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Could tactical voting shape the election?  

Welcome to Monday’s Early Edition from i.

It’s just 17 days until voters head to the polls, and things are heating up. Tomorrow is the deadline to register to vote, something that nearly 1.5 million people have done since the election was called. Rishi Sunak returns to the fray today after his hiatus at the G7 summit, and after more disastrous polls at the weekend, his party is likely to be looking at who they can still win over. Last week another survey showed around 8 per cent of respondents were still undecided. But while much may be made of the don’t knows or the swing voters, another trend is gaining attention – the phenomenon of the tactical vote. Last year a survey by Ipsos showed one in five voters said they were “very likely” to vote tactically in the next general election, with the pollster saying it was becoming “a key question in British politics”. How does it work, and what kind of impact could it have? We’ll take a look after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

Labour has been criticised for rowing back on housing reforms designed to protect renters and boost home ownership. i‘s analysis of the manifesto reveals Labour has watered down plans on housing originally set out in its national policy forum document last year.

Sunak fighting to stop women who backed Tories in 2019 voting Reform. A significant chunk of voters are undecided or say they might change their mind who to back – and they are mostly women.

Voters from the “Red Wall” and “Blue Wall” are prepared to give the next government as much as two terms to fix the UK’s broken public services, in a significant boost to Labour, focus groups have found. In a snapshot of the public’s views on crime, health and education, voters in both industrial heartlands and leafy home counties seats were willing to allow a substantial honeymoon period for the election winners, in order to get critical public services back on track.

The police officer who used his vehicle to ram into an escaped cow on a suburban street has been removed from frontline duties. Surrey Police said the incident happened on Friday at roughly 8.55pm after it had received reports of a loose cow in Staines-upon-Thames.

A new photograph of Prince William and his three children, taken by Catherine, the Princess of Wales, has been released to mark Father’s Day. In the message, Prince George, Prince Louis, and Princess Charlotte declared: “We love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day” in a personally-signed social media post.

Three questions about tactical voting:

What is it? As the name suggests, tactical voting allows people to cast a ballot strategically. There’s a few different ways of voting tactically, but it usually results in the same thing – voting for someone who is not your preferred candidate in order to get a better outcome overall. Due to Britain’s first-past-the-post system, voting for a smaller or independent party can seem like a “wasted vote” (although often voters for these parties will do so on principle or to send a message to bigger parties on an issue). You can vote tactically by deciding to vote for the party who may not be your first choice, but is still your idea of a “lesser evil” of the two most likely candidates to succeed. The other way of using your vote is to vote swap. You can do this through a vote-swapping website, or just with someone you know and trust in a different constituency. The idea is that you agree to vote for each others’ parties in your own constituency, to get a better chance of your preferred outcome. For example you may be a Lib Dem supporter but know your local candidate has zero chance of winning, so you match with someone in another area, where they do stand a chance of succeeding, who agrees to vote for them, while you will vote for their preferred party – with the idea that they have a better chance in your area. There is no law against tactical voting or promoting it, however there is nothing legally binding either once you make a deal with another voter. Read more here. 

Who is likely to do it? Voters have been using tactical methods since the 1980s, but there has been a marked rise in the practice since the late 1990s and early noughties. Professor Stephen Fisher, Professor of Political Sociology, at the University of Oxford, says people are more likely to vote tactically “if they care about who wins out of the top two in the constituency. If they like one a lot more than the other, then people are more likely to make a switch to benefit the former. It also helps if they are relatively indifferent between their preferred party (that will likely come third or lower in their constituency) and the party they are thinking of voting tactically for.”  Neal Lawson, director at Compass, a cross-party campaign pushing for democratic reforms, including proportional representation, told i recently that tactical voting was going to be bigger this year than ever before. “I think the sophistication and the fluidity and the volatility of voters now means they are way ahead of the politicians,” he said. “They had to be led more in the past. In ’97 it was very top down but now it is very grassroots led and bottom up. It is the electorate that want this to happen, they are much more aware of tactical voting.” Read more here.  

