Mapped: Tactical voting poses threat to half of projected Tory election wins

More than a hundred seats across the UK could be ripe for tactical voting at the general election, according to a new analysis by The Independent.

Based on a major poll from YouGov, published on Monday, almost half of the Conservatives’ projected wins come with a margin under 5 points.

The Tories themselves may have an eye on 50 seats Labour and the Liberal Democrats are projected to win, if they can persuade Reform UK voters to back them.

YouGov’s MRP (multi-level regression and post-stratification) poll suggested Labour were on course to win 422 seats on 4 July – a majority of 194.

The Tories would win just 140, followed by the Lib Dems (48), the SNP (17), Plaid Cymru (2) and the Green Party (2).

“Tactical voting” is a term used when a voter makes a choice on the ballot based on who is more likely to defeat a candidate to whom they object, rather than choosing the one they actively support. Close counts would make tactical voting a bigger factor.

While some tactical voting websites have used the 2019 general election results to identify constituencies with the tightest margin, The Independent has looked at YouGov’s projections, which combine polling with constituency-level characteristics such as demographics, past vote choice, and current candidates.

The Independent’s wider analysis has identified seats where a lead of under 10 per cent is projected for the winning party.

Of the Tories’ 140 projected wins, 68 show a margin lead over either Labour, the Lib Dems or the SNP of under 5 per cent.

Tactical decisions by left-wing voters in these constituencies could make the difference.

Dr Stephen Fisher, a professor of political sociology at Trinity College, Oxford, said: “Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Greens all like each other’s parties reasonably enough to consider voting tactically for each other.

“The seats that are most likely to be affected by tactical voting in substantial numbers are for the Lib Dems. I do think they’re hoping to pick up a lot of tactical votes from Labour supporters in their target seats, and Labour are not going to dissuade people from voting tactically. You had a lot of coordination between those two parties in the by-elections.”

Polling expert Mark Pack is president of the Lib Dems, who have put their resources into targeting winnable seats.

“I think that the thing that matters at this stage for all parties is to concentrate on maximising the number of seats you get,” he said.

“And the more you get, the better you end up after polling day. It’s the intensive effort in the target seats that really makes a difference one way or another.”

Luke Tryl, director of think tank More In Common, said voters are more clued in than ever on tactical voting.

“The ‘time for change’ mood is so strong,” he said. “70 per cent of voters say it’s time for change, versus 30 per cent who say ‘stick with the plan’. More people will be inclined to vote tactically to get that change,” Mr Tryl told The Independent.

He added: “What we’ve been seeing in by-elections is that voters have been very savvy about knowing who is best placed to defeat the Conservatives. So we’ve seen seats where the Lib Dems were the clear challengers, and Labour’s vote was squeezed, or vice versa.”

While the Conservatives could be vulnerable to tactical voting, around 50 of YouGov’s projected wins for Labour and Lib Dems are also within the 5-point margin.

Dr Fisher said: “In the vast majority of seats they’re defending, [the Tories] need the Reform vote to come back to the Conservatives.

“You already do have the Conservatives arguing that a vote for anyone other than Conservatives is a vote for Keir Starmer. That was clearly targeted at anyone thinking of voting for Reform.”

However, the Tories may struggle to attract Reform voters. A YouGov poll in May found that 43 per cent of intended Reform voters are not at all likely to vote Conservative.

Tactical voting websites and resources have a unique role in modern elections, according to Mr Pack, because “broadly speaking, in a democracy, the more information voters have, the better-informed voter outcomes will be”.

He said: “There’s quite a big educational challenge to make sure that people know about tactical voting. It will be quite interesting to see how tactical voting [resources] play out because they will potentially have quite an important role to play.

“We’ve not really seen that opportunity in an election previously – where there’s such a strong anti-government mood.”