What Should Campaigners Do About Brexit ?

Chris Rose  chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk  1 July 2016

Out of disruption comes change, out of chaos comes opportunity.  In the UK, thanks to the narrow 52:48 pro-Brexit vote at the EU referendum of 23 June, we have both.  Everything has changed and NGOs need to react to that.

The instinct of British voluntary sector or civil society groups is to ‘stay out’ of politics, and their reflex is to hunker down, wait for things to blow over and make friends with whoever ends up running the country when normal service is resumed.  Usually this would be a good strategy but not now.

This time they should help those young, positive, forward thinking and optimistic young people who voted to Remain, to take the opportunity to change Britain for the better.  If they do not, the NGOs themselves risk becoming increasingly irrelevant.


picture: Olly Wainwright

A Tragi-Comedy

The Brexit referendum results from a tragic comedy of errors, brought about by long,  slow separation of politics from the people, and short-term political miscalculations.

The unexpected Brexit result shocked the waiting audience because it went against all expectations, including those of most who voted to Leave and the leaders of the Leave campaign itself.

As soon as the curtain lifted on what should have been the Final Act on 24 June, the chief actors tumbled fighting onto the stage.  The Prime Minister committed political suicide, principal characters got assassinated, the two main Political Parties at once descended into chaos, and what should have been minor characters now strut and swagger in the limelight.

The critics are dumbfounded.   Living in Britain right now means living with a new political earthquake every day.  So much so that pundits and commentators are almost lost for words.  I fear we may soon face a national shortage of political metaphors.

And now the audience has discovered that the premise of the whole story may be false: the choice they were asked to make may be impossible to implement.  It’s not over.   Some want their money back but those who promoted the play claim that the box office is closed.  Angry and dismayed, the audience has spilled out into the streets, fearful for homes, their children, their jobs, future and country.  Nobody knows how it will end.  A new chapter is needed and if civil society organisations take no part in that, they may find the new story has no happy ending.

The Story So Far

Here’s the plot of the tragicomedy as described in a much shared Facebook post by Benjamin Timothy Blaine a few days ago

So, let me get this straight… the leader of the opposition campaigned to stay but secretly wanted to leave, so his party held a non-binding vote to shame him into resigning so someone else could lead the campaign to ignore the result of the non-binding referendum which many people now think was just angry people trying to shame politicians into seeing they’d all done nothing to help them.

Meanwhile, the man who campaigned to leave because he hoped losing would help him win the leadership of his party, accidentally won and ruined any chance of leading because the man who thought he couldn’t lose, did – but resigned before actually doing the thing the vote had been about. The man who’d always thought he’d lead next, campaigned so badly that everyone thought he was lying when he said the economy would crash – and he was, but it did, but he’s not resigned, but, like the man who lost and the man who won, also now can’t become leader. Which means the woman who quietly campaigned to stay but always said she wanted to leave is likely to become leader instead.

Which means she holds the same view as the leader of the opposition but for opposite reasons, but her party’s view of this view is the opposite of the opposition’s. And the opposition aren’t yet opposing anything because the leader isn’t listening to his party, who aren’t listening to the country, who aren’t listening to experts or possibly paying that much attention at all. However, none of their opponents actually want to be the one to do the thing that the vote was about, so there’s not yet anything actually on the table to oppose anyway. And if no one ever does do the thing that most people asked them to do, it will be undemocratic and if any one ever does do it, it will be awful.


Read Vox magazine’s useful explanation of what this actually means here .

The Brexit vote came about because of short term political miscalculation.  The reason a referendum was called at all, and the reactions to it, is a far longer backstory of gradual decay and hollowing out of British politics in the widest sense.

The Backstory

For generations, Britain’s formal political connections between people, Parliament, Government and governance (running the country and getting stuff done), have thinned and frayed.  The old machinery of local, regional and national political representation and delivery is still there but short-term political advantage has been to do less, while maintaining a pretence that you are in fact in control of outcomes, using electoral promises and attempting subsequent command of the media space.  The military, the National Health Service and so far the police, mostly remain directly accountable along the old lines but much else that matters, such as basic services, transport, infrastructure and education has, so far as possible, been delegated to the market.  Consequently there has been less and less agency through voting.

Participation in formal politics has dwindled but the edifice has survived so long as enough people felt life was getting better,  could get better or they were secure in feeling it would get no worse.   This reflected the progressive shift from a Settler-dominated society, in which political allegiances were ‘tribal’ and the public broadly respectful of conventional authority, to one in which Settlers were a minority (now 24%), and most national political competition was for the ‘aspirational’ Prospector vote.  Since the 2008 financial crisis but going back much further to the crushing of the Trade Unions by Margaret Thatcher and the technological and lifestyle changes of the 1960s, many Settlers have felt themselves increasingly ‘adrift’, ignored by most politicians, left-behind by a changing world and without political leaders who spoke for them.  Enter UKIP, with a radical simple sounding solution, of leaving the EU.

The same values-shift and polarisation process has taken place in other European countries (eg Germany, France and Italy) but Britain was particularly ill-prepared to maintain a sense of cohesion and community.  In common with the US it has a socially dysfunctional first-past-the-post political system which encourages adversarial polarisation on every issue, and a political class dominated by Labour and Conservative politicians schooled in a perpetual struggle to take power from one another while marginalising the huge parts of society who were politically too widely distributed to elect many MPs (eg the Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP) because we have no national Proportional Representation.  Except of course in European Elections which few in England take part in.

So for generations, many people who wanted reform and change (mainly Pioneers, now 38%) put their efforts into setting up or supporting NGOs or Non-Governmental Organisations: a huge part of civil society.  By ‘getting stuff done’ through campaigns to influence policy they became a form of ‘people’s politics’, filling a gap where the public interest was not met through the market or formal politics.  They have even worked to influence business and with business to by-pass politics altogether and create outcomes in forms of unpolitics or consumer politics.

But that is a very hit and miss and incomplete process.  The charity and voluntary sector has grown big enough to be hard to completely ignore but remained weak enough to not change major outcomes where the main political parties are opposed, on sustainability for instance.   Charities lack the resources to replace the state, and campaigns, whether by Greenpeace, health charities promoting particular medical needs or 38 Degrees, often only pick off the cases where public attention can be focused for long enough to make politicians look ‘out of step’ with opinion.

Britain also lacks the consensus-seeking mechanisms which involve politicians, business, labour and civil society which are still quite common in Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.   The social connections between different classes, values groups, regions and interest groups are threadbare.

Normal political elections in Britain do not offer a way to change these arrangements but the Brexit referendum pulled a thread which activated and divided society.

Britain in Shock

Right now Britain is in shock.  It faces many developments that people who voted Leave or Remain might consider disastrous, and which few of them seriously considered before the referendum.

So profound is the turmoil that developments which would normally rank as national political crises in themselves, go almost un-discussed.  For instance the Scottish National Party wants a new referendum on independence and ‘Republican’ politicians in Northern Ireland talk of merging with the Irish Republic, which if Britain leaves the EU will be across a ‘hard’ land border, undoing the work of successive Irish and UK governments which have toiled for decades to make it irrelevant as possible.

