Head or heart

The constituency of Esher and Walton has returned a Conservative MP to Parliament for 100 years, yet Dominic Raab is currently polling just 5 points ahead of Liberal Democrat Monica Harding in a race which illustrates the changing nature of British politics.

This election might see the most informed electorate there has ever been, with a huge amount of local polling data available, but does more information equate to better decision making by voters?

Tactical voting will supposedly be one of the decisive factors in this election, with more than 3 million people predicted to change party allegiances on the 12th. Multiple advice websites have been created – primarily viewed through a Remain prism – advising you how to cast your vote. Best for Britain, a strongly pro-Remain group, claim that tactical voting in 57 seats could stop a Conservative majority. However, like consumers, voters are now presented with almost too much information which may actually mean that on the day they resort to an instinctive rather than rational decision.

Response? Voters might be forgiven for their confusion.  A recent YouGov MRP poll, which was pretty damning for the Lib Dems nationally, has been framed as “actually good news” for Harding’s Esher and Walton campaign. In the weird psychology of this election she can convince voters sympathetic to the Lib Dems, but terrified of Labour, that they can vote Lib Dem without risk of putting Mr Corbyn into Number 10.

Impact? The push for more tactical voting will only work if the polls can be trusted. And there is a level of idealism when interpreting the extent to which tactical voting will make a difference. Sites offering advice often contradict each other, can be fairly opaque in how they make their recommendations and seem to neglect the idea that the other side might be voting tactically too.

While history would suggest that this Home Counties safe seat would vote Conservative, there has been a wave of anti-Raab invective that could influence the ‘emotional vote’. Not only does the former Brexit Secretary’s ‘no deal’ stance run counter to his 58% remain constituency, but recent gaffes have also raised character as an issue. His dealings with the parents of Harry Dunn, the 19-year-old killed by the wife of a US diplomat, were castigated as “cold” and “dismissive”. And his dismissal of foodbank users as people not in poverty but  with a “cash flow problem”, provided opposition candidates with easy ammunition.

The results on December 12th are widely expected to be a plebiscite on the country’s determination to leave the EU, or not. It might also be a test of voters’ ability to put head over heart in which box to check.