How much impact could it have? Analysis by the Independent recently suggested half of the Tories’ projected wins – 68 out of 140 – could be threatened by tactical voting. It found a margin lead over either Labour, the Lib Dems or the SNP of under 5 per cent in those seats, meaning tactical decisions by progressive voters in those constituencies could have a big impact. Many analysts believe the party that could benefit the most from the strategy would be the Lib Dems. Politics Professor Rob Ford told the Guardian: “Tactical voting and a strong anti-incumbent mood provide the Liberal Democrats with their best opportunity yet to restore their Commons fortunes, as the third party targets dozens of Conservative incumbents.” Today, campaign group Best for Britain – which was formed in the wake of Brexit – will list its recommendations for tactical voting in the general election. But there could be another impact too – helping favour parties who back electoral reform. Yesterday, campaigners pushing for electoral reform launched an online tool urging the public to “swap votes” with others to back candidates supporting proportional representation. The Win As One site is attempting to stop the centre-left vote splitting between Labour, Greens and Lib Dems, but will also funnel support towards candidates who back overhauling the voting system with “proportional representation”. Read more on that, here.  

(Photo: Getty Images)

 Around the world

Age may be election’s defining issue as Trump and Biden count down to TV debate. Age-related attacks on Biden, 81, are growing but this could also be bad news for Trump, 78, as they limber up for a head-to-head, writes Simon Marks.

I went to investigate a deadly sinking in the Med – what I found was much darker. When Ben Steele went to investigate one of the deadliest migrant disasters in history, he stumbled across a story worse than he imagined.

Russian special forces have stormed a detention centre and shot dead six Islamic State-linked inmates armed with knives who had taken two prison guards hostage. The inmates, who were detained in the pre-trial detention centre in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, were accused of terrorism and links to the Islamic State group.

Israeli police have released bodycam footage showing the dramatic rescue of the hostage Noa Argamani from captivity in Gaza last weekend. Video captures the moment Israeli special forces broke into an apartment building in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and found the room where Ms Argamani, 26, was being held.

‘We fight day and night’: The Amazon women guarding their rainforest from mining. The ‘Yuturi Warmi’ is a group of indigenous women who have banded together to combat the ‘terrible threat’ facing Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Graham Keeley reports.

 Watch out for…

 Israel, where senior Biden adviser Amos Hochstein will hold meetings aimed at avoiding further escalation along the “Blue Line” between Israel and Lebanon. 

 Thoughts for the day

It’s not politics that’s turning people off – it’s Starmer and Sunak. Voters don’t trust the choices they’ve been given, and other parties are seeing their poll ratings climb because of this, says Kate McCann.

Even Mr Good Guy Joe Alwyn couldn’t resist a dig at his ex Taylor Swift. You can’t media train away human nature, so it’s nice to see that no matter how successful you are, some things don’t change, writes Rebecca Reid.

Why can’t we just admit it when we’re lucky and rich? We place an absurd premium on relatability, argues Lucy Mangan.

Trying to prove you are a man of the people despite being richer than the King only reveals your distance from the plebs you seek to court (Photo: Getty)

 Culture Break

Foo Fighters, Old Trafford review: Dave Grohl is blisteringly revitalised. On their new tour, the everyman rock veterans are better than they have been in decades – but the loss of Taylor Hawkins is felt in every song, writes Shaun Curran.

Dave Grohl on stage with Foo Fighters (Photo: Astrida Valigorsky/Getty)

 The Big Read

He used to back Just Stop Oil – now he’s pumping millions into Labour. Former Just Stop Oil funder Dale Vince Vince wants to convince environmentally conscious voters to turn their backs on the Greens and give their vote to Labour, reports Lucie Heath.

Vince Dale recently announced that his is no longer providing funding to Just Stop Oil, arguing that the group’s tactics were fuelling “culture war” arguments instead of bringing about change. (Photo: Tom Pilston)


Bellingham gives England win over Serbia at Euro 2024 but concerns linger. Questions are raised over Gareth Southgate’s tactics and substitutions despite 1-0 victory putting Three Lions top of Group C.

Bellingham’s goal gives England a strong chance of reaching the last 16 (Photo: Reuters)

 Something to brighten your day

Three ways to lose your fear of failure and actually learn from your mistakes. We are frightened of failing – and that fear can come from many different places, says Doctor Radha.

Don’t let failure frighten you (Photo: Tara Moore/Getty/Digital Vision)

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