The Labour Party.
The Accidental Leader; Values Dynamics; and a glimpse of a potential future.

Labour’s astonishing performance in the 2017 General Election produced one of the most unexpected results since Clement Attlee led Labour to victory at the end of the Second World War. Theresa May’s expected cakewalk turned into a pie in the face for her and for a party that portrayed itself as the epitome of ‘strong, stable government’.

How was it that a Labour Party leader, reviled not just by expected sources in the media - especially the print media - but also by his own Parliamentary party, came close to pulling off an historic upset, while becoming a figure of ‘authenticity’ in a world of spin?

The answer lies not within the polling-led world of the punditocracy but in the hearts and minds of millions of voters – old and new – who reflected the zeitgeist of 2017. Putting it bluntly but accurately, they said “see you later” to the wave of right-wing authoritarianism and general nihilism that resulted in the election of Donald Trump in the US and the narrow victory for the Leave campaign in the EU Referendum of 2016. This is a sea change of true - and almost certainly lasting - significance

Before the General Election on June 8th 2017, the commentariat almost universally dismissed the Labour Party and its leader as fundamentally out of touch with public sentiment. Levels of approval and confidence in competence were being ‘measured’ at historic low levels. This was partly a legacy of 2015, when Labour had imploded. Not only did it fail to win a majority, it lost traditional ‘safe’ seats in the North and faced virtual annihilation in Scotland. The membership's election of a new leader (under new rules) led to extensive and almost continuous revolt by MPs against the choice. With the official Opposition party in disarray, the Conservatives seized the moment to call an unexpected General Election, with the aim of consolidating their hold on power in the run up to the Brexit negotiations.

It was generally assumed that most Leave voters would vote Conservative – not least because of its ‘hard Brexit’ stance - especially many former UKIP voters, who would return to the fold of mainstream parties. A CDSM survey, taken in early May, showed that this was indeed the intention of a sizeable majority of UKIP sympathisers.

We’ll compare and contrast the results of this early May (pre-campaign and manifesto launches) survey and our late June (post-election) survey, so for ease of understanding we’ll call them BeforeGE17 and AfterGE17.

Analysis from BeforeGE17 revealed that, although Labour trailed by 24%, the Conservatives' support was not unassailable. The personal values and dynamics of registered voters were skewed in Labour’s favour. This values bias was not solely confined to the Pioneers. The Settlers, who had been deserting the Labour party, began to return – not in massive numbers but returning enough to suggest some of the ‘toxicity’ of the Party was not as pronounced, as a result of the campaign, the leader, and the rising 'meanness' of the Conservative manifesto and continued austerity impacting on their lives.

The outcome of the election more nearly matched our Values-based research than the polling results. Labour and its leader were redefined in the public perception. Conversely, the ultimate 'winners', the Conservatives, took a beating - not least because of an uninspiring performance by the Prime Minister during the campaign. The Conservative Party now holds on to power even more tenuously than before, needing the support of the DUP to give it a working majority.

As I write this in late July 2017 the government is trailing in the polls – and Labour leading for the first time in years. How did this historic and unprecedented turnaround occur? What can Values research tell us about the dynamic that turned a deficit of 24% into a closely fought election where the gap dramatically dropped to 2.4%? More significantly - and unusually - how come the post-election popularity of Labour and its leader continues to increase? In this topsy-turvy transitional space the 'winner' is losing and the 'loser' winning. Why and how?

This initial analysis will show how Labour’s core support has expanded beyond its Pioneer ‘ghetto’. It also shows how this appeal is antagonistic to the previously dominant narrative of continued austerity – a narrative overwhelmingly supported by Conservative voters and rejected by the expanded values set of Labour voters.

Heartland Support
Most identify with Labour (pre-election). 28.6%

Most identify with Labour (post-election). 37.3%

These two Terrain Maps show the change in voter’s minds during the course of the 2017 General Election.

  • At the beginning of the 10-week campaign (BeforeGE17) about 29% of the registered electorate said they most identified with the Labour Party.
  • After the election (AfterGE17) 37.3% of registered voters said they most identified with the Labour party.
  • This is an increase of over 22% in our sample of 2,000 representative UK adults in our survey.

This figure is close to 5% higher than the 32.6% of registered voters who indicated they most identified with the Conservative party


  • There is no significant gender skew in the Labour Heartland, unlike Conservative respondents who were skewed towards males.
  • Conservative respondents were skewed quite significantly to the over 55s, with Labour respondents skewed just as significantly to the 18-35s.
  • Over 50% of Labour respondents were in socio-economic groups ABC1 – supposedly the preserve of the Conservative party.

