The State of the Westminster Parties - May 2013

Recently, we took a look at the outcome of the May 2013 Council Elections, including the rise (or was it?) of UKIP, and tried to give some values-based answers to the ‘top line’ questions arising from those results.

Our data from surveys in June/July 2012 and November/December 2012 allowed us to catalogue a values-based expansion of UKIP support beyond its Settler heartland into the ‘Intemperate Zone’ of Values ModesTM, the Brave New World/Golden Dreamer axis – an area of the values map where morality (rules of behaviour made by others which we choose to follow) and ethics (rules of behaviour we develop for ourselves) have a tendency to disappear. It’s an area where authoritarian individualism, hatred of ‘the other’ and potentially violent pragmatism – any solution will do – can produce a heady and emotionally labile cocktail of negative possibilities. We’ll be taking a more detailed look at the Intemperate Zone in a later commentary.

This overview takes a look at the state of the main parties – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green – using those same values data points. We have found shifts in espousal more subtle but equally significant to that of UKIP.

It is important to recognise that CDSM does not ask respondents for whom they have voted or for whom they would vote, but rather with which party they ‘identify most strongly’. This form of question triggers a values-based (and therefore more 'authentic') response.

What the Parties should look for.

Two years away from a General Election, all parties will want to see core support at least holding up. Core support will tend to be either Settler or Pioneer, depending on the perceived values-base of the party. Very generally, we would expect parties of the ‘right’ (though we find the term unhelpful) to have Settler core support and parties of the ‘left’, Pioneer.

Parties will also want to see good representation and growth within the Prospector area, because these ‘floating voters’ are the key to electoral success.

The Conservative Party

Mid-2012 data shows a reasonable spread of support for the Conservatives within their core Settler constituency as well as a healthy dose of support from Prospector Now People.

Demographics show:
• Effective gender equality (52% male, 48% female).
• Ageing supporters (47% over 55).
• 64% support from social groups AB and C1.

Late 2012 data shows a loss of support from Settlers and a fragmentation of support among Prospector Now People. There is also some expansion into Brave New World/Golden Dreamer territory.

Demographics show:
• Little change in gender split.
• 33% of supporters over 65.
• 62% support from social groups AB and C1.

These two ‘snapshot’ data sets illustrate the Catch 22 facing the Conservatives. They are losing support from their traditional voters – the old ‘shire’ Tories if you will – and from Prospectors who have looked to them for sound financial sense, freedom of operation and support for individual autonomy and entrepreneurship. Their ‘growth’ area – and it’s small – is within the Intemperate Zone and can be explained by the promise of an in/out referendum on Europe, a tougher line on immigration and their attack on ‘benefit scroungers’.

If the Council Elections 2013 results are a trend, not a blip, they are fighting on the same ground as UKIP for the same values-constituency. In a political climate characterised by a ‘plague on all your houses’ disillusion this is potentially very damaging for an establishment party.

The Labour Party

Both mid-and late-2012 data shows consistent levels of support within all Maslow groups. The ‘Old Labour’ Settler vote is gradually decreasing, but the likely age of those supporters could provide an explanation, as could the attraction of UKIP for these ‘conservative’ voters. Mid-2012 data shows good representation among Prospector Now People – a key constituency for all parties – and growing support among Pioneer Transcenders. At 38% of the population, Pioneers should be the natural constituency for Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ Labour.

There is a small hot spot in Golden Dreamer territory, which could be explained by a Blairite rump.

Demographics show:
• Effective gender balance (53% male, 47% female).
• Lower than average penetration among 65+ but higher among 18 to 21-year-olds.
• Support across all social classes.

Late-2012 sees an expansion of support among both Prospector Now People and Pioneer Transcenders. The spread and consolidation of the Pioneer vote may be significant, with Transcenders in particular judging they can give Ed Miliband’s Labour Party the benefit of the doubt. Pioneers and Prospectors now form 77% of those who say they identify most strongly with Labour. This would indicate that Labour is on the right track with the right message.

Demographics show:
• Effective gender balance.
• Support across all age groups.
• Support across all social groups, with a small rise in C2 support.

The Liberal Democrats

Whatever their protestations about being ‘hated less than they were’, our 2012 data shows that the LibDems are in deep trouble.

Mid-2012 data shows their support beginning to concentrate in a small Pioneer rump. Late-2012 data shows an even more dramatic fall in Prospector Now People support, and a further retreat among Pioneers towards Concerned Ethical territory.

Concentration in only one area of the values map indicates that as far as identification with their values is concerned, the LibDems are now a fringe party.

Demographics for mid-2012 show:
• Effective gender balance with slightly more women (53.8% to 46.3%).
• Support across all age groups with a small spike among 22- to 24-year-olds.
• Most support among AB and C1 social groups.

Demographics for late-2012 show:
• Female support up to 60%.
• Support across all age groups with a small spike among 24- to 35-year-olds.
• Most support from AB and C1 social groups.

Even as a fringe party, the LibDems can remain influential. Because of their excellent local organisation they are likely to influence the outcome in many constituencies at the 2015 General Election and to keep a number of seats. In an electoral system designed for two parties, any third or fourth party can potentially split the vote of the two major parties. The Coalition is the result of such an outcome in 2010.


The rise and rise of UKIP and its effect, potential and real, on the Conservative vote has generated much excitement in the Westminster Village and among the mainstream media. But it is currently – and is likely to remain – a fringe party. That said, it is rapidly increasing its influence among its natural constituency – disaffected Settlers, both ‘old Labour’ and ‘old Tory’ and, most significantly, the Intemperate Zone within the Brave New World/Golden Dreamer axis. This is covered in some detail in our analysis of the Local Elections 2013.

