There is an argument that, as the United Kingdom has a relative majority or "first-past-the-post" [FPTP] system, there is more merit in voting for "a lesser evil"1 than voting for your choice; and that argument has been extended to the idea of "swapping votes"2 to resist that "greater evil".
This is clearly an appeal to fear, rationalised by the concept of the "wasted vote". I would like to appeal to an alternative fear: the suppression of individual voice and choice.
This fear is both short and long term. There are only two parties [Green, Liberal Democrat] that seek to change our current system of voting if they were in power: all of the others would maintain FPTP. Voting for a "lesser evil" will not bring more good; just [potentially] "less evil".
I am not in the business of telling anyone how they should vote. But if you ask me for my opinion on how I will vote, then I will tell you. And that is what voting is: asking you directly, who will you choose? Tactical voting sounds like a good idea; but as Independent3 and Guardian4 readers may remember from 2010, it can misfire.
For me this is about principles. The idea that your individual choice could be a waste of time is an insult to your principles: what you believe is part of who you are. Whatever other criticisms one may have on the bases of modern Western democracy, it certainly isn't based on voting for people you don't really want: in fact, it is distinctly undemocratic.
Parties garner more support in elections when they are voted for repeatedly and successively over a number of years, and as their ideas and policies take hold in the imagination of a population. As these ideas take hold over a wider area, parties are able to contest more seats; this increases the chances of a party gaining a seat in parliament, which gives that party a stronger voice. It thus takes conviction from the voter that believes in a party's policies to vote for that party, regardless of predictions.
So—and I promise this is the only political advice I'll give—if you believe in a party, you should vote for it. I might disagree on your choice; but at least it will be your choice.
let us all be absolutely clear: I am using quotation marks to show that this could be any political party. Some of you will pick one side, and some of you another [or another]. ↩
"General Election 2010: The liberal moment has come", 30 April 2010. ↩