What is tactical voting? Technique explained, is it legal - and how it may be used in Local Elections 2022

A YouGov poll has suggested there may be tactical voting in the upcoming local elections

Millions will head out to cast their vote in the local elections across the four nations on Thursday 5 May.

A poll from YouGov suggested there may be tactical voting involved from Londoners this year as the political parties ramp up their campaigning ahead of polling day.

The polls suggest that there may be tactical voting in favour of Labour from those who backed the Liberal Democrats at the 2019 General Election.

Here we breakdown what tactical voting is, where it is appearing, when it has happened before and whether or not it is legal.

What is tactical voting?

Tactical voting is when voters choose their candidate to achieve a certain result, rather than choosing the person they would actually prefer to be elected.

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Some political parties can also help people to vote tactically by standing down in certain seats.

For example, the Brexit Party chose not to stand in the constituencies which the Conservatives won in the last election in a bid to stop the vote being split.

For a tactical voter, voting for a ‘lesser evil’ candidate is justifiable on the grounds it will block a ‘more evil’ option.

Where is tactical voting occurring in the UK currently?

The YouGov survey for the Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute suggested that there may be tactical voting in favour of Labour from Londoners who backed the Liberal Democrats at the 2019 General Election.

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The poll showed that 35% of Londoners who voted Lib-Dem at the 2019 General Election are now planning to switch to Labour in the town hall polls.

People often vote for different parties at national and local elections, however the percentage of Lib Dems intending to back Labour is around three times higher than in 2018 - when referring back to the 2017 General Election.

Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, Philip Cowley, said: “If repeated on polling day, these figures would see Labour make advances in both inner and outer London.

“Widespread changes to ward boundaries make it difficult to make precise predictions, but this level of Labour support at least indicates that the Conservative-held boroughs of Barnet and Wandsworth may well be vulnerable, even if Westminster and Hillingdon may remain slightly out of reach for Labour.”

Dr Patrick Diamond, Director of QMUL’s Mile End Institute, said: “Our new research shows that Labour is set to perform significantly better than the Conservatives in the forthcoming London borough elections.

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“Support for the Conservatives across the city has fallen sharply since the local elections in 2018, however, Labour’s vote does not look set to advance beyond its successes that year, when it performed particularly strongly.”

The poll put Labour on 50%, more than twice as high as the Conservatives on 23%.

Meanwhile in Scotland, according to the Scottish Daily Express, one of their readers has come up with a guide to help pro-UK supporters defeat the SNP at the ballot box.

The staunch unionist is urging pro-UK supporters to embrace tactical voting at the forthcoming council elections.

His plan for people to vote for the SNP’s challengers, regardless of what party they usually support, would see Nicola Sturgeon lose seats in every council across Scotland.

The Scotland-wide tactical voting bid to oust pro-independence parties has been branded “desperate and misleading” by the Scottish Greens.

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In Northern Ireland the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has urged tactical votes for his party to revive the Stormont Assembly.

Colum Eastwood said: “We have had the DUP and Sinn Fein running the institutions now for 15 years, I don’t think anybody has done very well out of that.

“What people need to do is vote for an alternative and the SDLP are best-placed to attract those votes.”

He added: “In many of the constituencies where we’re fighting to gain a seat, it’s with the DUP for the fifth seat, so I think if people in most of those constituencies want to beat the DUP or send them a message, it’s to vote for the SDLP and even lend us your vote in certain place.

“It’s about transfers, they’re all five-seat constituencies, so if you want to see change you have to think very carefully about your vote and if the last seat is between the DUP and the SDLP, then the SDLP is obviously the choice even if you normally vote for another party but you want to see fewer DUP MLAs, and I think that’s how you do it.”

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Is tactical voting legal in the UK?

Tactical voting is legal in the UK as voters are free to choose whoever they like on their ballot paper.

There is no way to stop tactical voting with even parties themselves making decisions not to stand in certain seats to sway the results of elections.

Decisions like this are normally made to prevent the vote splitting which could stop another party with similar political views from being elected.