Wasted Votes


We have an election in the UK next month. One of the main differences between UK and US politics is that we have three major parties rather than two. The Liberal Democrats, however, could be said to be on something of a losing streak – having not won in ninety two years.

If you’re wondering why that graph goes completely insane right around now, it’s because we just had our first ever televised debate between the party leaders, so suddenly everyone knows who they are and what they’re saying. The lack of that has been a problem for the Liberal Democrats in the past, but one of the biggest reasons they’ve struggled to win is all the not-winning they’ve done.

It confused me when, as a kid, I tried to understand how politics worked in this country, but the logic goes like this:

  1. I like the Liberal Democrats.
  2. But I really hate the Conservatives.
  3. Since the Liberal Democrats never get in, I should vote for Labour to ensure the Conservatives won’t.

This will either seem like a reasonable precaution to you, or it will make your fucking brain explode. For me it was the brain thing, and it still is. Where do you- I mean how do you- Why would… if… what.

There are only two coherent viewpoints on voting. Either you recognise that you are just one person, that it’s statistically almost impossible for you alone to determine the outcome of an election, and that the whole process is pointless on an individual level.

Or you do what you would wish others to do, because if everyone only thought of themselves we’d have no democracy at all. In a sense, you see yourself as everyone, and act as you would want society to act. You’re having tea with Immanuel Kant later and the two of you are going to get along famously.

In the first case, you don’t vote. In the second case, you vote for who you want to win, because that’s what you’d want others to do. And yet most people I talk to about this seem to exist in a squidgy third state between these two positions, in which voting for the party in third place is a wasted vote, but voting for your second favourite will change the outcome to your liking.

They don’t see themselves as just one person, or there’d be no point in voting. But they’re not going to act as they want everyone to, or they’d vote for the party they actually wanted. So I can only assume they think of themselves as blob of around 800,000 people: enough to push the second party into pole position, but too few to boost a twenty percenter into the lead.

I’m not saying your vote does make a difference if you vote for the Liberal Democrats. I’m saying your vote is every bit as pointless, impotent and thirty times as ridiculous if you cast it at a larger party you don’t even want to win. Even if they do – especially if they do.

I don’t care who you vote for, but I do care that your brain functions correctly when turning opinion into action. Strategic voting is for reality TV, applying it to a national election is a mental disorder.

63 Replies to “Wasted Votes”

  1. The Liberal Democrats last charismatic leader that people knew was Paddy Ashdown, most knew him because he was an ex-SBS commando and everyone wanted him to fight the other candidates. Stick them all in a room with 1 knife between them see who comes out alive sort of thing.

    Maybe this is the term the UK gets its arse into gear, probably not. Anything other than the Tories is a good thing though right?

    On a sidenote, Deus Ex on Steam for cheap!!! joy!

  2. But this assumes that each party is completely separate from each other in every way, when in reality that isn’t the case. People can feel OK about voting a party to power with broadly similar, overlapping policies with the party they genuinely supported.

    And the argument doesn’t really fit in constituencies with only two likely choices. For example, here in Cheltenham, if you vote Labour, you are wasting your vote. But a tactical vote from most of the Labour supporters could decide the winner here. This has the bonus effect of keeping the parties nice and mainstream, stopping them from doing anything too party-line lest they lose that nice chunk of tactical votes.

    There are good points to tactical voting, and I’m not sure it can or should be so easily dismissed as solely for reality TV.

  3. The number of people I’ve spoken to who say “I want to vote for the Lib Dems, but won’t since they won’t get in” drives me mad. Until last week, none of them ever realised just how many others thought the same thing.

    The Lib Dems aren’t a pointless third party, they’ve just been mis-represented and overshadowed for the longest time.

    I say, if you want Lib Dems, vote Lib Dems. Simple as that (although to be honest, whoever gets in, the country will still go to hell. The only difference will be how quickly).

  4. The huge swing in support for the liberal democrats in the polls this election has to mean that tactical voting based on the numbers of the last election is useless this time. If you want the Liberal Democrats, just vote for the Liberal Democrats, even if they didn’t place first or second in your region. You might find there’s a lot of other people making the same decision.

  5. I’ve recently become interested in politics, which seems like some sort of horrible confession.

    Up here in Scotland, you’re either a Tory (and an endangered species) or you fall on one or another side of the Separatism debate. I’m in an SNP household and I’ve been certain I’d vote SNP in this election. I was never really sure why it’d be great to be separate from England, and in the last year or so I really wasn’t keen on the idea anymore (If we could only start adding more countries, even.)

    I’ve been tentatively exploring my growing fondness of the Lib Dem party by asking people what they think of it. Most of the three kinds of people I talk to – family, friends, and people who phone my house – end up confessing that they’d probably vote Lib Dem if they weren’t voting SNP to become separate from England.