This is a demographic profile that is not providing a lot of clues – other than the younger age profile – as to why the pollsters got it so wrong and what can be learned from Values analysis.

Analysis of respondents’ Values Modes gives a much clearer picture of those who most identify with the Labour Party.

As with the Conservatives, core support for Labour is spread across two Maslow Groups – a necessity for any Party that hopes to win a General Election. In Labour’s case these are Pioneers and Prospectors. Two areas are interesting from a dynamics perspective.

The first is the increase in Settler identification with Labour. Though it is still below the national figure it is not as skewed as it was prior to the election. For those who have concentrated on winning back their traditional ‘working class’ Heartland this should come as a pleasant surprise as it counters the trend following the rise of UKIP.

The Party still has not captured their hearts, and possibly never will again, but the mendacity of May’s tactics and the implosion of UKIP didn’t appeal to them at a deep-Values level either. They may have returned, at least for now, to the ‘comfort’ of the party they used to vote for.

The other interesting observation is the increase in Transcender over-indexing during the campaign. Transcenders have consistently been an important component of the Labour Heartland – but what has tended to happen is that, as a party increases its appeal, Transcender support becomes less significant because other Values Modes increase their support. This did not occur during this campaign.

The counter to this good news is that identification with Labour by the Prospector Now People fell during this period. We will examine the drop off in Prospector engagement with voting in 2017 in a later article. This drop affected Labour and the smaller parties more than it did the Conservatives because they were more dependent on the millions of Now People who are members of ‘hard working families’, disappointed at the failure of austerity policies (good for the few, not the many?) to provide them with the means to reap the fruits of their labour.

To sum up this core Labour Heartland change:

The highest concentration of Heartland respondents is within the Pioneer Maslow Group and, significantly, within the Transcender Values Mode. This is traditionally seen as the leading edge of cultural thinking – less about maintaining power structures (of any orientation) and more about questioning power structures.

Developing cultures, not managing cultures.

The Conservative Party stuck fast and hard with a narrative that focused on the phrase ‘strong and stable government’ - which resonated with the values of its inner core, its membership and potential voters. It was, however, totally antithetical to the values and desires of the majority of other parties and their supporters.

Managing austerity policies and withdrawal from the EU had little to no appeal to those in the Labour Heartland. Their questioning of the status quo led them to identify with and support Labour. They were driven by a sense that society needed more benevolence towards others; that pulling together was better than continuing to create more inequality - and that their questioning of the status quo could lead to better answers. These sentiments were also reflected in people who intended to vote for the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party - a ‘progressive’ consensus.

Where Labour differed was that their overall Heartland support also included more people who might have supported the Conservatives in the past – people who were not intending and never had intended to vote LibDem or Green - but had shifted alliance (back) to the Labour Party.

These included many of the ‘hard-working families’ – mostly in the 25-44 age bracket – who had been rhetorically targeted by the Conservatives over previous years. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, that rhetoric - often ideological and divisive – failed when it came to everyday reality for these people. Their incomes generally did not keep pace with their aspirations, and their views of the future became progressively darker. They were ready to look for a ‘better way’.

Many of these people are in the Prospector Group and the normal ‘aspirational’ appeal of the Conservative Party has appealed to them in the past. The Blair governments, while in office, had stolen this leg from the Conservative platform but it had been taken back by the Cameron government in its early days. The later Cameron government left this battle ground and May’s memes did not include this factor at all. Neither did the Liberal Democrat and Green Party gain the support of those people attuned to aspiration.

Labour Heartland values embraced this aspiration – for something better and probably quite different. These people do not want the UK managed – they want to see it developed.

Intention to vote Labour

Registered voters - the constituency polled in BeforeGE17 - who intended to vote Labour were fewer in number than those who most identified with Labour - 11% fewer at 25.7% of registered voters versus 28.8%. This is not necessarily as bad as the stark figures would have it as it represents a figure that could be picked up with a ‘good performance’ in the campaign.

In this pre-election atmosphere, there was little difference in the demographic indices between those who identified with the Party and those who intended to vote for it. So the fall was simply in terms of numbers and not due to a values clash.

One of the most interesting aspects of human behaviour is the selective nature of memory. Social researchers often have to develop sophisticated strategies to compensate for it – the source of many of the biases we all display in the face of empirical data. The stories we tell ourselves are a function of our values sets and though they are ‘true’ in our minds it they are not always authentic at a detailed level.

By using a pre- and post- survey methodology we have been able to highlight a range of factors that measure aspects of this selective memory.

