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Ex-LAB MP Nick Palmer on the #Eastleigh tactical voting dilemma

February 9th, 2013

How will Labour supporters vote in the by-election?

The first poll makes it pretty obvious that the Eastleigh result will hinge on whether the LibDems can squeeze the Labour vote or not. So how will a typical Labour voter think? Assume you think the Government is rubbish, you really dislike the Tories and think UKIP are a bit weird, and you reckon Labour is quite good. There are several possible lines you might take:

1. I want a Labour government so I’ll vote Labour even though I can see they’ll probably not win.

2. I used to vote for Huhne to keep the Tories out, suppose I’ll carry on with that.

3. They’re both Coalition parties, no way am I going to vote for either of them.

4. I’m disgusted by the Huhne case, and I think the LibDems sold out, I’ll even vote Tory to punish them.

4 is too quirky for most, so most will choose between the first three. But what is actually in Labour’s best interest, assuming a surge to victory is out of reach? If the Tories win, it will send a useful shiver down LibDem spines – the theory that they’ll at least hold their southern fortresses merely by playing the “we’re less bad” card will look threadbare, and they may feel they need to start thinking about a pre-2015 exit strategy.

    If the LibDems win, it will signal to the Tories that they can’t count on compensating for loses to Labour by gains from the LibDems, seriously weakening Cameron’s position.

It’s a close call, and weighing it up… I find that personally I don’t really care which Coalition party wins. But if that’s typical of Labour voters, they’ll just vote Labour, and the LibDems will struggle to execute their squeeze.

Nick Palmer was LAB MP for Broxtowe until the 2010 general election and has been posting on PB since 2004.