Meanwhile media attention focusses on the entertaining mass dog-fights that have broken out in both the two main political parties.  Labour and Conservatives are both pulling themselves apart through internal leadership struggles.  Boris Johnson, face of the ‘Leave’ campaign victorious in the referendum, emerged as front runner to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, only to be politically assassinated by Michael Gove, his running mate, days later.   The same day, Teresa May took over as Conservative party front runner to be Prime Minister. She announced she would abandon one of the main planks of economic austerity insisted upon by George Osborne: to achieving a budget surplus by the end of the Parliament.  Normally this would make headlines but it was relegated to an aside.

In Labour, there is a life and death struggle between the MPs, who are broadly aligned to the Labour voters, and the slew of new Members who support the ‘hard left’ leader Jeremy Corbyn,  an ethical warrior with little popular touch who has proved himself limited in Westminster.  Corbyn was effectively elected by accident when the party changed its rules and was colonised by left wing activists, who do not care if they are of touch with potential voters because they are on a ‘long march’ to socialism.

Meanwhile predominantly young and ‘non-political’ people who voted ‘Remain’ in the referendum have taken to the streets to protest in favour of the EU.  This has simply never happened before in the UK.   They look to me like the mostly young, educated Prospectors and Pioneers which Ashcroft polling and CDSM surveys suggest will have voted to Remain.

Government itself is in limbo: major and supposedly critical infrastructure decisions such as on a new or extended London Airport are simply being kicked into the distant long grass.  Sterling has dropped in value.  Big Business is furious and demanding continued access to the Single European Market, which the Leave campaign said could be accomplished along with immigration controls but EU politicians now say is impossible.  Britain will lose the ‘Financial Passport’ if Brexit is implemented and as a result banks plan to transfer jobs to Europe and the European banking Authority will leave LondonA range of  business investments and property deals are being frozen.  Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England forsees a cut in interest rates below the record low of 0.5%.

Most of the people voting to ‘Leave’ thought the outcome would be to remain (ie it was a safe ‘protest vote’) and it’s widely thought that the leaders of the Leave campaign expected to lose but it would boost their chances of taking over from their party colleague David Cameron, as Prime Minister.  In other words it was a cock-up.

And that’s just the start of it.

Why It’s Not Over

The first thing campaigners need to realise if they don’t already is that it’s not over, for a number of reasons.

  1. Legal Obstacles to Brexit

There was a Brexit vote but it’s quite possible the UK will not invoke Article 50 (nothing to do with Area 51 but the so far untested mechanism for a country to exit the EU).  The referendum is not legally binding but merely a sort of official opinion poll.  David Cameron said he was bound by it as Prime Minister but that was a political statement not a legal obligation, and he then passed the decision to his successor.   A Cambridge Professor of International Law and the UK Constitutional Law Association both argue  that whether to invoke Article 50 and on what terms must involve a debate in Parliament.  Before Brexit can be triggered, it is argued that Parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act

These legal points could create grounds for a challenge in the Courts (a Judicial Review) if any attempt is made to invoke Article 50 without action by Parliament.  Front runner Teresa May currently says this will not be until December 2016 and that negotiations with the EU could take ‘several years’.


The Guardian

  1. Political Resistance to Brexit

David Lammy MP has called for Parliament to vote down Brexit.  In the UK which has a representative democracy, Parliament is sovereign, not referenda.  Pro-European Conservative Peer Lord Heseltine has pointed out that “There is a majority of something like 350 in the House of Commons broadly in favour of the European relationship”.

Labour MP Geraint Davies has filed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons making a similar call.  His bid says “UK citizens must agree on the terms of leaving the EU and, if not satisfied, be given the opportunity to opt for the UK to remain an EU member”.

The Liberal Democrats have declared they will run at the next General Election on a ticket of re-entering the EU, if Brexit takes place.  The Greens have proposed an alliance with the SNP and others.   So far these are merely straws in the wind and Labour, the theoretical but non-functioning Official Opposition, has played no part but in the next months, anything could happen.

  1. Public Opinion

Although the new Conservative government will no doubt make strenuous efforts to ‘manage’ public opinion and make it seem like Brexit is inevitable, if there is sufficient opposition and in particular if some of those who voted Leave are shown to now wish they had not voted Leave, this position may become untenable.

It is already claimed on the basis of a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday that over a million people ‘regret’ having voted Leave.   It would only take 2 or 3% of those who voted Leave to decide it should have been Remain for the non-binding Brexit referendum result to lose its political credibility.

A steady stream of such reports started immediately after the result, such as one who tweeted  “personally voted leave believing these lies and I regret it more than anything, I feel genuinely robbed of my vote”.

Before the referendum leading Brexiteer Nigel Farage said that a 48%:52% result against leaving would not be the end of the matter, it would be “unfinished business”.  Likewise on 27 June Boris Johnson said that the 52% :48% result in favour of Leave was “not entirely overwhelming”, which is one reason why Leavers doubted that he would ever see it through.

Whereas both the Leave and Remain camps seem to have had no real plans for what would happen in the event of a Leave result (not least as they were internally divided),  the Swiss Bank Credit Suisse produced this analysis:

Swiss chart

Note the box ‘swing in public opinion due to uncertainty, recession and austerity’.  Factors which could lead to such as swing in opinion in the short term (this year before any chance to invoke Article 50) include:

  • Housing: if house prices fall or even stagnate, this could cause a lot of concern in the UK which is a society much more fixated on house-owning than most of Europe, and where house buying is a major driver of the economy
  • Fuel: truckers and drivers have in the past staged direct action protests when faced with fuel price hikes, and the cost of oil is sensitive to sterling falling against the dollar
  • Jobs: if existing jobs in banking or other sectors are moved to Europe
  • Investment: freezes by companies or deferral or cancellation of high profile public projects such as in transport or energy, some of which face loss of EU funding
  • Passports and pet passports, foreign homes etc: if the press starts looking for examples which directly affect their readers, they will come up with real life examples such as the need for citizens to buy a new passport , and maybe having to put their pets into quarantine if travelling to and from the EU, and consequences for the many more affluent Britions who have bought homes abroad in the EU or now live there.  Some Daily Mail readers have already noticed this.
  • The start of any steps towards legal obstacles to Brexit such as in Scotland


Unarguable impacts will count for much more than the forecasts and risk-of claims made by the Remain camp in the referendum campaign.

If there is sufficient public disquiet at either the consequences of a possible Brexit or the way in which the Leave campaign was run, or both, the Government might have to call a General Election to get a mandate to invoke Article 50.

It is notable that Boris Johnson (now irrelevant), David Cameron (resigned) and Teresa May (currently thought to be front runner as new Conservative Prime Minister and a past Remain campaigner) have all ruled out a second referendum and May has ruled out a General Election until 2020.  (The UK now has fixed term elections so a General Election can’t happen unless the Government calls it).  The main reason for this may be that they know the Conservative Party would split over the issue, which might result in it losing power.  Another factor may be that they fear a legal challenge on Article 50.

The definitive nature of their denials of a second referendum may reflect anxiety rather than well-founded confidence.  A second referendum cannot be ruled out.

On 29 June a petition to Parliament (which now requires a debate to take place in Parliament) calling for a second referendum to be held if the first did not reach 60% based on a turnout less than 75%, passed the 4 million mark.  By 1 July it received another 79,800 signatures but it was earlier hit by the revelation that someone had encouraged tens of thousands of signatures from outside the UK, and officials had to remove 77,000 signatures as invalid.  Even so it is the largest such petition in British history.

