Labour pleads for tactical voting

By Alex Stevenson

Senior Labour figures have launched a concerted bid to keep the Conservatives out of government – by endorsing tactical voting.

Welsh secretary Peter Hain and close Gordon Brown ally Ed Balls’ comments reflect Labour’s renewed focus in the final stages of the 2010 campaign – denying David Cameron an outright majority, rather than seeking a conclusive fourth term in government.

Mr Balls told the New Statesman magazine that he sympathised with the dilemma faced by centre-left voters where the Tories are the main challenger.

“I always want the Labour candidate to win, but I recognise there’s an issue in places like North Norfolk, where my family live, where [Lib Dem frontbencher] Norman Lamb is fighting the Tories, who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out,” he said.

Mr Hain went further, telling the Independent newspaper that progressives should “vote with their heads, not their hearts”.

He explained: “I support every Labour candidate and the Liberal Democrat leadership supports every Liberal Democrat candidate. But voters are intelligent and they know what the real fight is in their own constituency. They will draw their own conclusions.”

Meanwhile, Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell endorsed a campaign by the Daily Mirror to tell people in 71 key marginal seats how to vote in order to deny the Tories a majority.

“What this is doing is basically telling you how you can vote tactically,” she told the BBC.

“If your overriding aim is to stop the Tories being elected, it’s going through all the seats where you could vote against the Tories with the greatest effect.”

The Lib Dem surge in the polls has heightened tactical voting in 2010.

Traditionally Britain’s third party has been squeezed at national level by arguments about the two-horse race for government.

This time round the more complicated picture has led to all three parties seeking to educate voters about the position in their seat more than ever before.

Mr Cameron responded to the Labour calls for tactical voting this morning by arguing for voters to back his party decisively.

“This backs up what we’ve always said which is that if you want to have, on Friday, a new government rolling up its sleeves to sort out this mess, vote Conservative on Thursday,” he said.

Nick Clegg said the calls revealed “utter desperation”.

Labour urges towards tactical voting are nothing new. Last month the prime minister told politics.co.uk in an exclusive interview that voters should support Lib Dem candidates in constituencies where Labour cannot win.

Mr Brown said: “I want everybody to vote Labour and I want people to vote for our party, and I want our vote to be the highest and I want our number of seats to be the highest.

“But if people don’t want a Conservative government then they must make sure they don’t allow the Conservatives in.”

Brown: Vote Lib Dem where Labour can’t win

Video: Gordon Brown talks to politics.co.uk