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  1. Politics
5 May 2010

Labour divided over tactical voting

Blair and Brown say “Vote Labour” and former PM rejects idea that electoral reform is key to progres

By James Macintyre

The fallout from Mehdi Hasan’s interview with Ed Balls, in which the tribalist-turned-realist joined Peter Hain in urging Labour supporters to vote tactically, continues today with something of a backlash among senior Labour figures.

Gordon Brown has called on the electorate simply to “vote Labour” and Tony Blair has said: “It is simple . . . Vote for what you believe in. If you think their polices are good, vote for them, but if you don’t, don’t.

“The Lib Dems are not going out to people and saying, ‘Vote Labour’; they are trying to take seats off us.”

The internal backlash over tactical voting is probably, as I said yesterday, because vote share is suddenly a factor in this election after years of accepting the madnesses of our discredited first-past-the-post electoral system.

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Talking of which, the Independent today refreshes its long-standing campaign for electoral reform, calling for tactical voting to ensure that the one party which still backs FPTP — the Tories — is kept out of office. The paper identifies the issue as crucial for progress.

In contrast, Blair hits out at that view, saying: “There is no perfect electoral system. By all means choose the system you prefer, but the notion that it is the defining progressive cause is completely ridiculous.”

Many in Labour — including, paradoxically, Blair’s old nemesis Balls — may agree. But others could be forgiven for feeling that, had Blair and Brown done more to take forward electoral reform — including AV+, proposed by the late Roy Jenkins in a report commissioned by the former prime minister — Labour would be in a much stronger position to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats this week.

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