In addition, the public may increasingly realise that they were lied to by the Leave campaign.  For example broken promises on the £350m a week for the NHS, over reducing immigration and over business continuing to enjoy access to the Single European Market.

Finally, the people who almost certainly voted Remain, particularly the younger, more professional, hopeful, forward looking, optimistic, more-than-average educated  Pioneers and Prospectors, may organise themselves to sustain some sort of Remain campaign.  This above all is what the Conservative government will hope does not happen.  This is a complete unknown because many of these people have never been politically active before.  Most of them have no ‘baggage’ or party allegiances and being largely unknown, do not appear in conventional political calculations or on TV.  But these people represent Britain’s future.  They could be a potent force.

  1. Negotiations

In theory there are no negotiations until Article 50 is invoked and no informal negotiations.  In practice the informal negotiations are already going on, for example in public statements from EU leaders and British politicians, and there will be a host of private informal informals.

This has to happen not least because Big Business (and small businesses) are hungry for some sort of certainty about the terms of  possible Brexit, and they less they get that, the more likely some are to pull out of the UK.  As such talks go on and the rumour mills grind into action, the possible downsides of Brexit will become more apparent and feel more real.  This too will affect public opinion.

Let’s Imagine

Let’s for  moment imagine that some campaigners decided to throw in their lot with a campaign to stop Brexit from happening, either as individuals with skills or with the resources of organisations behind them.  What would face them ?

The main thing they could do in the short term is to keep alive the prospect of Remaining by showing that those who voted Remain have not given up and some of those who voted Leave at least regret it and wish they’d voted to Remain.  In short that people are angry that they were lied to and misled and therefore want the whole thing re-thought by politicians.  There are many ways that could then play out.

Doing this requires generating visible events and activities to sustain momentum.

The main hope of the Conservative Government is that interest in the whole subject tails off as the supply of political excitement dwindles and summer arrives.  Holidays are the principal enemy of the campaigners in the short term: once Parliament goes into recess and the various players retire ‘to the country’ or go abroad on holiday, the normal expectation is that politics goes into summer hibernation.  That may not happen this year thanks to the political leadership elections and if the EU Remainers were to manage to be present at summer events, even that might be enough to prevent it.

Why NGOs Should Get Involved

Britain’s NGOs range from tiny voluntary groups with no staff to the National Trust, the largest landowner in the country.  In the middle are many large politically (small p) active players such as green groups like the RSPB, WWF, Wildlife Trusts, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who all (if reluctantly in some cases) came out for remaining in the EU on grounds of evidence that it would be better for the environment.  These are the sorts of groups which have the capacity to help make sure that the unfinished business remains unfinished.

The environment groups tried, unsuccessfully for the most part, to get environment made part of the referendum campaign.  Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth has pointed out that one upside of this failure is that at least it was not actively rejected by either camp.  But other NGOs have seen their priorities much more directly included in the campaign, such as all the health charities whose work is closely tied to the NHS.  They and the country were promised £350m more a week which has now been airbrushed from the Brexit package.  That would take an awful lot of fundraising effort to replace.

On grounds of pursuing their objectives, their mission and raison d’etre, whether charities or not, such groups have a prima facie case for now getting involved in the public discussion.  So far most of them have stayed silent, heads down.

The NGOs also have a much bigger reason to abandon their usual position of wait-and-see.  The referendum earthquake is not just party political but envelops the whole of society, and may have repercussions that spread far outside the UK.   As I argue above, British civil society has grown into something of a political vacuum caused by generations of dislocation between formal politics and the people and now the façade which hid that fact has come crashing down.

Until now these groups had many pragmatic reasons to ignore this unhappy state of affairs, leaving it to those who decided to involve themselves in politics.  But now they owe it to the younger people who have been betrayed by the referendum, on top of the inter-generational theft of resources they have suffered by many of their parents and grandparents voting for lower taxes while insisting on generous pensions and maintenance of state services.

demo 2

The First and Second Political Betrayal of the People

In the very long run up to the Brexit referendum many of Britain’s most dependent people were effectively forgotten and taken for granted by the political system.  They felt betrayed and  many took their revenge in a protest that turned out to have an instrumental effect.  That was the first political betrayal.  Now we have a second betrayal but it most affects our young, our most able, those who had most to look forward to and those who often are already paying in more than they get out.  These people will carry the burden not just of making the economy work but of making our society work.

One way or another they deserve the help of those who have the machinery they lack, and that includes the campaign groups.

To my mind that is the clear moral and ethical case for NGOs to intervene.  They are actors who can and do reach across society better than the formal political parties.  They can make a difference to the outcome, whatever form it takes, and may find they have allies in some businesses.

So NGOs should abandon the pretence that they are not political actors just because they are not in formal politics.  This is a moment of opportunity to make real changes in our society, without parallel since the end of World War Two.

They should not abandon the optimistic, hopeful young just because it is comfortable to do so, or because they fear upsetting those who have been used to wielding power in the old order.

If they do not, if they stand by and let the optimistic young people who saw a future with Europe simply go back to their work, to their studies and to their families disappointed and despondent, then they also stand to lose.  Many of the NGOs already have ageing supporter bases.  They are likely to find that other players take their place.  Becoming invisible and not being there in the hour of need, is a step towards becoming irrelevant.


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campaignesr brexit pull graphic 2



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Fishermen Led Up The River By Farage

Please note that data in yesterdays blog on Brexit Age and Values has been updated


A message hoisted on the ‘Fishing Shed’ in Wells Next the Sea before the EU Referendum

A week or two ago, chief Brexiteer Nigel Farage of UKIP led a flotilla of fishermen up the Thames to complain about the EU.  Many in the fishing industry campaigned for Brexit.  Today came warnings that as with many other claims made by the Leave campaign, fishermen may not get what they hoped for.

“Promises have been made and expectations raised during the referendum campaign and it is now time to examine if and how they can be delivered,”  the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations told The Guardian.

“Unfortunately, perhaps” it added, “the UK’s geopolitical position means that it is not politically or legally possible just to ringfence most of our fish resources, in the way that, for example, Iceland can. The reality is that most of our stocks are shared with other countries to some degree or other”.

And “we can certainly seek to renegotiate quota shares, as well as access arrangements, but it is realistic to expect that there will be a price. Who will pay that price is a critical question.”

Not exactly vote Leave and ‘get your fish back’ then.

farage thames

Nigel Farage with his flotilla on the Thames

Here’s a little story about Brexit from where I live, Wells Next the Sea in Norfolk, which illustrates the tangled nature of the story.

welsl harbour graphic

We have a small but active fishing fleet (now sadly, one of the biggest on the East Coast of England).  Like many other ‘small fishermen’, many blame the EU Common Fisheries Policy and access for foreign boats for their woes, and the lack of quotas allocated to smaller boats.  Partly as a result, our local fishermen now fish almost entirely for shellfish such as crabs and lobsters, not fin fish like cod or plaice that have long been covered by quotas.   Crabs, lobsters and other shell-fisheries are regulated and some are covered by quotas but not in the same way as fin fish.

I’m no fisheries expert but I do know a bit about it and spent a year or so working to support campaigns intended to help get smaller fishermen a better deal from the CFP, when it was being reformed.  This was partly successful in that the Member States including the UK agreed to a policy designed to encourage this but in practice the UK Government did not use it to help small fishermen, a decision contested in the Courts by Greenpeace.  Even so, many in the fishing industry still saw the EU as the problem rather than the attitude of their own government (see EU fisheries reform fails to live up to green hopes).

