ANALYSIS: Politicians are playing a dangerous game by taking voters for granted

Posted On: 
13th November 2019

Voters are already unhappy at the prospect of having to go to the polls in the run-up to Christmas.

Politicians are trying to restrict voters' choice at this election.
PA Images

Now politicians risk using up what little goodwill they have left by trying to limit the choice of who people can vote for.

There has surely never been an election like this one. Tribal loyalties are being thrown to the wind as Brexit increasingly defines how people identify themselves politically.

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The latest example came this morning, when David Gauke said a majority Conservative government would be a disaster for the country and suggested that moderates should consider voting Lib Dem instead.

That’s the same David Gauke who was Justice Secretary in a Tory government until four months ago.

So it’s obvious that British democracy is going through a process which may - or may not - end up in a fundamental realignment of the political system.

The political parties are trying to respond to this phenomenon by seeking electoral pacts, both formal and informal, in an attempt to restrict the electorate’s options.

Earlier this week we had Nigel Farage announcing that the Brexit Party will not stand in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017, for fear of splitting the Leave vote and letting Labour or the Lib Dems in. Some Conservatives then responded by demanding he refuse to contest Labour-held marginals as well.

On the Remain side, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens have agreed not to go against each other in seats where the Tories are vulnerable to tactical voting.

Meanwhile, a vicious war is going on between Labour and the Lib Dems, with both parties accusing the other of hampering their chances of beating the Conservatives in key seats.

But there is a real risk that politicians are taking voters for granted, and the consequences are impossible to predict. Why would a lifelong Plaid supporter suddenly want to back the Greens? And how will Labour voters react to being urged to support the same Lib Dems they’ve spent decades opposing?

By trying to game the system, politicians are playing with fire, and there’s no way of knowing who will end up getting burned.