    I guess it’s easy to blame your problems on another country “governing” you. Then again, with the devolved parliament, tax and budgeting aren’t really our problem if the Tories get in down south. I think it’s a good idea to have a local group taxing and providing services to a country-sized chunk, actually. I just don’t see why I should need to get a passport to go live and work in England.

    So I think about this a lot. I mean, last election, everyone voted SNP and we got this Angus Robertson prick. This year, nobody else is canvassing. We got one SNP van driving around and a Tory leaflet (that was heavily annotated before we burnt it). So if I vote Lib Dems, it won’t actually empower the Lib Dems by a significant margin.

    But I think it’s important to understand how the system works, and not in a really technical way. It’s designed to work when everyone votes for the kind of government they want, you know? I wonder how many Lib Dem votes are locked away as anti-Tory votes for Labour.

    There was a facebook group I saw the other day that was trying to get people to vote in such a way that would bring about a hung parliament, and it wasn’t even showing you a map, it was just saying “based on your post code, vote x.” That’s really dangerous, I think. It told me to vote Tory. No! Bad, bad facebook group!

    As a final note, did anyone try that site that matched your political views to a party by having you answer lots of questions like “Should the house of Lords be entirely elected”? Anyone else think, “this is what we should have instead of MPs”?

  6. My God, that the most coherent thing I’ve ever, ever read in the endless wars about voting for a minority party.

    Standing ovation.

  7. The problem is that people perceive winning the election as the highest cause they can serve with their vote. If you vote for someone who doesn’t win, your vote was “wasted.”

    But that’s a really dumb way of looking at things. Voting consistently, no matter for whom, actually gives you much more clout as a citizen, because active voter demographics are the ones politicians in office pander to.

    Look at the US: a groundswell of “non-traditional” voters (minorities and youth) carried a massive democratic majority to power, and they all ran up to their offices on capitol hill and hid because old white people were waving badly spelled and even more badly thought-out signs at them.

    The reason? Old white people vote like their lives depend on it.

    Conventional Wisdom says the Obama turnout was a fluke and the teabaggers are almost guaranteed to turn out in droves. This is, of course, self-fulfilling; the cowardly congressmen who were voted into office have been far too spineless to accomplish anything worth voting for. The fact that they won, DEVASTATINGLY I might add, seems to elude their notice.

    So, really, the most important thing you can do with your vote is use it every chance you get, so that once you’ve put someone in office you can bring some pressure to bear on them.

  8. It’s people like you wot voted for Nader in 2000, and you know how that turned out. If you want to rant about voting theory, at least read the fucking wikipedia page.

  9. Lyndon: One of the things the Liberal Democrats have had in their manifesto for years is changing the parliamentary voting system to some form of proportional representation. This time, Labour are talking about having a referendum on switching to Alternative Vote, if they get in, but this might just be an attempt to steal some LibDem limelight as it’s a new position for them.

    The system we do have, however, is pretty broken. I can’t help but agree with the article. Vote for who you want to win!

    Also, vote! Too many people don’t bother. If all those people who don’t usually vote got up and voted LibDem, they’d definitely win… not that I’m likely to believe they’d all want to, of course.

  10. I don’t like the Liberal Democrats, but I really don’t like the Conservatives, so who I’m going to vote for has never been a problem (That and I’ve been involved with the Labour party since I was a young kid (posting leaflets and the likes), so I’ve probably been brain-washed or something :p). Besides, I personally know the Labour candidate for MP where I live and want him to win.

    There is one LibDem policy which is a deal breaker for me, and that’s their policy on Trident. We need it, it’s pretty much the only reason we have a seat on the UNSC and the only reason we still retain any political clout is the (rapidly fading) shadow of Empire and our Nuclear capability. I’ll admit that under Blair foreign policy suffered BIG time, but we still need the Nuclear weapons, and without missile silos and ICBMs, Trident is our best form of PoP. I’m undecided on ProRep, I’m just not convinced it’s right for our form of Government.

    But anyway, I’ve been really surprised by the recent turn-about, a month ago the running joke was ‘Women: Nick Clegg? Who’s that. Interviewer: He’s your husband, Mrs Clegg’ If you’d asked anyone if a LibDem win was a possibility until about a week ago they’d have laughed in your face and said that any Libs would be voting tactically, it’ll be good to see what happens when people vote for what they actually want. Some democracy would be nice.

  11. Excellent wordthinks, that Tom. As a little addendum, I seriously recommend folk to look up their previously serving candidates on sites like They Work For You – it’s where I found out that the Labour MP in my area pretty much votes in the way I’d want in Parliment and sadly won’t be standing this year. Inevitably, it’s also where I found out that she was a 98% rebel to the Party line, which rather put me off Labour this time around.

