Who’s Backing Blair? Probably not Chris Applegate, who says tactical voting is rubbish. Not Ken MacLeod, who fears we’re sleepwalking towards a Tory government. Certainly not Tom Watson MP, who says that making a protest vote is “one hell of a risk”.
This is the first in a series of posts inspired by Backing Blair and its critics: it began as an attempt to identify exactly what was wrong with Tom Watson’s arguments against protest voting. It grew from there; I’m going to be writing about electoral blackmail, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, the state of the Left and Paul Anderson’s recent revival of Neville’s Inch, among other things. But to begin with, here’s some arithmetic. (Thanks to Electoral Calculus, UK Polling Report and ukpolitical.info, and in particular this site at Keele University, for the figures.)
At present, the Labour Party has 409 MPs out of 658 – a theoretical majority of 160. The number of Scottish constituencies will be reduced by 13 at the next election. In effect, Labour will go into the election with 400 MPs out of 645 – a majority of 155. The figures for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are 164 and 54. (Boring but relevant information: in what follows I’ll use the by-election figures for the two seats which have changed hands at by-elections since 2001 (Leicester South and Brent East), but use the 2001 figures for the four by-election holds (Hartlepool, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Ogmore, Ipswich). I’ll also use the 2001 figures for two seats which have changed hands without an election (Wantage, Shrewsbury & Atcham) and for the 59 redefined Scottish seats; this includes one seat, the Scottish Conservative marginal of Galloway & Upper Nithsdale