Intended to vote Labour (pre-election). 24.8%

Intended to vote Labour (post-election). 32.2%

The two ‘Intend to Vote’ maps highlight the disparity between what registered voters told us before the campaign proper and their recall after the conclusion of this cultural event - between BeforeGE17 and AfterGE17.

With the benefit of before and after scenarios this General Election event can be seen as an emerging drama – even an act of hubris – initiated by a confident leader who steadily and consistently lost power through a performance as culturally deaf as David Brent and as wooden as a breadboard.

Contrasting with the Prime Minister’s unexpectedly poor and scripted performance was the authenticity of the rebel leader who, by doing nothing different than he had been doing in 30 years on the back benches, - being reviled or ignored by former leaders of his own party – found himself reimaged more positively than he could have dreamed in the minds of millions of people.

These two factors – and the very contrasting manifestos of Labour and the Conservatives - led to changed intentions and voting behaviours over the 10 week campaign.

The Settlers were slightly more likely to over index on ‘remembering’ that they intended to vote Labour. This is interesting in that this was the Values Group least likely to say they identified with the Labour Party before the election – but slightly more likely to have changed their minds and to be identifying more with them after the election. Though this change was small - and still below the average for all registered voters – it is clear that Labour may have lost some of its toxicity in the minds of these sceptical people.

This could provide a faint glimmer of hope among some Labour strategists, but it took a long time to alienate these people, and will probably take just as long to win them back.

The core of Labour Heartland support has always been among the Pioneers - who have always been over indexed as registered voters against the population. The nature of the drama played out during the campaign resulted in them increasing their claim to intend to vote Labour – from a pre-election index of 104 to a post-election index of 110. When a party loses an election it is more usual to see the opposite – people tend to recall themselves as being on the winning side.

The Pioneers are the least likely to accept cultural norms of any kind, and their selective remembering may be structured in such a way that ‘failure’ is not a significant factor for them. This data does not prove this one way or the other, but does suggest a hypothesis for further exploration by political scientists trying to understand the post-election effects on losing parties in elections at the cultural event level.

This is not the idle thought of an analyst with too much time on his hands.

The Prospectors have the opposite form of indexing, and a wider range of difference between pre-election intentions and the post-election recall.

They indexed at 117 in BeforeGE17 but only 108 in AfterGE17. This drop in Prospector intention is likely to have been caused by a variety of factors.

Prospectors may, of course, have changed their minds during the campaign by rejecting the re-vision of the emerging image of Corbyn, or rejecting the manifesto once they heard about it, or actually read it, or due to a range of other factors we will report on in later papers.

Given the cultural event level of a General Election it is likely they, like the other Groups, were thinking at a System Two level rather than reacting at a System One level. At the System Two level the role of personal values assumes a higher degree of saliency when identifying causal factors for attitudes and behaviours.

A short reflection on the values of Prospectors highlights the role of their need to be successful and display their ability to pick, or be, winners. Risky bets and the sense of excitement that comes from being different, maybe a winner, is integral to the Now People form of Prospector. This was the Values Mode most over indexed (146) in BeforeGE17 as intending to vote Labour.

Is it possible that Corbyn was seen as cool by Prospectors before the media picked it up? Was it also possible that the more ‘trendy’ Now People thought he had no chance and changed their memories of what they thought? Or is it just a function of the Prospectors being the most likely not vote at all in this election?

Traditionally, "rewriting of memory" amongst populations has been seen as fewer people claiming to have intended to vote for the loser. This occurred with the Prospectors in big numbers. In AfterGE17, Now People were only slightly, and not significantly, over indexed (103) in claiming they had the intention to vote Labour – a significant change (from 146 to 103) from BeforeGE17. It is also a demonstrable measure of selective memory, an illustration of System Two thinking and a link to Values system analysis.

There may be a larger and simpler context to these incongruous findings.

Prospectors as a whole are the Group most likely to be registered but not vote on the day. This Group is skewed to the ‘hard working family’ demographic (under 40 and raising a family) and the Labour manifesto may not have appealed to them. Or it may be that the ‘anti-glamour’ nature of Jeremy Corbyn, or the ‘lack of fire’ (from the Prospector perspective) of either leader failed to inspire them enough to spend time in the necessary System Two thinking. It may be that instead they reverted to standard System One thinking - a world of pre-existing biases and heuristics that dominate in non-cultural event situations – because they found nothing ‘immediately relevant' to attract their attention.