In my view it is damaging to communities, employment and the environment that fisheries policy does not favour smaller operators doing more sustianble forms of fishing but I don’t think leaving the EU will help.  The problem is in Whitehall and Westminster not in Brussels, only UK politicians like to pretend it is, knowing that this plays to beliefs prevalent in the industry.

In reality fishing stocks have been depleted by over-fishing, and that started decades before we joined the EU.  There are also a large number of access agreements made outside EU legislation between countries around the North Sea which would need to be drastically changed if Britain’s fishermen were to ‘get our fishing grounds back’, and many of them currently enjoy access to stocks outside what could ever become British waters.

Ironically, as with farming, ‘European’ money has also poured into fishing in a way that it has not into many other industries.  For example on Wells Quay there is a ‘fishing shed’, or as it is officially known, the ‘Wells Shellfish Handling Facility’.  I am very familiar with this having spent several years of my life helping project manage its laborious construction, when a Harbour Commissioner.  The idea was to support the then profitable Velvet Crab fishery, which needed a processing facility.  ‘Velvets’ have now much diminished but the shed is well used by the fishermen, for instance for keeping crab and lobster bait in a cold store.

FS 1

That shed was built partly with EU fisheries funds: £130,594.19 or the total £421,000 cost came from the European Fisheries Fund.  Presumably that won’t be happening again after Brexit.  And ironic because it is the self-same shed on which the protest against the EU was hung.

I’ve heard from fisheries policy officials and ex Ministers that the main reason the UK Government likes a few big boats doing the fishing rather than lots of little ones is simply that it’s administratively convenient to regulate that way.  I can’t see Brexit changing that.

FS 2

An EU funding logo acknowledged on a display panel (which I designed) outside the shed, which explains where the local fishing is done.  It’s popular with visitors but they probably never noticed the EU flag.  Maybe it should have been bigger but maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Seems to me that Mr Farage and his friends have led our fishermen up the river.

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Brexit, Values and Age

ES we are out headline

Much has been made of the fact that older British people proved much more likely to vote to leave the EU last Thursday, than did young ones. This blog tries to provide some insight into the relationship between age and values in the UK population (thanks to Pat Dade at CDSM for providing data *updated 1810 27 June).

What Happened ?

Lord Ashcroft’s hugely detailed polling on Brexit found (graphic below) that 73% of those aged 18-24 voted to Remain in the EU, whereas 60% of those aged 65 or more, voted to leave.

Given the ageing profile of Britain’s population, this had a huge affect on the outcome.  And given the fact that younger people will have to live much longer with the outcome – widely predicted to include poorer job prospects – and the fact that Britain’s old have already left the young saddled with much debt and under-funded pensions and public services, it has caused despair and anger among many people.

how britain voted ashcroft

Values Differences

I have discussed Brexit in  previous blogs (see Brexit Campaigns  and the Brexit Values Battle) and there was clear evidence from existing values surveys that pro-and anti-EU attitudes strongly divided along values lines.   Settlers and Golden Dreamer Prospectors skewed strongly against the EU (below).

The same people also were much more positive to UKIP, Britain’s anti-EU political party (and similar values skews for similar nationalistic parties exist in France, Italy and Germany – see Brexit Values Battle blog).

On balance EU is a Benefit All Agree UK annotated

The UK Pioneers (bottom right third) agreed the EU was a benefit far more than the Settlers (top), and the Prospectors (left) were split, with the Settler-like Golden Dreamers much less positive than the more Pioneer-like Now People.  Note that 43% is close to the 48% who eventually voted for “Remain”.  2015 data.

Settlers and Golden Dreamers are also far more likely to agree ‘there are too many foreigners in my country’, a theme – immigration – which most commentators believe played a decisive role in the referendum.


There is also a strong correlation between the values of UKIP voters (and of course some others) and the core readership of newspapers which supported a Leave vote. The Sun and the Daily Mail for example were both pro Brexit.


In contrast The Guardian newspaper was a pro Remain voice, as were the Liberal Democrats, who have now announced they will run at the next General Election on re-join-the-EU ticket. Both have a Pioneer dominated base.

All this suggested that a referendum would cause a values split and I think it is certain that this happened.  CDSM, the company which runs the values surveys, plans a follow-up values and Brexit survey which will provide some data but the age-skews in the ‘Brexit’ voting behaviour measured by Ashcroft, are also consistent with just such a values divide.

Here are some values-age maps from the UK (December 2015):

18 - 25 years values map uk

The 18-25 year olds are much more likely than by chance to be the Now People Prospectors and Transcender Pioneers.

65+ uk values map

In contrast the over 65s are over-represented amongst the Roots Settlers and the Concerned Ethical Pioneers (many but not all of the latter will have voted to Remain).

55+ values map

Above and below, the over 55 – 65s and the 45 – 55s are over represented amongst the Settlers and some Pioneers, not the Prospectors.




The values data also supports the idea (compare these maps to the pro/anti EU one above) that people in work (huge skew to Prospector) are more pro-EU than those not in work (ie the retired and unemployed).




Ashcroft reports:

A majority of those working full-time or part-time voted to remain in the EU; most of those not working voted to leave. More than half of those retired on a private pension voted to leave, as did two thirds of those retired on a state pension.

Ashcroft also points out that the Brexit vote age skew was only at its’ most extreme between the youngest and oldest age groups: it ran across the age classes as a trend.

The older the voters, the more likely they were to have voted to leave the EU. Nearly three quarters (73%) of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain, falling to under two thirds (62%) among 35-44s. A majority of those aged over 45 voted to leave, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. Most people with children aged ten or under voted to remain; most of those with children aged 11 or older voted to leave“.

Values-Age Data from December 2015

The maps above are produced from the data collected in a December 2015 UK values survey.  Here are the data in table form (at Maslow Group level – the data is also broken out at the 12 Values Mode level but that is not shown here).

UK MGs by age all data 2015

The above table shows the survey of 2020 adults nationally representative by age and sex, broken out by age.  There are four rows in each ‘break’ for each column (Pioneer, Prospector, Settler).  The first is the number from the sample, the second is the percentage of each column (eg Pioneer) within that break, the third is the proportion of that break across the three columns, and the fourth is the ‘index’ indicating whether this result statistically significant (ie different from the expected average/ by chance, in this case indicating whether there is a significant values-age skew).  The index colours are explained below:

values tables colour indexes

So for example in the over 65 age bracket there were 166 Pioneers in the sample, 87 Prospectors and 130 Settlers.  21.5% of the Pioneers, 11.6% of the Prospectors and 26.3% of the Settlers were this age.  43.4% of all the 65+ year olds were Pioneers, 22.7% were Prospectors and 33.8% were Settlers.  The ‘indexes’ were 113 Pioneers (more than expected as an average of 100 and significant at 95%), 61 for Prospectors (significant at 99% and under represented) and 139 for Settlers (significant at 99% and over represented).  This takes into account the different sizes of the values groups in the population.

