How will the parties deal with the messaging challenges?
Suddenly, it seems, the Westminster village has woken up to the idea that in the new complex and much more multi-partied political environment tactical voting looks set to play a much bigger role.
We all think we know what we mean by this. Supporters of party A, which is not seen to be in contention in a particular constituency, are encouraged to vote for party B, which is, in the hope that it will stop party C.
The Tories are hoping that much of the data from the single seat Ashcroft battleground polling can be used to persuade CON to UKIP switchers to return with the objective of stopping LAB or, in some seats, the LDs.
A critical feature of campaigning for tactical votes is to ensure that you are seen to be the party best able to impede that party you are trying to stop. Normally simply being the incumbent sends a very strong signal that yours is the party best placed. This will be the heart of much the Lib Dem defensive strategy as it seeks to hold on to as many of its current crop of 57 seats as possible.
The Ashcroft data will play a big in the campaigning some of which will help the Tories and some of which won’t
A good example of how single seat polling can be used was the Green campaign in 2010 to win its first ever MP, Caroline Lucas, in Brighton Pavilion. It commissioned an ICM poll where it was included in the main prompt which showed that it was ahead of LAB. In what was almost a four way marginal the Greens established themselves as the main contender.
Defending yourself against tactical voting can be very tricky. If you go tooth and nail against the party you think is trying to unseat you then that could suggest to supporters of the third party which way they should go if they want to do just that.
I’m hoping to look in future posts at some of the interesting tactical battles such as Thanet South, Sheffield Hallam and Gordon to see how they are shaping up.