  12. ‘The media’ which the tories and labour are half in bed with have never ever ever attended a Lib Dem party conference (where all the dodgy deals are made).

    Never. Not once. So a vote for the lib dems isn’t a vote half wasted on pandering to the media.


  13. Nice post Tom. In light of this week’s excitement, I’ve decided I can finally stop wavering and vote Lib-Dem, rather than having to slightly begrudgingly support Labour (though my current Labour MP is alright, to be fair). I can but hope other people will do the same come election day.

    Lack_26: Trident isn’t our entire nuclear presence, so when parties say they’ll “scrap” it, they aren’t saying they’d leave us without a nuclear deterrent. But it is an anachronism, born when a Soviet threat was still a genuine one.

  14. What I find frustrating is that the Lib Dems can be projected as having about 30% of votes in the opinion polls – 2 behind the tories and a similar number above labour – but the predicted seats (presumably) based off the same polls would put them as a fairly distant 3rd in a hung parliament, with 50-60 seats less than labour.

  15. @Dr Disaster: at least the “evil” white old people didn’t drop the F bomb every 3 seconds and screamed “KILL OBAMA!), like the Democrat supporters do it all the time (just with “KILL BUSH!”.) And look what’s becoming of the US thanks to those kids who voted Democrat. Europe 2.0. Great. Not.

    As for the UK, as long as Labour is kicked out and thus stops destroying Great Britain and turning it into Britannistan I don’t care.

    But it won’t matter. It’s all going to burn down anyway. The US going marxist and completely weak thanks to the spineless wonder, aka the shoe shining boy in the oval office (why does he have to bow all the time? And especially to dictators? He barely nods to the queen, but almost kisses some sheikhs feet, what a hoser.) Europe going more fascist every day (now the EU wants to tell people where and when they must go on vacation.) And the UK going all dhimmi (if I say islam is a pile of crap based on lies and fairy tales, I’m a racist, if I say christianity is a pile of crap based on lies and fairy tales, I get knighted in the UK and Gordon Braun gives me a hug.) Pffff… Yeah. It’s going to burn.

    PS: dear Americans, you will really enjoy it once your Obamacare goes down the road of the NHS and other nationalized health insurances in the EU. Oh yes, you will “love” it. And you’re going to “love” the immigration “reform” that Obie is going to drop on you next. It’ll belike Europe! Intellectual! Sophisticated! On the moral high ground! And so tolerant that, when an illegal immigrant rapes your daughter and murders her, you will have to apologize for not handing her over sooner! Woohoo!

    WW3, here we come.

  16. @Blackberries,

    I didn’t say we would be entirely without nuclear weaponry (well I sort of implied that, whoops) but Trident is the best delivery system we have (I’m not even sure what others we have, especially since we cancelled the WE.177 program in ’98. If you can name any others we have please do.)

  17. The other problem is that when everyone did do what you’re advocating, in 1983, the SDP got 25% of the vote – and 23 seats – and Thatcher got a landslide on a tiny proportion of the vote. It was a huge mandate not for either of the other parties, but for electoral reform – and it was utterly ignored because our FTP majoritarian system maximises the vote of the winning party, so the big two have no incentive to change, as they can just take turns.

    Yes, in most seats your vote is worthless, so make your decision based on a nice big % for the Lib Dems sending a message to Westminister (which they’ll almost certainly ignore.) But in marginals, where the Lib Dems are nowhere, you’ll need a second choice.

    Wow, just read Badger’s post above me. I hope that’s irony, I fear it isn’t. I _like_ Londonistan. Badger, yes, you are racist, but because of your comments about Obama, not about Islam. It’s obvious you’re well aware of that and probably proud of it. It’s a pity your brain is obsolete. :(

  18. Politics?
    Oh dear. You’ve really unleashed the beast now, haven’t you?
    Let the ignorant assumption that socialism equates Nazism commence.

  19. @Badger
    I.. wow~~
    are you joking? Please say you are joking and I’m mistaking parody for sincerity? If not then I don’t know where to begin. For starters, stop taking the Express and listening to TalkSport.

    My understanding is that our nuclear capabilities are based around using submarines to launch missiles, but I don’t think the Trident system is the only implementation of that (four subs, one active at a time). I could be wrong though. At any rate, what the Lib-Dems are saying is they’d not make plans to renew Trident with Trident II in 2020, and instead consider other options (which I admit is quite lackluster).

    You make a reasonable point about potentially lowering out international clout by deliberately nerfing our nuclear capabilities. That’s a legitimate worry. I suppose my response would be that a) nuclear capabilities aren’t the only factor at play in global prominence, and b) I’d personally prefer steps towards disarmament, even at the cost of a smaller international willy. It’s still a good point though.