Overall sizes of Maslow Groups in UK population in December 2015:

UK MG Table %s only 2015UK MG Pie %s only 2015

Looking at the colours up and down the table however you can see that there is a clear trend:

UK MG indexes only table 2015

The Prospectors are over represented in younger age classes under 44 except average from 21 – 24 and significantly under-represented in all the over 54s.  The Settlers show the opposite trend.  In the 18 – 20s they are indexed at 41, which means there are 59% fewer of them than if the Settlers were randomly present across the age classes.  (The reasons for this will be due to life experiences of the people affecting what their unmet needs currently are, and the way this has/not taken place across different cohorts).  There are 39% more of them than ‘average’ in the over 65s.

The Pioneers show very less age correlation but are over indexed at 21-24 and in the large over 65 group.  A disproportionate number of these Pioneers are Concerned Ethicals (index 194).  If it’s the case that some of these older Pioneers voted for Brexit, it’s likely that they did so because they had some sort of ‘ethical’ objection to the EU (think the sort of anti-corporate reasoning that Jeremy Corbyn or some of his supporters might put forward for example).  Other possible Pioneer reasons for voting against the EU might include libertarianism but we know from the EU question above that the mass of Pioneer feeling about the EU was ‘pro’.  Pioneer reasons for voting Brexit would have been very different from Settler reasons.

So overall it seems likely that the Settlers will have voted most solidly for Brexit, and that the ‘immigration question’ and fear of foreigners will have swung many of them.

farage poster

UKIP leader Nigel Farage with his controversial referendum campaign poster showing people trying to enter the EU and widely understood to be an anti-immigration statement.

The apparently simple nature of the referendum choice would itself resonate with Settlers’s self-declared belief that the world is ‘really a simpler place than it’s made out to be’ (one of hundreds of Attributes measured in the values survey), while the Leave campaign’s slogans about ‘give us our country back’, appealed both to nationalism, and a fear of losing identity to ‘too many foreigners’.

UK MG sample nos by age diagram 2015 UK MG sample nos by age table 2015

Above: proportion of each age class made up by Settlers (red), Prospectors (yellow) and Pioneers (blue), with the column height showing actual size of sample.  (Under 18s not shown as they were not allowed to vote in the referendum).

UK MG % in each age class diagram 2015 UK MG % in each age class table 2015

Above: diagram and table show the proportion within each age class, in each Maslow Group (sum to 100 across rows).  The Settlers are proportionately greater in the UK population in the older age classes.

Below: the percentage of each Maslow Group in each age class (age distributions of MGs).

UK % of each MG % in each age class diagram 2015 UK % of each MG % in each age class table 2015

UK MG pie diagram 65+ 2015

above % of MGs in over 65s (as a group the over 65s are 19% of the total)

UK MG pie diagram 18 - 24 2015

above % of MGs in 18 – 24s (as a group the 18 – 24s are 12.9% of the sample)

It can also be noted that Ashcroft’s polling showed that many people decided how to vote well before the Referendum date. The 36-39% who ‘always knew’ and so presumably voted irrespective of what was said during the campaign, are very likely to have voted according to values, and the majority had already decided by about the time of the CDSM values survey cited above.

when i decided on brexit

This may also have played some part in the anecdotal reports of people who placed early postal votes and then regretted their decision later.  38% told Ashcroft that they had voted by post, a figure rising to 48% among the over 65s.

Ashcroft reported:

Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” Just over one in eight (13%) said remaining would mean having no choice “about how the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead.” Only just over one in twenty (6%) said their main reason was that “when it comes to trade and the economy, the UK would benefit more from being outside the EU than from being part of it.”


For remain voters, the single most important reason for their decision was that “the risks of voting to leave the EU looked too great when it came to things like the economy, jobs and prices” (43%). Just over three in ten (31%) reasoned that remaining would mean the UK having “the best of both worlds”, having access to the EU single market without Schengen or the euro. Just under one in five (17%) said their main reason was that the UK would “become more isolated from its friends and neighbours”, and fewer than one in ten (9%) said it was “a strong attachment to the EU and its shared history, culture and traditions.”

Ashcroft also asked a number of questions about social attitudes (below): were these factors a ‘force for good’ or ‘ill’ ?.

social values ashcroft

Many of these are close to some of the Attributes measured in the CDSM values surveys.  For example the responses on immigration, multiculturalism, social liberalism and ‘the green movement’.  For me these all reinforce the impression that any subsequent values analysis will show that the Golden Dreamers and Settlers swung most strongly to vote Leave, and the Pioneers and Now People to Remain.

Read a summary of Ashcroft’s findings and download his full report here.  Read more about CDSM’s values surveys here.

I’ll post a subsequent blog about what might happen next in the post-EU referendum story and what it might mean for campaigners in the UK.

*Note: the tables and diagrams in the second half of this post were updated at 1810 on 27 June as they were based on an incorrect data set received from CDSM but the maps in the first half were correct and the logic and narrative was also correct.  Pie diagrams of the 18 – 24 segment and over 65 segment were also added.

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What’s Wrong With The Brexit Campaigns ?

Readers outside the little islands of the UK may be only dimly aware that the British have been enduring months of wall to wall media coverage of two very uninspiring and increasingly fractious campaigns, to ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ in the European Union (decision day is 23 June).  As well as generating a lot of popular boredom, this has much excited the political classes (perhaps about 2 – 3% of the population) and recently, stimulated a lot of less public discussion amongst professional NGO campaigners, most of whom are ‘remain’ supporters deeply frustrated with the way the campaign has gone to date.

Like most campaigns and especially political campaigns, the ‘debate’ is a tangled mixture of communications designed to work by Kahneman’s System 2 (the hard, analytical weighing of facts and so on) and the easy, dominant System 1, the intuitive, also known by less admiring terms such as emotional, knee-jerk, dog-whistle, prejudice and animal instinct.  In other less contested areas of life it’s also known as marketing and advertising.

That’s’ just the design of communications.  In the tumult of a long running campaign made up of two sides united only by increasing dislike of one another but each composed of an alphabet soup of supporters, it is very likely that most of the communication just happens and very little is that well controlled.

What About The Facts ?

A recent UK newspaper headline read ‘EU referendum: British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows’.  The ‘everything’ in question included numbers of immigrants, the economic costs and benefits of being in the EU and a lot of urban-myths about EU regulations concerning things like the shape of fruit.

The problem is that you could produce a list like this about most political issues at most elections.  People in general are not terribly well informed on a lot of issues:  a famous Winston Churchill quote is: ““The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”.   Famous perhaps but it seems he never said it.  One thing he did say was:

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point”.

As any pollster knows, if people are confused or facing the challenge of processing a lot of hard to verify or difficult-to-understand information, and you then ask them if they’d like ‘more facts’ or if they feel ‘well-informed’, they are likely to say no they are not well informed and yes they would like more ‘facts’.  This is what Kahneman calls substitution: replacing the hard System 1 analysis with the easy System 2.   ‘More facts’ becomes ‘better facts’ and that invariably means fewer but more satisfying facts.   So it’s not really a desire for more information they are expressing, rather a desire for an easier way to make a decision.

The dilemma is that the decades long EU-UK relationship is similar in complexity to that between a husband and wife or the UK and the rest of the world.   More information about that makes it harder to decide, not easier, unless that information aids the Substitution process by reinforcing a heuristic decision that can be made with System 1, for instance “who is in favour and who against ?” or “how do I feel about it ?” (affected by values, experience, behaviour and so on).

