Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals

Labour should withdraw its candidates in the 30 seats where there is a clear fight between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Our guest writers are Guy Lodge and Leo Ringer of the Institute for Public Policy Research

Ed Balls and Peter Hain have today both urged voters to vote tactically to keep the Conservatives out of power. Unsurprisingly Balls and Hain have more to say about Lib Dem voters in the 100 or so Labour-Tory marginals: Balls would like them to ‘bite their lip’ and back Labour on May 6th. Conversely, both hint that Labour voters should support the Lib Dem candidate in those seats where Labour has no chance of winning.

But if Labour was seriously committed to building a ‘progressive alliance’ it might go further than simply urging tactical voting. A much bolder way for it to demonstrate its enthusiasm for a realignment of the centre left would be for it to withdraw its candidates in the 30 seats where there is a clear fight between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Assuming the Labour vote would switch to the Lib Dems rather than to the Tories, then such a move could see the Lib Dems take at least 10 seats from the Tories on Thursday, including the seat of Oliver Letwin in West Dorset.

It would also help the Lib Dems defend a further 10 seats from the Tories, including the Eastleigh seat of the party’s home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne. In other words should Labour withdraw candidates in these seats they could easily deprive the Tories of at least 20 MPs. Nor would this affect Labour’s national share of the vote – they are desperate to avoid coming third overall – since they poll so few votes (roughly about 10-15 per cent) in Tory-Lib Dem marginals.

Labour should be prepared to stand down candidates in these seats without insisting on the Lib Dems returning the favour in Tory-Labour marginals. This is about Labour showing its commitment to cementing a ‘progressive alliance’ in British politics – something it has failed to do while in power, and which it has only returned to very late in the day.

And who knows where it might lead? Should there be a hung parliament there could be another election later this year – might this be the moment when the old Gladstone-Macdonald electoral pact of the Edwardian age is formally revived? The Lib Dems might be more encouraged to look at this if Labour helped them out on May 6th.

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25 Responses to “Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals”

  1. Richard Wilson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  2. Sarnie

    Superb idea. RT @leftfootfwd Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  3. John Bevan

    RT @leftfootfwd Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  4. Nick Smart

    NO, NO, NO! Stick to the script, guys. RT @leftfootfwd Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  5. ReasonsToVoteLabour

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  6. blind cyclists union

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals: << they don't have the balls.

  7. Aidan Flood

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  8. V

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  9. Greg Lovell

    Completely wrong – ppl already understand tactical voting RT @leftfootfwd: Lab shld withdraw in Lib-Con marginals:

  10. Martyn Norris

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  11. Matt

    Utter rubbish. Labour has a duty to field a candidate in every seat in the country so that people have the choice of voting Labour. Let the people decide how they choose to exercise their vote. They are not fools – stop treating them as such. People know what the choices are.

  12. Bill Kristol-Balls

    A very astute and radical idea which obviously comes at least 3 weeks too late to make a difference to this campaign.


    It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a Tory minority government will attempt to push through its agenda and dare either the Lib Dems or Labour to bring the government down, thus forcing a second election within months.

    This would suit the Tories, not least because they would have the £££ to fight such an election whereas Lab and the Lib Dems wouldn’t.

    In such a situation and with a new leader, Labour should come to an agreement with the Lib Dems on a program for government and not compete against each other in certain seats to ensure the Tories are beaten and progress can be made on real constitutional change.

    Would either party have the balls though?

  13. HerbertGladstone

    A really interesting idea. I tried this in 1906 and it worked a treat.

  14. Billy Blofeld

    Poor old Alex Salmond – banned from the “Prime Ministerial Debates” – because he was not standing across all UK constituencies. Wonder what he’ll make of this idea?

  15. nobby-Lobby

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals:

  16. emilia

    Much as I do not want a Tory government, in denying choice to the electorate, I think it would be profoundly undemocratic, particularly when the true extent to which the Lib Dems are really a progressive party economically as well as socially is still very unclear. It’s not a given that a Labour supporter would necessarily vote Lib Dem if there was no Labour candidate in every marginal constituency.

    I also think doing this unilaterally without a similar agreement with the Lib Dems would be suicidal for Labour when Nick Clegg has already stated that total overall vote would in his view provide a greater mandate than the number of MPs. Given the Lib Dems’ performance in local government, I would be very worried about Labour handing them a mandate which they will then use to determine matters in favour of the Tories, either by actively supporting a Tory government or refusing to cooperate with Labour or forming a coalition with Labour in which the cost is too high in terms of progress on issues of social justice.

  17. Ian

    I disagree with this too, but not necessarily for such lofty reasons. The bottom line is, it will backfire. The media will accuse Labour of being cynical and desperate, and Nick Clegg will probably make a similar statement. I’m sure he’s sick of all the “I agree with Nick” stuff. He holds all the cards and he knows it.

    Various centre-left media sources seem to be constantly saying that Labour and the Lib Dems could and should form a progressive alliance and run the country together – most notably the Guardian, who have put all their eggs in one basket. This assumes that the Lib Dems will even want to do this. I just can’t see it happening without Labour winning the most amount of seats. If the Tories get more seats than Labour, Clegg will not prop up a Labour government that have basically just been beaten. The only way Labour could win the most seats is if Lib Dem voters do vote tactically, but I can’t see Clegg’s hordes of converted followers really engaging with it on that kind of level. In any case, a formal coalition or alliance with either party risks splitting the Lib Dems. I can’t see Clegg making any formal deal.

  18. Confused of Croydon

    This would only be remotely feasible if we had a cast iron guarantee that the Liberals would not back the Tories in a hung Parliament. And that we are most certainly not going to get. Indeed, given the number of local councils in which the Libs and Tories are in coalition, I think this would be an extremely risky thing to do.

  19. Jeff Myers

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should withdraw candidates in Lib-Con marginals

  20. Modicum

    Labour and the Liberals should have formed an electoral pact like this generations ago. At a bare minimum both parties should abandon their asinine objection to tactical voting. It is crazy to split the progressive vote like this, and a pact would be in the interests of both parties.

    The notion that fielding separate candidates in all 600+ constituencies gives voters real choice is wrongheaded. Under the current electoral system that ‘choice’ is an illusion.

    In safe seats there is no choice at all and in marginals the only real choice is between the two leading parties. It is best to recognise that fact, and then to get the most possible out of the system by tactical voting and the strategic withdrawal of candidates in certain constituencies; then try to introduce electoral reform as soon as possible so that these kind of tactics become unnecessary.

  21. Modicum

    Confused of Croydon writes:

    “This would only be remotely feasible if we had a cast iron guarantee that the Liberals would not back the Tories in a hung Parliament.”

    Obviously we want to avoid a Tory government. But, with respect, what creates a greater risk of David Cameron as prime minister on Friday: (a) the Tory wins in a Tory/Liberal marginal, or (b) the Liberal wins?

  22. Modicum

    ..we may not know whether the Lib Dems will prop up a Tory government, but we know that any Tory candidate definitely will.

  23. Anon E Mouse

    Why can’t people just vote for the party they support/support the ideas of and then the numbers will show who got the most votes.

    Democracy there’s an idea…

  24. Modicum

    @Anon E Mouse

    Because if people vote that way then you get an MP that the majority of voters oppose. That’s not called “democracy” it’s called an archaic, dysfunctional electoral system.

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