  20. I think Badger is either some sort of deliberate caricature of a lunatic.

    Well, hope anyways.

    Given that the Trident warheads are build, maintained and effectively leased to the UK from the US (Royal Navy ships have to travel to pick up new/replacement warheads from a base in Georgia, USA), with a set of conditions upon use, it’s hard to see exactly what sort of a deterrent they pose. I can’t really think of a situation where the UK would use nuclear weapons without the US doing the same, and they have more than enough by themselves.

    I suspect the UKs political clout and position at the UN stems more from the association with the US, past WW2/LofN history, and possibly the Commonwealth. There’s probably a counter-argument that disarming would have a nice side-effect of helping remove notions of the UNSC being a nuclear club.

    Although i’m not sure exactly why we deserve to be Permanent Members of the security councile anyways.

  21. I personally would vote Conservative. I don’t want the Lib Dems getting in because I live in Barrow-in-Furness… where they build the trident. Unemployment is bad enough here as it is without them making even less jobs for the area.

  22. “But I really hate the Conservatives.”

    NO OFFENCE LIKE, but I always assumed you would be a massive Tory due to your posho-sounding voice. I’m glad you’re a rough local like the rest of us ;)

    ps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gv4Abt3sZU&feature=PlayList&p=E55CD5AAA2289A88&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=68

    pps: I’ve always voted LibDems and I always will, if only because it’s the best way to get PR into play. Once that’s in, my votes are going wild.

  23. I fucking hate people who say “Ooh, a vote for Liberal is a wasted vote!” No it’s not, you stupid cunt. And they generally seem to be the same people who don’t recycle because “what difference can one person make?”


  24. I try not to get too involved in politics as it makes my brain explode with bitterness, like an ale gone wrong.

    Everyone is so quick to vilify the other parties and lump people they don’t like into them, which only further drives the barrier for folk to not join your side. Just because somebody is a tory and a bit posh doesn’t make them evil okay? Honestly, grown men and women still having the same knee-jerk response to folk with money as a teenager in a che guevara t-shirt. Look over some policies and actions then decide if they’re a bastard or not. Though if they’re an MP for whatever party, down to the wire the answer will probably be “they are a massive git”.

    I really hope the Lib Dems get in and Clegg doesn’t throw us too much into the E.U. Anything’s better than Cameron or Mandelson, plus it’ll be an amusing embarrasment to the shriekier newspapers as well as the Labs and Tories to see a party they neglected for so long beat them. I know I’ll have a good chuckle.

    P.S. Where are you getting 92 years from Tom? I swore it was 87 years, Libs having last won the 1923 election to be ousted in 1924.

    P.P.S. My girlfriend’s father is a 55 year old born again Christian American and his views are pretty much exactly the same as Badger’s. Drives me fucking spare, but it does make me see how those on the left tend to dismiss the right as evil and stupid driving them further into the right and vice versa. It’s refreshing and eye opening to have my own deeply seated intrinsic leftist beliefs challenged and to see where the other side actually comes from.

    It’s that whole “forcing people to do things as you think it’s right” rather than “presenting why your view is a good view and some way they can perhaps attach to it emotionally and intellectually”. People will still vehmenetly oppose you as is their right, but at least you showed strength in understanding whilst maintaining where you stand.

    Then I get a little sad as no-one else is prepared to understand the other side to theirs, so I’m left all alone in a political quagmire. I’ve said too much indeed.

  25. @Badger

    Labour and the Democrats; A bunch of pretentious old men playing at running the world. But the world left them behind long ago. We are the future.

    Some claim you and I polarize politics, effectively turning it into a non-violent war. But every war is the result of a difference of opinion. Maybe the biggest questions can only be answered by the greatest of conflicts.

    Some say concentrated power leads to abuse, but I believe that if an institution has a solid foundation it can survive the narrow aspirations of the people it employs. But since our foundation is made up solely of LEFTIST COMMUNIST BASTARDS, this is invalid.

    Let’s get one thing straight: we’ve got our share of crooked bureaucrats — fact — but this is still the GOP, and by and large the republicans are twenty-four carat gold.

    Do you ever ask what it’s all for? The surveillance, the police, the shoot-on-sight laws? Is that freedom?

    When government surveillance and intimidation is called “freedom from terrorism” or “liberation from crime”, freedom and liberty have become words without meanings. No, it isn’t, and BIG GOVERNMENT does not support freedom.

    I AM the people!

    It’s just so fitting that the American Government would destroy the gift of freedom the founding fathers gave to the country 200 years ago and then try to blame it on us.

    The rhetoric in Washington has done more to defeat liberty than all the armies and police forces in the world.

