will be opposing a Tory government.

    I would not wipe my arse on suggestions like this.

    Our neighbours in Stoke-on-Trent Central have got Tristram Hunt as official Labour candidate, competing against the world & his wife. That should certainly be one to watch. Whereas we’re having a fairly boring time of it.

  7. As someone who’s a Social Liberal (read; thinks poor people count) but economically literate (likes strong economy, likes things which promote growth, dislikes useless public sector bureaucracy and spending) it’s a hard call which of the two big parties to dislike more.

    Labour, on the one hand, has been a total disaster of a party. Almost every idea they’ve had (which they haven’t *InterestRatesintheHandsofTheBankofEngland* *cough* stolen from us) has been wrong, and the manner they have gone about governing; clear abuse of the whips office, spin and distortion, ‘presidential’ PMs, total disregard for parliamentary reform, cash for honours, neglect of important cabinet offices (to say your priorities are education, education and education and then almost totally ignore education is unforgivable) not to mention the surprising war record of Blair experience (and the legion upon legion of pointless labourite lobby fodder who went along with him) means that anyone remotely liberal or sane would want to get this mob as far away from government as possible. They’ve done almost nothing for the worst off in society and done serious damage to the welfare state with their bureaucratic statmongering. At the same time I get the impression most of their backbenchers have their hearts in the right place and they’re just too weak willed or stupid to interfere with the Blairite consensus on the role of government. A coalition might not be a disaster if those elements were wedded to a properly liberal approach to government and reform.

    On the other hand, the Tories seem to have a vague grasp of economics, seem to share my own dislike of over-regulation (how to improve the health service, criminal justice and education systems? Have teachers, policemen and doctors spend more time teaching, investigating crime and treating patients than they do filling out forms) and occasionally seem to be making jerks in the direction of liberalism (ID cards). They’ll also have Rory Stewart after the election which is damn good news if you care about international development. On the other hand they seem to have finally realised no one believes their ‘liberal conservative’ nonsense and have gone back to robbing the poor to give to the rich or just genuinely being indifferent. There’s every reason to expect that if/when this new lot get in they’re just going to stage a reenactment of Thatcher-lite with all that entails for those living outside the M25. A ‘parliamentary agreement’ would only shift them on liberal issues they already agree with us on and are unlikely to affect the fundamental changes we want unless we can shame them into it.

    It’s kind of a toss-up; would you like the country to be run badly with good intentions or run efficiently with bad* intentions. I’d prefer neither option so I’m voting lib dem.

    *Your mileage may vary… along with your income, most likely.

    Dazmando – What one might like to do is send out leaflets, e.g. in marginals saying ‘the other parties are telling you this, which is blatantly false, because they think you’re idiots’. Unfortunately under the Lord Rennard system of self-marketing we use the same tactics (‘Tories can’t win here!’) so we’re just as culpable. Now himself is no longer at the strategy helm it would be nice to return to a system wherein we assume that the electorate are (a) intelligent and (b) educable about politics and we can say things like ‘the Tories are saying yours is a wasted vote; that’s a lie’.

  8. On the manifesto pledge=promise point I think there’s two things to keep in mind here;

    (a) All manifesto promises should be read as having suppressed ceteris paribus clauses (‘other things being equal’) as any reasonable person would understand that anyone involved in government needs to reserve the right to change their minds which changing circumstances. A manifesto is a statement of intent, NOT a contract. At the same time it is legitimate to ask questions of cases like the referendum pledge where there does not appear to have been a relevant change in circumstance between the issuing of a pledge and the reneging on it. No include something on a statement of intent which you don’t actually intend to carry out is a form of fraud, though not one so easily estimable as reneging on a contract.

    (b) Manifestos are issues by parties, individuals run for office. This may seem like a small matter, but I don’t want an MP I elect to consider themselves contractually obliged to vote for everything the party manifesto includes particularly if it is against their better judgment and their assessment, as my representative, of what would be in my interests. Nor would I feel so obliged if I were running for office. At the same time their is a duty to make any major differences you have with the party line explicit when you’re running. The fact that no one ever does this because it is ‘bad political tactics’ is just one of the many things wrong with UK Politics and gives the whips office carte blanche, once you get into office, to consider you beholden to vote the official line on everything, the whip system being another of the many things wrong with UK politics.

  9. Ghastly, gurning Gordon Brown is standing up there, side-by-side with the mother of a horribly murdered young woman, stroking his precious database and telling us utter lies.

    Yes, but you can’t say that, because she’s standing there and her daughter was murdered.

    I’m sure that Mrs Bowman would never be so crass as to reply to a sensible judicial or political point of that her daughter was murdered, but we all know that that’s why she’s there. Not, primarily, as someone who has direct experience of the issue at hand, but as a moral firewall. (cf also Denise Bulger and Sara Payne.) Criticism of whatever it is that she’s supporting means that you are against her, and therefore, through some wonderful political syllogism, on the same side as the murderer.

    It doesn’t matter that the DNA database had sod all to do with Mark Dixie getting caught, and less still to do with the exoneration of a wongly accused man. If you don’t support it, you think he ought to go free.


  10. @Duncan,

    You are of course correct that a manifesto pledge cannot be a contract because “vents, dear boy, events”. However it is difficult for most of the electorate to see what events made it possible for Labour to renege on it Lisbon treaty with a straight face.

    Which is why I was warning LibDem voters to be careful about taking Labour’s PR promise at face value and vote tactically to elect Labour MP’s.

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