By-election results show how tactical voting puts all Tory seats at risk, particularly Boris Johnson's – Ayesha Hazarika
The good people of Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton decided it was time for a recoupling. Suddenly the nice, nerdy, boring boys look appealing after the player who mucked you about, then tried it on with your sister.
The by-election results were a total tractor crash for the Conservatives. Don’t fall for claims that somehow winning Wakefield was a huge failure for Keir Starmer or that the Lib Dem success was a one-off never to be repeated, for the third time.
The indisputable fact is people are turning away from Boris Johnson in droves and there is an emerging, motivated, anti-Tory opposition ready to mobilise whenever voters go to the ballot box.
The fact they are so willing to lend their votes to another party which can beat a Tory is powerful. Labour and the Lib Dems are so far operating sensible non-aggression pacts, but they would be mad to do formal backroom deals because that would take away control from the voters.
Tactical voting must come from people themselves, and clearly there’s a growing appetite for it. Many deeply frustrated with the Tories and First-Past-The-Post elections have found a way of making their vote count or gaming a system they don’t feel is fair.
It’s exciting. And why not? The voting system, Conservative-supporting media, party funding, and ruthless pork barrel politics all give the Tories huge structural advantages.
So why shouldn’t progressive forces get together, if that’s what people want. We do live in a democracy after all.
Tory attack lines are already saying collaboration won’t work. That there will be a coalition of chaos. But the last six years have been a carnival of absolute political, economic, and moral mayhem. And the voters know it.
That’s why even Leave areas are voting against the Tories. It’s slightly surreal to see proud Brexit constituencies backing a party which once pledged to rejoin the EU.
It’s heartening to see the increasingly deranged culture-war hysteria from Rwanda to an unhealthy obsession with genitalia isn’t doing any heavy lifting for the Tories any more.
Labour and Green voters who used to despise the Lib Dems because of the coalition years have moved on. And Lib Dems who loathed Jeremy Corbyn are now prepared to lend their vote to Labour under Starmer.
It’s hard to see how the Conservatives can turn this around. Are Tory MPs really going to move against Johnson again? Where are the people of stature who could tell him to go? What other insane culture-war big gun can they bring out? A giant wave machine to stop the boats?
Are they even sure what further economic relief they want to dish out to gain popularity? There’s a fine line between being generous and being a “Marxist” in Conservative ideology.
There are no easy answers – apart from dumping Johnson – but they are too scared. However, maybe the fear of all those Liberal Democrats snapping at their heels will provide some courage.
Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, there’s now no such thing as a safe Tory seat. Especially Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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