Yes, it’s that time of the electoral cycle again. There’s probably nine months to go until the next general election, so we all need to work out how to vote.
As I’ve argued before in this column, for more than a decade the differences between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have been nugatory by comparison with the differences between either of them and the Tories. On some issues, Labour is more egalitarian, more liberal or more democratic than the Lib Dems; on others it’s the other way round. But both are parties of the democratic Centre-Left — and either is infinitely better than the Tories. So the priority at the next election, just as at the last one and the one before that, is to vote tactically for whichever candidate, Labour or Lib Dem, has the best chance of keeping the Tory out.
In most constituencies — those where Labour won at the last election or came second to a Tory — that means voting Labour. But in quite a few constituencies, the Liberal Democrat either won or came second to a Tory in 2001. In those constituencies, the best way to beat the Tory candidate next time round is to vote Lib Dem.
What follows is a list, in alphabetcial order, of: those constituencies in England and Wales where a Lib Dem came second to a Tory in 2001; and those in Scotland — where there have been boundary changes — where the Lib Dem would have won in 2001 if the new constituency boundaries had been in place. I have shamelessly pinched the latter from the excellent website Election Prediction.
But on with the fun. Lib Dem and Labour supporters should vote Lib Dem in England and Wales where a Lib Dem won in 2001 and in:
Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine
Argyll and Bute
Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirk
Bexhill and Battle
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Cambridgeshire South East
Chesham and Amersham
Fife North East
Folkestone and Hythe
Haltemprice and Howden
Hampshire North East
Isle of Wight
New Forest East
New Forest West
Orkney and Shetland
Penrith and The Border
Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Skipton and Ripon
Surrey South West
Tiverton and Honiton
Westmorland and Lonsdale
Everywhere else, Lib Dem and Labour supporters should vote Labour.
Note that, just as when I did a similar column to this before the 2001 general election, I have carefully written it so that the Liberal Democrats can use it in election material to make it look as if Tribune, the Labour weekly, backs their candidate in each individual constituency. I have of course sent a copy to their headquarters in Cowley Street.
More seriously, there are a couple of things to note about my advice. The list doesn’t include Brentwood and Ongar, where Martin Bell stood as an independent against Eric Pickles in 2001 and came second, with the Lib Dem dropping to third from second in 1997: maybe it should. And, more importantly, I’m not sure what to recommend in seats held by Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party. The Tories are rank outsiders in all Plaid’s seats, so anti-Tory tactical voting is irrelevant in them. But in three constituencies the SNP would have won on the 2001 figures with the Tory second — Angus, Banff and Buchan, and Perth and North Perthshire. So maybe Labour and Lib Dem supporters there should vote tactically for the SNP.