Mid-2012 data shows a concentration of UKIP support within the Settler Values ModeTM Roots with some colonisation of Brave New World.

Demographics show:
• Greater support from men (55% to 45%).
• Most support from the +55 age group.
• Support from all social groups.

Late-2012 data shows an expansion of support within the Settler Brave New World Values ModeTM and the beginnings of an expansion into the Prospector Values ModeTM Golden Dreamer. Our analysis of the Local Elections 2013 explores the implications.

Demographics show:
• Increasing support among men (59.4% to 40.6%).
• Most support from the +55 age group.
• Support from all social groups.

The Green Party

Those who identify most strongly with the Green Party are small in number and almost exclusively Pioneer – concentrated in the Concerned Ethical and Transcender Values ModesTM.

Because Concerned Ethical values dominate most of Green communication – within the wider movement as well as the party – the Greens can come across, particularly to Prospectors, as patronising and self-righteous. In other research for organisations within the wider Green movement we have discovered that antipathy can be so marked that even the word ‘Green’ is a turn off. To expand beyond its natural base the Green Party will need a radical reframing of its communications.

Demographics for both mid- and late-2012 show:
• More support among women than men (59% to 41%).
• Support across all age groups.
• Support across all social groups.

Analysis & conclusion

The next General Election in 2015 could see a ‘values war’ as voter opinion polarises – between pragmatic and potentially authoritarian individualism and compassionate universalism.

The Conservatives and UKIP are fighting over the same territory. We would expect to see the Conservatives move further to the ‘right’ to try and counter the UKIP threat, but that realignment will potentially alienate potential Prospectors and not address the fact that their reputation for economic competence is compromised. In addition, they are part of a political establishment which is no longer considered trustworthy. There seems little doubt that, while its potential support is limited to a high 20%, UKIP is on a roll, and the European Elections in 2014 could see them do very well indeed.

The Conservative Party is the party of pragmatism and its primary raison d’etre is the exercise of political power. It is plagued by existing internal tensions which UKIP’s success can only continue to highlight. Nigel Farage has already proposed a simple if brutal solution to the Conservative dilemma – replace David Cameron as leader with a right-winger like Michael Gove and work together. Only time will tell if this proposition proves attractive: there is little doubt it will have put the cat among the pigeons.

Whatever happens between now and 2015, there seems little doubt that, unless UKIP implodes, their influence may be sufficient to make them ‘kingmakers’ in the event of another General Election with no overall majority for any establishment party. The party can no longer be ignored or dismissed.

The Labour Party is doing well under Ed Miliband and its ‘one nation’ message is a powerful one which, with careful framing, has the potential to appeal to all Maslow Groups. Labour is both gaining and consolidating Pioneer and Prospector support, and its ‘one nation’ message carries within it resonances of the post-War Attlee government which will play well with ‘old Labour’ supporters. The challenge for Labour now is to be believed and trusted, to put their case with passion – and to reject with equal passion the UKIP/Conservative analysis.

It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but by proposing a radical, simply-framed and values-driven programme to rebuild this country, Labour could generate similar support to that enjoyed by the party in 1945. The electorate needs hope more than it needs anything else. Labour must find a way to answer that visceral need, build a governmental programme around Pioneer values and address its compromised reputation for economic competence – particularly important for Prospectors. It has the capacity but does it have the courage?

It is hard to see the Liberal Democrats continuing as a significant national force on the basis of our data as they have offended their mainly Pioneer natural constituency so deeply. There are significant tensions within the party that may surface in the run up to 2015. A change of leader and of emphasis may help, but as long as they are in coalition with a Conservative government that is perceived as both incompetent and moving further to the ‘right’ they will not attract a significant Pioneer vote. Prospectors do not vote for ‘losers’ and the LibDem’s Settler penetration is insignificant.

That said, they are the masters of ‘pavement politics’ and once a LibDem MP is in place they are as hard to get rid of as ‘cockroaches’, to quote Party President Tim Farron. They may once again find themselves ‘kingmakers’ in 2015. The possibility of a Labour/LibDem coalition under a different leader cannot be dismissed.

If the Green Party wishes to become a party of national significance it must address its communications. General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once asked why the devil should have the best tunes. By eschewing professional communication methods – or, at the least, viewing them with deep suspicion – the Greens continue to shoot themselves in their collective Concerned Ethical foot.

Where they are most comfortable is at local level, and with discussion of radical devolution on Labour’s agenda, this may be where their future lies. If they manage to add an MP or two in 2015, they may even find a place – or at least some influence - in a Labour/LibDem coalition government. Their policy base is both radical and courageous and arguably deserves at least a place at the table.

The key points for us are:

• Four credible parties are now slugging it out within an electoral system designed for competition between two.
• Voter disillusionment is at an all time high and turn-out is at an all time low.
• The vast majority of voters aged under 40 are not and, unless they can be engaged in the democratic process, will not be represented by their government.
• The 2015 General Election will be a ‘values war’ and the outcome is unpredictable, yet it will have profound implications for at least one generation.
• The Conservative Party is being side-tracked by UKIP and, if it pulls too far to the right, will find its right to govern at the whim of UKIP, just as it was with the Lib-Dems in 2010, because its “values constituency” will be constricted.
• The LibDems have been offending their own values constituency since the day after they went into coalition with the Conservatives. (They gained a one-day burst of kudos for making certain the Labour old guard had their hands removed from the levers of power).
• The Greens need to “up their game” if they have ambitions to do anything other than just flog it out with the LibDems for – at best – third spot, and for the same values-constituency.
• Labour needs to work very hard on making itself believable. They have the right basic ideas to generate the widest of all values constituencies, but they have ‘personality’ problems with some of their most senior spokespeople. This will lose them the pivotal Prospector vote if they are not careful, imaginative and inspirational.

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