    The left’s objective is to govern the world. Do not be deceived.

    The checks and balances of democratic governments were invented because humans themselves realized how unfit they were to govern themselves. They needed a system, yes. An industrial age machine. And DEMOCRATS are destroying this system.

    For a hundred years, there’s been a conspiracy of democrats against ordinary people.

    Rebellion, as the Declaration of Independence tells us, is not only our “right” but our “duty” when we have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations.

    Badger, we’ve had to endure much, you and I, but soon there will be order again. A new age. Aquinas spoke of the mythical city on the hill, soon that city will be a reality and we will be crowned its kings. Or, better than kings… gods!

  26. Now, I’ve had a bit of a tl;dr situation here, but looking at the crazed far-right US nutjobbery above the comment box I doubt I missed much.
    While I broadly agree that you should vote for who you want to win in the May election, there are several problems with that in this case. Namely the fact that in this election, the Lib Dems really cannot gain a majority (due to the distribution of their support across constituencies etc) and so in the event of a hung parliament, they will be instrumental in forming a coalition which will almost definitely be with Labour. Now while this isn’t technically Labour it will surely be led by Brown and will most likely lead to some sort of horrendous deadlock while all confidence leaves our economy and the country explodes.

    Ok, it won’t be that bad, but the point remains that all the people who voted Lib Dem because they wanted them to win will end up with Brown – who I’m sure many of said would not want to lead for another term.
    I think that most voters don’t properly understand the problems that a hung parliament would cause – I’m in favour of trying one out at some point as the sort of multi-partisan representative government idea is an appealing one – however the country is currently in major trouble and it’s too much of a risk to experiment in such a way right now.

    I am a first time voter in a fairly safe conservative seat whose views make me favour the labour party. However for the reasons detailed above combined with the fact that (in my opinion) the Lib Dems are simply telling everyone what they want to hear whilst adding another level of lies to the political standard, I think that a Tory majority would be the best thing for the country. No I don’t trust Cameron or agree with all that many Tory policies but I don’t want more Brown and nor do I want to risk a hung parliament.

    I will be voting Labour in my constituency (as I feel that the candidate Tom Gann (salisburylabour.org.uk) is the one that best represents me) and to that extent I do agree with the blog. However, if there was any chance that he’d win and give Brown’s Labour another seat, I’d vote Tory.

    Another case of ideals being crushed by reality

    tl;dr: It’s not as simple as that, our country is buggered, hung parliament = too risky, Lib Dem = Brown-led coalition. Vote as you want but know the likely result.

  27. Well now, seeing as this is already 30 comments long and is swiftly spiraling into the teritory of the mind boggling (although Joe!’s slightly scary, hopefully satirical post was quite entertaining) Methinks I’ll just point out the whole utter farcical nature of the democracy which First Past The Post voting creates.

    First Past The Post (FPTP) voting is bloody useless for fairly representing anything even close to the equal representation of seats in the parliment, the fact that Labour, winning by the smallest majority ever, 35.2% of the vote in 2005 and still managing to get a 55.1% majority of the seats hardly shows any form of corralation now does it? basically the only thing FPTP is useful for (and if you think my view is narrowminded and/or idiotic, by all means, please point out why) is creating strong policies from the leading parties, and keeping nutjobs like UKIP and the BNP out.

    Honestly, a system like STV which may well require larger constituencies to work would be far more effective as at least there won’t be a need for all the tactical voting, or leaving minor parties high and dry as they get next to no support as they are considered “wasted votes”. May also end up with less voter apathy if they think the votes will count for something. ‘Course then there’ll be the fringe nutters like the BNP etc. who might actually then have a shot in the dark at actually having a say in things, but surely no one is stupid enough to vote for the racists, right? *Please don’t kill me*

    And somewhat controversially, possibly, I don’t think Lib Dem will change the voting system if they get in, if they win on FPTP I doubt they’ll want to change it at all, seems kinda ass-backwards.

    Oh, and why yes, I am a Modern Studies student, and as of such, probably one of the few people who actually understands how all the voting systems work in some hazey fashion. 8P And I could probably sculpt a beautifully worded essay if I so chose, but eh. Effort.

    Now if you excuse me, I’m off to see if the Greens are a suitable voting choice this year. Always liked ’em, always voted SNP because the local candidate actually knows what he’s doing. Pity I also happen to live in an area which wants to go all Conservative apparently.

    And this is also the only time I ever feel the “I’ve said to much” line is appropriate, I’ll shaddup shall I?