Knowing that viewers, readers and listeners are switching off when they see yet another sample of politicians shouting factoids and soundbites at one another, most UK news channels have by now resorted to debates of carefully selected audiences and a lot of ‘provision of facts’ as the basis of their coverage.   Arguably they have little choice but providing ‘facts’ is also the safe ground, avoiding such cans of worms as why values explain so much of the pro and anti EU divide, or the insights of psychologists like Kahneman into what’s really happening when the ‘little man walks into the little booth’.

The Plotters ?

By concentrating on being facilitators of informed and ill-informed debate and throwing in dollops of ‘information’, the media also avoids getting drawn into awkward questions such as the behind-the-scenes influence of Euro-sceptic funders who are intimately connected with Climate-sceptic groups.  A remarkable new study (June 13) by www.desmog.uk shows the network of links between anti-environmental, climate-sceptic bloggers and institutes, and the pro-Brexit leave campaign.

desmog study 13 6 16

De Smog comments:

‘The overlap stems from a common neoliberal ideology that fears top-down state interventions and regulations which are perceived as threatening values of individual freedom, economic (market) freedom, or the sovereignty of national governments. Under this logic, we must reject both the European Union and most climate policy. 

It begs the question: If Britain leaves the EU, what will then happen to the country’s climate change policy?’

Not a hard question to answer, and one reason why environment professionals and the UK’s larger environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts all came out in favour of staying in the EU, and after some weeks of equivocation, were finally joined by WWF and RSPB (see my updated blog on green groups and Brexit here).

What About The Campaigns Then ?

I’m in favour of Remain and in a previous blog on the Brexit Values Battle I suggested that the Remain campaign would do well to try and attract more active support from the Prospectors and in particular, the Now People.

In short the Remain campaign has been somewhat dull and lacking in any sort of fun, positivity, or convincing optimism.  Now People are hugely influential but seek success and having a good time.  Any brief to engage them with the rather passive idea of ‘remain’ (which sounds a lot like stay where you are, not a very Now Person idea) has to be about having a better time being in Europe, than if we go out.

I suggested it might be things like:

The benefits of Euro-railing, enjoyment of foreign holidays, making friends and having a good time doing business with Europe, and the endorsement of celebrities for the same, are likely to have more effect on this than any amount of ‘economic argument’.

The same could be said of shopping.  Think of all those EU brands and retail experiences: however hard it tries, almost any British city will struggle to compete with a weekend in Barcelona (travel visa free in the EU), or Milan.  (For some good Now People campaign engagement look at the Greenpeace Detox campaign discussed in this blog).

Plus although Now People are motivated to work hard and to be optimistic about the future, as that’s where they are going to really succeed, you need to talk to them about life outside work.  Earning money is after all about being able to play hard too.  Hearing again and again why the Leave campaign is wrong about this or that on economic policy or immigration (which the Now People are far less bothered about than the Golden Dreamer Prospectors or the Settlers), is all pretty drab grey fare and not exactly conducive to a good night out.

Now People are more likely to see a good time as being a festival or club than in a pub with Nigel Farrage but being seen downing a pint or two on a regular basis and being a smoker will give a lot of Settlers the impression that he like them would be happy to wind back time.  Farrage plays the Settler even if he isn’t one, and does so convincingly.  The Remain camp has had no such Now Person spokesperson walking the walk.    Probably the best effort is http://weareeurope.org.uk/ which has a much more positive tone.

infor campaign

We Are In For …

The Now People want to wind time forwards – ‘Remain’ despite its name, needs to show that’s what being in the EU will be all about.  Modernity and opportunity and a better chance of success, at work and play.   Taking the Eurostar to Paris rather than the A12 to Clacton.

The Remain camp leadership has made no noticeable attempt to communicate anything about what makes it enjoyable to be in Europe, to remind people why they like it (by people I mean those leaning towards staying in but who are undecided or may not vote) or to equip their followers with arguments and evidence about what is good about the EU in personal, family and human experience terms rather than macro-economics.

On top of that as others have pointed out, they spend much of their time trying to rebut claims of the Leave camp which are designed, dog-whistle-style, to whip up fears over immigration or ‘control from Brussels’.  These are Settler-Golden Dreamer Fear-Uncertainty-and-Doubt arguments which were indeed the competitive battleground between the Tories and UKIP at the last election but they are not the greatest concerns of the rest of the population.  Huge areas of governance in which the EU plays a crucial role – of which environment is but one – have been simply left off the agenda of Remain.   It could be a crucial piece of mis-targeting.

A Pox Infecting Both Houses

I really have no idea who or what is running either campaign but my guess is that the underlying reason both fail to really connect with most of the British public is that their origins are deeply and narrowly political.  The pro and anti EU arguments have been rehearsed many times in the halls and backrooms of Westminster but with very little exposure to the public.  As such they are fine tuned in UK political terms but largely untried on most of the public except for the rightwing of the Conservative Party and UKIP.

Now they have been dusted down and brought into the summer sunshine, turned into campaign propositions, amplified, exaggerated and repeated over and over but without becoming any more salient to most people’s lives and experiences.   Both teams seem just to have transferred their House-of-Commons-shouting-match pantomime debates out into the real world, where they baffle and irritate the public, like neighbours forced to watch a bitter but obscure family spat which has spilled out into the street.

Few of the arguments put to the public relate to individual realities.  Few generate self-validating propositions which people can see or hear and test against their everyday experiences by thinking “was it like that for me ?” or “is that what I see or encounter ?” and coming up with a yes or no.  So they have to rely on proxies to ‘explain’ what the arguments are really about and they are then faced with a forest of spinners.

For many in the Leave camp, the EU Referendum is the political equivalent of ‘rapture’, for which they have waited for decades: ‘the end of the world ultimate grudge match’.   The true believers now stagger about enthusiastically blinking in the sunshine, like zombies granted an unexpected early release from the grave.

In contrast the Remain camp gives more the impression of directors from a firm of well-padded accountants, annoyingly interrupted in the middle of a rather good lunch by a shareholder revolt.  Surprised that inertia has not entirely worked, they now reluctantly take to the stage and try to calm the waters by spraying anodyne reassurances almost entirely based on numbers but with very little zeal or enthusiasm.

In truth the British public is now being told again and again that it is all important they take an active interest in an issue which for a generation has been largely ignored except for those at some thinly attended political fringe meetings.  It’s a strange way to run a country.





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Seven Values Strategies

This blog is a follow-up to 48 Campaign Strategies and Management Parameters for Campaign Direction.

There is no hard and fast distinction between ‘values strategies’ and other campaign or communication strategies.  Just understanding values, how they apply at a personal or group level and what makes for a good campaign strategy, is not an alternative to other tools and ideas.  On the other hand there are some insights that you simply don’t get without values.

  1. x3 Values Matching

The default use of values insight for many campaigns.  This is a ‘Something for Everyone’ strategy, suitable for instances where it is necessary to try and engage a whole population or group.   Any campaign which purports to address a wide ‘public’ is ostensibly trying to reach all three main Maslow Groups (Settler, Prospector, Pioneer), whether the campaigners are aware of them or not.

Here’s an example on engaging the public in marine environments, based on detailed audience research*, another on designing pubs, and a heuristic for ‘narratives’.

The simplest process of applying this involves deciding on a specific behaviour that needs to happen in the course of the campaign, and then creating three versions of it, in terms of activity, channel, messenger, context and benefits.  It is much easier and more effective to create three bespoke opportunities than one.