We know that people’s perception of their own intentions is a problem for social researchers and political strategists. Getting to the truth can be difficult just because people can believe something about themselves that is false. Consequently, they respond inconsistently to questions – because of factors like using different systems of thinking in different situations. Once that thinking is filtered by different values systems, the nature of the selective memories that emerge can be a little indeterminate.

Actually voted Labour.

This is the final and, ultimately, most important stage in the feeling, thinking, doing cycle. Here is a values analysis of the people who turned up on the day and voted for the Labour party.

To be clear, what is being measured here is the values-distribution of those who voted Labour compared to the population of eligible voters as a whole, not just other registered voters. This is also the case in the previous forms of analysis that concentrated on comparing groups to each other. It is easy to lose sight of this when reading analysis. When the figure displayed here is weighted to exclude those who were eligible to vote but didn’t register and those who were registered to vote but chose not to on the day, the final percentage comes within the margin of error of the 40% final tally of votes cast in the General Election - in other words, a true reflection of the result.

So, what do we see and what does this tell us? Taken Group by Group there is a story - and the stories are very different.


Settlers were the least likely to identify with Labour before the election (index 77 in BeforeGE17). They changed their minds slightly and eventually voted Labour at an index level of 81. This is a quite stable picture of the feeling, thinking, doing cycle.

This is consistent with the Settlers’ predisposition to select a solution and stick with it – often in the face of new data or information that would change other people’s minds. In the past, political parties have built their positions on a base of ‘loyal’ voters – many of whom would have had this values set. In the early 1970s, the Settlers comprised more than 50% of the population and politics was very different. The natural inertia of Settlers created a society, political parties, and attitudes to political systems and politicians very different from today, when this Group is only 25% of the population - and 30% of registered voters in the General Election 2017.

They are also more likely than the population as a whole to be irresolute (not quick to make their minds up) and sceptical (being suspicious of other people and new ideas). The implication of this is that they may be hard to convert from their present position on issues - positions that took them a long time to establish - but once shifted they will hold that new position with the same level of persistence.

What this means for political party strategists is that taking care of this inertia driven core is worth the effort. If this is a portion of supporters and voters that has been lost – as it has been by the Labour party – it will take time, care and persistence in focusing on their issues to win them back. There is no quick fix to change the attitudes and behaviours among this Group.


Perhaps surprisingly the Prospectors were significantly over-indexed (118 in BeforeGE17) among those who most identified with the Labour party. Less surprising was the age profile – over indexing in the under 40s which is typical of Prospectors in general.

But the positioning and image of the Labour party before the election,but during the campaign, was probably less attractive to them. Media reporting about the internal problems of the party – the leadership result, the continued internal squabbling and negative perceptions of the leader - was a staple of media coverage, may have been a turnoff for Prospectors thinking about voting Labour. They only indexed very close to the average among registered voters (106) intending to vote Labour.

Among Prospectors, the most likely to have felt a real affinity with the Labour Party prior to the election were the Now People – indexing at 147 - more than any other Values Mode. But when it came to final voting the Prospectors were close to the national expectation - just slightly under indexing at 97. This presents a fairly clear picture of a basic support for Labour, at an emotional level, among Prospectors - but a less than obvious intention to vote for them.

Prospectors are the key to winning mass acceptance among the electorate on election day. In continuing iterations of the British Values Surveys the Prospectors have been shown to be the most apolitical of the three main Groups – claiming to be neither right-wing nor left-wing. To them elections aren’t about ideology, the past, the present, or even the future. They are socio-cultural events – something that has little to do with the day-to-day practicalities of their lives, but something that can affect the realisation of their dreams and aspirations.

The quality of their attention in terms of System Two thinking - judging the merits of factors presented during the campaign – is a function of the event itself. If it doesn’t match their values it is unlikely to engage them enough to turn a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ into a deliberate decision to enter a polling station and cast a vote on a prescribed date.

Prospectors will continue to be engaged as long as the campaign generates drama and something to talk about with others; presenting them with opportunities to show competence on issues that seem to be primarily transitory - not requiring deep knowledge on which to base opinion (it’s just the ‘news’) and therefore something to generate a bit of banter and show ‘social awareness’.

The ways that Prospectors display their ‘political credentials’ are largely a show for others and less something that is about a deep commitment to electing the best government – either for themselves or others. They are the people who seemingly vote against their own best interest but with the self-perception that they are casting ‘the right vote’ – very often a vote for the winning party. They are among those most likely to decide late in the campaign - or even in the polling booth - rather than making their minds up early and sticking to it.