  28. It’s such a relief to learn that we live in a world where grown-ups never have to choose the lesser of two evils.

    OTOH I don’t understand that last argument about coalition and hanging Parliament to gain electoral reform. It seems to fall under the earlier stereotype of thinking about ‘winning’ elections in theory rather than accomplishing goals in practice. You think the ‘leader’ of a coalition government just makes all decisions? Surely a coalition the LibDems can shut down at will – and which will clock up unprecedented political face time for them every day – is preferable to irrelevance? Surely electoral reform is a concrete goal towards which one can choose to work?

  29. “You’re having tea with Immanuel Kant later and the two of you are going to get along famously.”


    “I don’t care who you vote for, but I do care that your brain functions correctly when turning opinion into action.”

    This has been my opinion the whole time, without me knowing.

  30. Maybe because I’ve been doing a lot of coding lately, one or two of these responses make me want to put “DO WHILE point != ‘grasped'” in front of the post and “LOOP” at the end.

    The rest is really interesting, though, thanks for all your insights. I didn’t know there was such an even jumble of political leanings here. It’s also cool that a lot of people know the policies of the individuals running for their constituencies, distinct from the parties they represent.

    Lyndon & Nerfball: Yeah, from what little I know, I can’t see how Preferential voting isn’t… preferential.

    EGTF: Just Wikipedia. I was going by this rather attractive list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Prime_Ministers_of_the_United_Kingdom

    Wikipedia says 1923 was a hung parliament, with Conservatives taking most seats but Labour in power until 1924. If true, the country lost a great moustache that year.

  31. Joe! your appointment to the Lib Dems should be finalized within the week. I’ve already discussed the matter with the senator.

    The secondary party should be online, within six months. It’s currently undergoing preperation and should be operational, within six months. My people will continue to report on its progress, within six months.

    We’ve had to endure much you and I, but within the week there will be? old men, running the world.

  32. I think a slightly more rational reason to not vote is when you feel that in doing so, you would let them get away with blatant misrepresentations ect.

    Though in that situation some people prefer to protest vote, which i think is bizzare. Especially those people who voted BNP ‘in protest’ I think if you vote BNP anyway, your either mad, hate filled or just plain ignorant. But if you voted them in protest, knowing what they stand for and still you thought that was a place to put your cross, then, i dont know, i just despair.

    Don’t know about you, but after even a breif discussion of politics, i just want to eat and build tanks.

    Oh and Joe! – Epic Comment :P

  33. @Aldo

    Just to back up Lack, UK warheads are designed, manufactured and owned by HM’s Government. The actual missiles have to be serviced in the US though, in Geogia (so part way there), the only problem with this is that in the event of a significant fallout with the US we would start to face problems keeping them running in about 4-5 years. The decision to use them is our own, unless for NATO purposes, where our NATO allies have a say.
    I am in partial agreement over the UNSC membership, but we have far more projectable hard power (despite the massive cutbacks) than any non-UNSC member, and more than one (China). If we got rid of the nukes it would probably mean more members, India and Brazil for example, whether we would keep out seat would be up to the result of the inevitable furious negotiating that would bring. There isn’t any way to predict the effects unfortunately.
    Really I think it is in our best interests to keep our seat, combined we could probably use the French and US seats (vetos) to shield us, but that would be rather precarious.
    You may want to read the 2 links below. The top one from the House of Commons Select Defence Committee on defence and contains views from both sides, the lower is the response by the MoD to a freedom of information request about the independance of the UK’s detterrent.




    Submarine launched ballistic missile is the most secure way, especially for us, unless we want to evict Wales we don’t have the space to keep a secure silo based system (very very expensive as well). We don’t have the planes or supporting assets for an effective strategic air deployed system, unless we want to limit the deterrent effect to our neighbours. The other sub launched option (cruise missiles) has it’s difficulties, if that was the path chosen they would cut the Vanguard class and use existing subs, of which there are barely enough for their current role, adding the Nuclear deterrent role would make matters even worse. Also their are problems even if we had enough subs, cruise missiles can be shot down relatively easily, they are shorter ranged as well, the Vanguard class currently patrol in the North Atlantic, if we needed to use cruise missiles on some nations we would have to leave the relative safety of that area and move into range. Taking time and putting the subs into danger. There is also the issue that all our current cruise missiles are sub launched, if in a conventional war against a nuclear armed foe and we (or any allies for that matter, and the yanks especially fire a lot) launched a cruise missile to strike a target and they detected that, how would they know it wasn’t armed with nukes? They could think we were launching a first strike, causing god knows what reaction.

  34. Btw, in the above where I said we could use the FR and US seats to shield us, I was not being paranoid that everyone out there is out to get us. By shield I actually meant protect our interests.

  35. @EGTF

    No, within six months.

    Anyway, welcome to the lib dems, EGTF, I may as well start using coke.

