Fri, May 19, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Pro-EU Britons urge tactical voting to limit Brexit

‘Tactical voting’ is quickly becoming a buzzword for the UK’s June 8 elections, with groups calling for strategic alliances and for EU supporters to vote for the least-worst option available

By Stephen Castle  /  NY Times News Service, LONDON

Illustration: Mountain People

Gina Miller says she receives online death threats most days, thanks to her legal case that forced Britain’s government to consult lawmakers over its plans to leave the EU.

However, Miller — an investment fund manager and the lead claimant in the successful case centering on the procedure for invoking Article 50, the legal mechanism for leaving the bloc — has entered another fight that could bring her more recrimination.

This time, she is leading a tactical voting campaign called Best for Britain, which aims to help pro-European candidates in the UK general election on June 8 in the hope that their influence could soften the effects of Brexit.

The group wants to restrict the scale of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s probable victory — May has said she wants to secure a large parliamentary majority in order to strengthen her hand as she negotiates Britain’s divorce.

The Best for Britain campaign hopes to weaken her hand and prevent a so-called “hard” Brexit, or clean break from the bloc, if that is the strategy May pursues.

She has, for instance, ruled out retaining membership in the EU’s single market.

“This is the last chance saloon,” Miller said, sipping coffee in a London restaurant and reflecting on speculation that the elections will deliver a big majority for May.

Miller’s campaign is urging electors to vote not for the party they prefer, but for candidates opposed to the hardest form of Brexit.

With the main opposition Labour Party trailing in the opinion polls, it is just one of several initiatives for tactical, or strategic, voting that are fast becoming buzzwords of Britain’s election campaign.

In essence, the argument is that voters opposed to May’s priorities should hold their noses and vote for the least-worst option available, thinking of the greater good.

Some pro-European groups hope that British lawmakers would be able to stop a hard exit — or maybe even Brexit itself — if a deal that emerges from May’s talks with the rest of the EU would be economically damaging to Britain.

Others want to form a broader alliance of left and center parties to compete with her Conservative Party.

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, a veteran of left-wing causes, was among the millions of Britons on the losing side of last year’s vote to quit the EU.

A longtime advocate of tactical voting and of changes to Britain’s winner-takes-all electoral system, he welcomes efforts to create a “progressive alliance” to take on the Conservatives.

He calls it “a new development in the whole process of tactical voting.”

Yet most polling experts believe that tactical voting will have limited impact.

In Britain, political loyalties run deep, making it hard to organize campaigns that cross party lines, even when parties have internal divisions over issues like the EU.

Although a substantial number of Britons voted against quitting the EU in last year’s referendum — about 16 million, while 17.4 million backed it — both May, who leads the Conservatives, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn want to proceed with Brexit.

After Britain withdraws from the bloc, Labour would want to retain closer ties than the Conservatives might, but Labour’s approach remains fuzzy.

The clearest pro-European position comes from the Liberal Democrats, who want another referendum on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, but they hold only nine parliamentary seats out of 650.

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