Campaigns that have ‘battles’ between personalities are more engaging to them than campaigns that are a battle of ideas. Television provides a better source of information and engagement compared to the internet or social media. They want to see the personalities, they want to see their body language, their clothes, their hair, their voices – just as they judge other events in their daily life.

They love the sturm und drang of the fight – the excitement, the cliff hanger, the drama of competition and, especially, being associated with a winner. It is not about politics, it is about the theatre of politics.

Based on this analysis, it is valid to say that this year’s election did not stimulate them enough to remain engaged with the Labour campaign, even though they were predisposed to them. As noted above, it is likely this was not just a phenomenon that affected the Labour turnout – it was probably a factor across all parties.


In a reverse image of the Prospector fall off in support at each stage of the cycle of engagement, Pioneers increased their support and engagement at each stage. This is significant as the Pioneers account for 40% of registered voters in our nationally representative sample.

Their identification with the Labour Party is slightly higher than average (104 in BeforeGE17) but as the Transcenders, the largest Values Mode within the population (14.3%), and the largest number of registered voters, over index at 126 compared to the whole population.

When measuring intention to vote for Labour, the index increases to 107, a slight increase in engagement – but a stronger type of support as it involves Systems Two processing - the thinking part of the feeling, thinking, doing engagement cycle. As in the feeling stage, the Transcender Values Mode over indexes significantly with a slight index increase (129).

Pioneer voters became the core of the mass Labour vote in 2017. Mass support for Labour was the most unexpected factor for most pollsters in this election. The map at the start of this section shows that in almost all areas of the Values Map Labour harvested 50% or more of the vote - with the exception of the Settler Brave New World Values Mode.

The Pioneer vote was significantly higher than the rest of the population with an index of 117.

Even more significant was the index of 144 for the Transcender Values Mode.

This is good news for the future of the Labour Party, especially when combined with the younger profile among those who identify with and had intended to vote for the party. The voter profile was over indexed in all age groups up to 55 years old and most over indexed in the 18-35 age group.

The Accidental Leader - and a possible future for a party ready to govern again, but differently.

Cultural perception of the personality of the leader, formerly seen as a liability to the party, was transformed by his performance during the campaign. His perceived, and actual, presentation encapsulated both the values of Pioneers and Settlers, a factor we measure as WYSIWYG –‘what you see is what you get’.

This is in complete opposition to what every spin doctor worth their salt would advise him to do. Politicians are supposed to look ‘polished’ and inspire confidence in their competency to solve the ‘big issues’ – something beyond us mere mortals. The playbook used by spin doctors and SPADs has consistently been proven to be out of step with whole sections of modern populations in recent years - and yet they persist.

The accidental leader of the Labour Party, the leader who didn’t want to be leader, winning the membership’s overwhelming support - twice - against a list of Westminster politicians who actually wanted to be leader, has continued to live the Universalist values he has upheld in over 30 years of left wing activism.

This values orientation – that had led to him remaining firmly ensconced on the back benches for decade after decade, shunned by leader after leader – is now proving to be a true differentiator among the leaders of other parties who are still playing by the same old playbook.

His refusal to participate in the weekly ‘gotcha’ game at PMQs, to personally attack political opponents, his ability to maintain his decorum and attack ideas not people, to live in equanimity with continued internal attempts to dislodge him while being externally ridiculed by the owners and columnists in the UK right wing media ultimately led to an unexpected, spontaneous, populist reappraisal of the political process and of the Labour party in particular.

As was noted in an earlier overview of BeforeGE17, the state of the parties and the feelings of the electorate indicate that the future of the Labour party is in its own hands.

There could be a continuation of internecine warfare and a dissonant disconnect from the interests of the UK population - or maybe a reversion to a form of leader-led ‘sofa government’ and spin-defined politicking. The party would be wise to remember that led to some poor political decisions on key issues that affected both the country and the traditional heartland of Labour support – poor decisions that hinder the party to this day.

Or the party can truly take notice of the appeal of a different sort of leader and begin the process of making itself fit for purpose in a post-Brexit Britain.

The country is likely to face tremendous challenges as a result of not only the historically critical decision to leave the EU, but also the likely poor result in Brexit negotiations by a Conservative party bereft of real leadership and seemingly incapable of even being able to manage successfully.

Corbyn is important not just for himself but because he represents a new type of leader. The old ‘leadership over’ model is being rejected by the electorate and the new ‘leadership with’ model, whoever s/he may be, will need to have many of the characteristics valued by Pioneers – the largest single Group in society, and the leading edge of 21st Century thinking, a bellwether for liberal political thinking and policy making.