There was an awful lot of talk on social media about voting tactically to keep the Tories out, an idea I greatly agree with! There were websites dedicated to looking at past election results, both national and local, to determine who was the most likely challenger to the Tories in any given seat. There were the popular ones, tactical2017 and Best for Britain. There were the more eccentric ones and then there were the newspapers with their predictions.
The one major flaw in these websites is this: the electorate.
Tactical voting has its basis in the assumption that how people voted in the previous election is roughly similar to how they will vote in this election. All you need to do is persuade a few kind hearted Tories to vote Lib Dem or Labour and bobs your uncle, you have a Progressive Alliance or a Labour majority.
In the seat in which I stood, North West Hampshire, there has never been anything but a Conservative MP since it's creation. It was probably even a Tory seat in the Victorian times, but I'll need to check.
Most of the websites said that the tactical option was Liberal Democrat. Some changed their mind half way through and rather than urging people to vote Labour they then urged people to vote Lib Dem. I can understand why. In the local elections just 4 weeks before the Lib Dems, much to my annoyance, did do better than Labour, but in the General Election of 2015 we received 2000 more votes than the Lib Dems.
Fast forward 2 years to the next General Election and countless times I heard people say, 'well I would vote Labour but I think the safe option to keep the Tories out is to vote Lib Dem.' Lib Dem leaflets proudly displayed graphs and headlines of 'Labour Can't Win Here' and so it goes on. I may sound bitter at this point, I promise I'm not...
The result then you would think would be Labour crushed and the Lib Dems sail within a whisker of beating the Conservatives to win North West Hampshire.
The result? Labour, 13,792. Lib Dem, 5708.
One thing tactical voting websites don't take into account is the mood of the electorate.
In 2015 in my seat UKIP came second with 8000 votes, this time they lost their deposit. As with many places around the country that vote didn't head wholly to the Tories but seems to be split evenly amongst Labour and the Conservatives.
We ran a good campaign, but did it on about 40p as we had the locals a month before and we managed to achieve the highest ever Labour vote in this seat. Why? Why would that happen when all the websites predicted we would lose out to the Lib Dems?
The only thing I can put it down to is a successful campaign and a real choice. There was for once a real choice between what the Conservatives were offering and what Labour where offering. There was a clear difference locally in what we wanted to do for the constituency and what the Conservatives wanted to do for the constituency.
The difference inspired people to vote for the plan they thought was best for the country, either way.
Tactical Voting websites can only go on what had gone before and not judge the mood of the electorate at the time.
I am sure in some places they work, close Uni seats, seats where the second place person was within 500 votes etc. But in seats like mine, where the majority was 23,000. No they don't work. You simply have to vote with your heart, so that you can go to bed with the satisfaction that you voted for the party, candidate and plan that you wanted to win.