[* In more detail at pp 303-10 in How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change].

  1. x1 LCD Cross Values Appeal

This applies if for some reason the brief is to have one activity or opportunity that has to ‘work for everyone’, which in practice means as many different sorts of people as possible.  (If you don’t actually need broad values support you can make do with a much narrower engagement, typically people-like-you but many campaigns by cause groups are limited by only really engaging Pioneers).

So in this case there is only one ‘proposition’, based on the ‘Lowest Common Denominator’: one that is at least accepted if not enthusiastically embraced, by all the three Maslow Groups.

The marine example cited in #1 shows what would have worked best for the three values groups separately but also the chosen solution which worked best for all three.

If you lack any basis for deciding this (ie research giving you insight or a lot of experience with values and audiences in your country) the default should be to make it a proposition that works for Settlers, as Prospectors and Pioneers have previously both been Settlers.

If you have commissioned or can access national values surveys, you can also identify things that are not very values segmented.  For example in the UK it would include the appeal of animal charities and being a parent.  So by default, making propositions about animals, or children, or even better animals and children, is going to reach across values groups (= ‘mainstream’).

  1. The Mexican Wave

This utilises the basic cultural or social dynamics of change across values groups (which is why CDSM, the values company whose model I use, is called Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing).

Real social change involving doing or creating something genuinely new and different (as opposed to a new project that does something ‘tried and tested’ elsewhere) always starts with the Pioneers.  This arises by default because the Pioneers are not as concerned as the Prospectors about taking social risks and being seen to fail, and, because they are not change-averse like the Settlers.

Not all new Pioneer experiments spread: most die out and don’t even attract much Pioneer support but those which look ‘successful’ and approved of, will be noticed by Prospectors.  So long as they become available to them in ways that do not carry a lot of Pioneer values-baggage that requires Prospectors to ‘become a different person’ (“not me”), they may be taken up by Prospectors.  This invariably happens between the Transcender Pioneer Values Mode and the Prospector Now People, and works by emulation.

The Now People act as the behaviour or idea gateway to the rest of the Prospectors, who want to be like Now People (the most confident Prospectors and the definers of what is ‘fashionable’), and they are much better ‘messengers’ for other Prospectors than the Pioneers.  So the change-baton can get passed on, often by the behaviour being endorsed by a ‘mainstream’ brand.

If Pioneers plus Prospectors together constitute a majority (which in almost every country studied in recent years now is the case), any widespread behaviour they espouse, starts to look ‘normal’.  At that point is converted into a social norm and Settlers adopt it (norming), as they have a great desire to be ‘normal’.  Premature attempts to get Settlers to adopt a change however will fail unless enforced by authority through rules.

This also means that Settlers are the last to change and that both they and Prospectors will adopt behaviours they previously rejected and argued against.  You do not need to try and change the people’s values (impractical for large groups in terms of creating life experiences to do that by meeting unmet needs and otherwise an attempt at brainwashing), only to make the behaviour attractive in values terms.

So by a process of emulation and norming, change can spread around the values map from Pioneers to Prospectors to Settlers.  Good examples seen in many countries are the spread of environmental behaviours such as use of renewable energy, and recycling.

Because this happens without people changing values, it is like a Mexican Wave in a stadium which spreads without people leaving their seats.

  1. The Locomotive

This appears similar to the previous strategy but is crucially different because it relies on the power of a leadership group rather than attempting to enlist the rest of society.

The locomotive in question is normally the Pioneers or a subset of them, as the people most willing to ‘stand up for’ or promote something seen as unusual, weird, baffling, controversial or otherwise ‘difficult’ but for reasons the proponents usually see as altruistic: ‘good for society’.    So it’s a Pioneer-led, Pioneer-dominated x1 Group campaign strategy, even if the proponents think it is ‘open to all’.

In many societies there are enough Pioneers to create a big enough recruitment pool to create and sustain large campaigns of this sort but it has self-evident limitations.   For instance if it does not also engage or spread to Prospectors and Settlers, in most democracies politicians will see it as a subset of ‘the usual suspects’.  Unlike a campaign group, politicians cannot usually ignore the majority or large parts of society, as the majority also have votes.

This strategy is unconsciously adopted by many campaigns which act a vanguards or pressure groups for social reform and innovation (eg new sexually defined rights).   The default organising principle for this strategy is to identify the group most likely to run with your issue, build it and then devote energies to that and work your way out to other groups, using affinities.

Those which become politically-correct in ways which mean insisting on others adopting their reasons (values) as the price of admission (‘true belief’, ‘real reasons’), are unlikely to do more than persist.   Those which define their chosen issue or proposition in terms which polarise against the values of others, are likely to fail if they antagonize other groups and cannot over-power, out-manoeuvre or outweigh them.

  1. Reframing for Values Uplift

Values and frames are often confused but are two different things.   Values in the sense used here result from unmet psychological needs and manifest themselves as deeply and unconsciously held beliefs.  Frames are mental metaphors unconsciously used to recognize, categorize and process new information.  Nobody yet knows what the underlying brain processes really are or how they intersect but for practical purposes of campaign design, the first is about ‘rewards’ and the second about ‘understanding’ in the sense of recognition.

Reframing a proposition so that it better resonates with attitudes and beliefs driven by a particular values group can be an effective way of gaining wider support (as in #1).  But this has to be based on values insights from research, not guesswork in which people with one set of values try to second-guess what works for others.

For example:


  • Conducting formative qualitative research with people from different values groups to identify which frames work best for them


  • Building alliances with other groups which research shows have a strong appeal to different values groups, for example (see UK charity appeal values here). In this case the other charities or other affinity groups are likely to ‘bring their people with them’ in a way which will never be achieved by an organisation which stands for values at the other end of a values antagonism.  This may not involve a formal reframing process but groups will automatically frame any issue /action they support in ways that ‘work for them’, so long as you let them do so.

In short this involves doing the same thing (behaviour) for different reasons.

values antagonisms diagram

Some values antagonisms

  1. Unblock a Logjam

This application of values simply uses values insights to achieve ‘triangulation’, made famous by Dick Morris’s use of triangulation away from a left-right polarisation in Bill Clinton’s 1996 US Presidential campaign.    It is relevant when there is a values-driven stand-off that is going nowhere, and preventing or slowing change.

An environmental example is triangulating away from the power v Universalism axis on climate change issues.  Rather than to conduct a Pioneer (especially Concerned Ethical) [Universalism espousers] values battle with Golden Dreamers and Brave New World Settlers [Power espousers],  enlist the support of Now People Prospectors to rebalance opposition to action on climate from Golden Dreamer Prospectors.  This could for example involve making climate action about success and modernization, or simply fun, rather than an overt exercise in ethics.

Logjams can also arise when many sections of society do support the idea of ‘doing something’ about a problem but they violently disagree about why to do so because of different values.   In this situation, allowing or fostering more debate leads not to consensus finding but to disagreement and inaction.  The answer then is to find ways of removing such debate from the decision processes that enable change to take place.  Of course NGOs, politicians or others who are deeply committed to values such as self-expression, may find this inimical.

  1. VBCOP

VBCOP is a strategy formula based on observation of processes that do happen in societies but which are not usually organized deliberately.   It is a way of achieving change outcomes by generating opinions that can be applied (for instance) to politics, by first generating behaviours.

