All of us involved in local politics try to make statistics work for us, but Lloyd Russell-Moyle has been somewhat overcreative in his assertion that Labour is now the second party in Lewes (letters, May 17).
I presume he means second to the Liberal Democrats, but even then he’s rather missing the point.
Lewes as a town is very free-thinking. It should come as no surprise to find the Lib Dems winning one county seat and an independent winning the other, with other progressive parties such as Labour and the Greens recording a presence. By contrast, Lewes in the broader sense is a straight Tory-Lib Dem fight, as confirmed by the voting figures at parliamentary and district elections.
There has been a long tradition in the Lewes area of the progressive forces rallying behind one party, the Lib Dems. As such, when we say in our literature that Labour can’t win here, this is not meant as an insult to Labour, merely as a reminder to progressive voters that they might unwittingly let the Conservatives in if they don’t support the Lib Dem as the likeliest progressive party to win.
This applies as much to general elections as to district and county elections. There are clearly differences between Labour and Lib Dems, but ask most Labour voters whether they would prefer a Lib Dem MP (or Lib Dem-run council) to a Tory MP (or Tory-run council), and they would say yes and vote tactically.
That is no doubt a partial explanation of why Labour hasn’t had a councillor at any level in the Lewes constituency since 1979 – it may reflect well on the tactical acumen of Labour voters, but it also means Labour is a long way from being the second party here.
I would much rather there was no need for tactical voting, but when we had the chance of a better (albeit far from perfect) electoral system in 2011, Ed Miliband refused to get Labour to back it.
So we’re stuck with tactical voting, and Labour supporters are left having to support what they see as the lesser of two evils if their vote is to count for something.