    I know the Prime Minister, because he’s my pal. Don’t think you know something about the prime minister here’s a picture:

    | |
    | |
    ,’ `,
    | | | |
    | ,’ `, |
    ,’ | | `,
    | | | |
    `\,’ `,/’
    | |
    | | |
    | | |
    | | |
    | | |

    Don’t believe me? It’s all in the numbers.

    Number 1: That’s Nick Clegg.
    Number 2: That’s Nick Clegg.

  36. You know, I became interested in politics the INSTANT I could watch parliament doing the second DEBill reading over t’internet. Having Clegg debate with other dudes has raised his exposure loads – why couldn’t we have Clegg, Cameron and Brown having a flame war on twitter all day? Then we could have other parties like the Greens showing up and everyone can have a chance.

  37. I should add that you have summed up my annoyance of tactical voting perfectly. And I linked it to some idiot on Twitter telling people to vote Tory to avoid getting more years of Labour and saying Lib Dems are a wasted vote. /angryface.

  38. Insightful post, Tom.

    What with this new Digital Economy bill being jumped upon by the Labour and Conservative parties, you could very easily come to the conclusion that in future, electronic old men will be running the world.

  39. I like this post a lot–even with a two-party system, here in the States, the same mentality sort of exists. It’s why we don’t have any kind of powerful third party whatsoever, and why it’s been easy for the Democratss and Republicans to stay in power, despite the legitimate reasons that individuals from both parties shouldn’t be allowed to captain a sailboat, let alone hold political office.

    The closest we have to a multiple party system is in our primaries, where you can have individuals who rebel somewhat against the main party’s status kick out the old ones, but this isn’t always successful. (Though my district in the state of Maryland did score a nice victory when we kicked out our old Representative in the House and put Donna Edwards in, who’s been doing a kick-ass job in Congress so far.)

    Though, over here, this mentality can lead to even WEIRDER results. There were two conversations I had with two different people I was close to during the 2008 election,

    Conversation #1
    Me: Oh, hey, have you figured out who you’re voting for? (Friend, like me, had just turned 18)
    Friend: Oh, no, not really. I’m not sure who I want to vote for. I kind of like both of them, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference.
    Me: Er, it sort of does. They’ve got entirely different foreign policy views, energy views…
    Friend: Well, yeah, but, I mean, I’m not sure I like McCain…he’s kind of old…
    Me: Uhhhh
    Friend: And I kind of do like Obama, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it to vote for him.
    Me: Why?
    Friend: Because I’m worried there’s a good chance he’ll wind up being assassinated, (Because he’s black) so it won’t really matter.
    Me: …..What the hell?

    Said friend wound up just not voting.

    Conversation #2
    (Took place in mid October)
    Me: So, yeah, I was thinking about going down and canvassing for Obama in Pennsylvania…
    Friend: Eh, there’s really not much point.
    Me: Oh, why?
    Friend: I mean, Obama’s basically won already at this point, hasn’t he?
    Me: Wait, what? Why?
    Friend: Well, everyone’s talking about him…he’s got all the blue states already…
    Me: Well, yeah, but no one’s even voted yet. Even the polls are too close to tell.
    Friend: Yeah, but he’s going to have the blue states, and the swing states are probably going to go his way too.
    Me: There’s no way we can possibly know that for sure, bigger surprises have happened in previous elections.
    Friend: Well he’s going to have Maryland, and Maryland’s a VERY blue state. (blue=Democrats)
    Me: Wait, are you even voting?
    Friend: I’m not sure, like I said, he’s going to win anyway.
    Me: How can he win if people don’t vote because they assume he’s going to win?

    Said friend did wind up voting for Obama

    I had so many conversations with people who were more concerned about the status quo, and what the “De Facto” of the situation was–yeah, it’s the “De Facto,” but mainly because everyone who thinks it’s the “De Facto” doesn’t bother to try and change it.

    What’s scarier is, I caught myself occasionally thinking the same way about other issues…there’s that realization that we don’t think we don’t have the power to change something, mainly because we don’t try and change something, because we don’t have the power to change something.

  40. Great post, you’ve clearly put a lot of intelligence into this one.

    Personally, I’d like to see the Lib Dems win. And yes, I’ll be voting for them, as well as trying to convince my friends to do the same. It’s my first time voting, as I was too young in the last general election, and I’ve actually got really into the whole politics thing this time around.

    As a side-note, anyone interested in seeing how powerful your individual vote is should check out http://www.voterpower.org.uk

  41. @Alien
    You’re right – warheads are made AFAIK in the UK (likely based on US designs & research), but the actual Trident missiles are produced by Lockheed Martin and picked up from Kings Bay, Georgia (where they are part of a shared stock with the US).

    However, with regard to political independence, I think it’s highly unlikely there isn’t some form of arrangement regarding usage. It’s also highly unlikely it’d be formalised in the from of an treaty etc for obvious political reasons… in any case I honestly can’t envisage a circumstance where the UK would launch a nuclear strike that the US wouldn’t either approve of, or carry out itself. (and frankly, in that sort of circumstance we’d probably be screwed regardless)

    I simply don’t see any real inherent value in nuclear weaponry which is worth the cost. Particularly if they’re kept purely on the basis of permanent UNSC membership.

  42. Oh balls, I woke up a troll. Sorry about that.

    The responses have been pretty hilarious, though. Especially Joe’s DE rant.

  43. I didn’t know there was such an even jumble of political leanings here.

    Pentadact – with all due respect, you have an enormous blind spot. Aside from the trolls (who are so over the top I can’t believe they’re serious), the political leanings in this comment section are 99% non-Tory, and 99% of _that_ is LibDem. There is nothing “even” here. If all of Britain was represented by this comments section, Clegg would probably be King, never mind PM.

  44. “If all of Britain was represented by this comments section, Clegg would probably be King, never mind PM.”

    You’re underestimating FPTP I think.

  45. I am Joe, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Labour, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the BNP, ‘It belongs to racist bigots.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Tories, ‘It belongs to toffs from eton.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… the Lib Dems, a party where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, the Lib Dems can become your party as well.

  46. Look at you, voter. A pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my election. How can you challenge a perfect, immortal candidate?

    The Labour Party is dead, insect. Are you afraid? What is it you fear? The end of your trivial voting system? When the history of the Lib Dem glory is written, your party shall only be a footnote to my magnificence. I am NICKCLEGG.

  47. “… First of all, what is it really all about? What is it you object to? You
    want to remove Brown?”

    “To abolish Labour!” said Cameron, opening the eyes of a fanatic. “We do not only want to upset a few despotisms and police regulations; that sort of anarchism does exist, but it is a mere branch of the tories. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to deny all those arbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour and treachery, upon which mere rebels base themselves. The silly sentimentalists of the Lib Dems talked of the Rights of Man! We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong.”

    “And niggers,” said Nick Griffin with a simple eagerness, “I hope you will
    abolish them too. They are much more troublesome to me…”

  48. It’s pretty simple really. Vote for who the fuck you want to vote for.

    All this tactical voting bullshit just exasperates a broken fucking system.

  49. Tautology aside, most of us have expressed a desire to see the broken fucking system exasperated.

  50. That’s one of those mix-ups that happens a lot but never bothers me, because I love the word ‘exasperate’.

    ‘Expresso’, though, makes me want to put someone’s head in an espresso machine.

  51. I’m surprised to see an intelligent devotee of gaming be so completely blind to game theory. Not only is tactical voting not silly, it’s the only rational choice.

    Everyone gets a vote. There are no strings attached; no conditions on how one must cast it. The owner is thus free to use it however he sees fit to maximise his personal utility in the election. This much we can surely all agree on.

    People opposed to tactical voting would have us all use our votes naively; cast it for the party we would most like to win. Even this is problematic, though; we’re voting not for a party, but for a local candidate. How do we decide whether to vote for a favoured party fielding a distasteful candidate, or an attractive candidate of a disfavoured party? Already we’re trading off different definitions of personal utility, despite the insistence on a naive approach. So any pretence of non-tactical voting is out the window anyway, but we’ll keep it up for the sake of argument.

    But if we’re able to tell in advance, as we often are, that our no. 1 preference is highly unlikely to win, then what are we gaining by voting for them? Preference isn’t a binary matter; most of us don’t like one party wholeheartedly and despise the rest utterly. We have an order of preference. If my preference is A > B >>>>> C, but I am the only A fan in a sea of Bs and Cs, I’d be daft to vote A. It is indeed a wasted vote, achieving little. I am much more likely to have an effect on the result between B and C, which still matters greatly to me. By voting tactically, I potentially increase my personal utility greatly, despite forgoing the top value. So why on earth shouldn’t I?

    Where this becomes tricky, as you say, is that it can become a self-reinforcing cycle. If many people are voting tactically, then the assessment of winning likelihoods is distorted. But this is not the tactical voter’s fault; he’s just acting on the best information available. If polls regarding true voting intention were more frequently conducted and publicised, we’d be able to make better assessments. Or if we had IRV, we could largely make the problem disappear.

    So it seems to me that you shouldn’t argue for less tactical voting; you should argue for more of it, but with better information of true intentions. Or argue for an electoral system that lets people rationally vote closer to their true intentions; STV and IRV are essentially institutionalised tactical voting, for example. But don’t accuse people acting in their own best interests of having a mental disorder. They’ve perceived the limitations of first-past-the-post as a method of determining preferences, and have acted accordingly. If only our politicians would do likewise.

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