Politicians tend to give some weight to ‘public opinion’ and in many cases opinions are driven by what people do.  For example if most householders use gas to heat their homes or to cook with they are more likely to have a pro-gas opinion (“we couldn’t live without it” etc) than if they do not use gas.   This is based on the ‘consistency’ effect.

The behaviours which generate the opinions are very often driven by values, in other words many important behaviour differences are driven by unconscious values.  So in this case a strategy is planned in which relevant behaviours (B) are generated by matching offers or asks to values (V), and then because of (C) the consistency effect, the opinion is generated (O) which then needs capturing (eg with media evidence or polling) in order to apply it to polling (P).

For example, although I’ve not seen any such polling or use of it, it would be willing to bet that British people who do one or more of the following:  try various European foods, holiday in Europe, spend time with European friends, do business in Europe, are more likely than those who do less or none of these, to be ‘pro-European’ when it comes to voting the ‘remain’ in the Referendum.  Likewise people who vote regularly will be more likely than those who don’t, to agree that it is a way to make a difference, a good use of their time and effort and overall a good thing.

Time spent doing something of your own free will is an investment of behaviour.  It has much the same effect as economic investments: we tend to act to defend them.  The latter, campaigners easily recognize as a ‘vested interest’ but so too are behavioural investments.  It applies as much to things that appear intangible such as investing thousands of hours in helping defend human rights, as it does to earning money to buy a family refrigerator which has a utility function, a resale value and in some cases, is an object of esteem.  After all, if that wasn’t true then so many campaigns would just have been a waste of time wouldn’t they ?

More …

Is it easy applying values to strategy ?  Once you get used to it, ‘values’ is as easy as anything else.  The thing many campaign groups find hardest is converting their plan to influence an ‘issue’ into specific actionable offers or asks which involve behaviours that you can apply values to.   If you are interested in doing any training or working on applying values to a project, you can contact me at chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk

For more background on values see my book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers (available at this blog as well as Amazon etc), and this website for a short introduction and more on Settler, Prospector and Pioneer Values Modes.




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TTIP and Concorde


Concorde photo: Copyright © copyright-free-photos.org.uk

What do Concorde and TTIP have in common ?  Older readers may find this easy.

  1. They were both designed as Trans-Atlantic
  2. They both seemed a good idea to governments at the time
  3. Critics pointed out many problems at the time but were ignored
  4. They were/are both claimed to bring massive economic benefits but the supposed users are not convinced
  5. The underlying problem for both was design obsolescence: both were supposedly ‘modern’ but in fact represented out-dated models

Concorde is now well-known not just as a technological dead end and commercial failure but most of all for the “Concorde Effect”: an example of sunk cost fallacy and the commitment bias, namely the tendency to go on pouring money and effort into something despite mounting evidence that it is a bad idea.

The latest evidence that TTIP is a troubled project comes not from Germany where it has long been socially and politically unpopular but from the UK where most business associations are at least nominally in favour of it and the Government has been a strong proponent.  A YouGov poll published on 1 June shows that only 14% of UK SMEs – Small and Medium sized Enterprises – think TTIP is a good idea for them.  Seeing as being good for business is a major plank of the political case for TTIP and 99% of UK businesses are SMEs, you’d think this might give the UK Government pause for thought but maybe not.  Remember Concorde.  As Wikipedia puts it:

The sunk cost fallacy is in game theory sometimes known as the “Concorde Fallacy”, referring to the fact that the British and French governments continued to fund the joint development of Concorde even after it became apparent that there was no longer an economic case for the aircraft. The project was regarded privately by the British government as a “commercial disaster” which should never have been started and was almost cancelled, but political and legal issues had ultimately made it impossible for either government to pull out.

Campaigners against TTIP, who either want it stopped altogether or radically revised, have undoubtedly been making headway but that doesn’t mean it will be abandoned.  At least probably not by governments suddenly having a ‘change of mind’.  Too much political face is at stake for most of them to admit that.

In such circumstances, campaigners need to keep up the general pressure but focus efforts on steps which can actually stop the project.  “Winning the argument” may be one of the tactics least likely to succeed, as, in most countries, will be massive public opposition: TTIP is simply too abstract for most people to want to make opposing TTIP a daily activity.

Much more likely to succeed is some sort of technicality which sidelines or trips up the project, or simply puts it ‘on ice’ or ‘in the long grass’.   Ninder Johal, the Chair of the Business Growth Foundation, which commissioned the YouGov poll, has called for TTIP negotiations to be frozen.  Not a bad idea.  It is also more than possible that once current US President Obama is no longer in office, the American political enthusiasm for TTIP will evaporate.  The main problem is momentum, for example because TTIP has become a whole industry of hundreds of well-paid negotiators but then they are mainly on contract and can simply be laid off.

Politicians in some governments, such as the French, have already started openly talking about walking away from TTIP but while it is stricken, the project is far from dead.

Meanwhile here are some indicators of the state of political commitment that TTIP watchers might bear in mind if and when politicians start manoeuvring to allow TTIP to quietly slip from their to-do list.

  • Confidence (good story for our country) [green light, full speed ahead]
  • Doubt (mixed evidence/ views) [green and amber, slowing down]
  • Regret [amber, coming to a halt and sharing misgivings]
  • Shame [red, looking for reverse and someone to blame]
  • Disownment [red, we’ve found someone or something to blame]
  • Disengagement [green but heading in a different direction, leaving it behind]
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Management Parameters for Campaign Direction

Many different types of organization try to campaign and there many designs of campaign but campaign design at an organizational level, and management of campaigns, are subjects that get relatively little attention.  Here are a few ideas that may help.

How We Think About It

Internal conflicts and dysfunction can arise because campaigners don’t know much about management but ‘rise through the ranks’ and find themselves as Campaign Directors or similar, where they encounter other managers or boards of governance (etc) with little or no understanding of how to actually campaign in practice but who may bring with them management assumptions or theories with little application to campaigns.

In addition, although people in campaign groups have often at least heard of things like ‘framing’ (eg George Lakoff’s work) and may use such terms all the time, they often do not realise that assumptions about which is the right way to make a decision or to organise something, are themselves framed by unconsciously imported assumptions.  Mostly these were embedded long ago in some academic course, management school or simply picked up through serendipity.  This even applies to competing frames for campaigning itself.

Individual campaigners may have no any overt management role but this is still relevant to them, as the plausible options to design any individual campaign are determined as much by what sort of organisation is doing the campaign, as by the external task and circumstances.  Spending a lot of time developing campaign options for which an organisation lacks the will, assets, skills or resources, is a waste of time.

In How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change  I discuss how at the level of organizational strategy or ‘the brand’, campaign groups need to determine what their primary role is or way of doing campaigns.


book org campaigns

For instance a campaign group might be primarily a convenor, a witness, an investigator or many other things.  It should design strategy around using a ‘best tactic’: the ‘Strategy of Tactical positioning’ proposed long ago by Sun Tzu.

Hunters and Farmers

A common divergence is between groups who think about planning and making choices over which campaigns to run in terms of targets to change, and those who think in terms of ‘issues’ or areas to ‘work on’, more like territories to be in.  This can also apply to individuals within campaigns.

I think of first category as ‘hunters’ and the second as ‘farmers’.  For the hunters, the ‘world is their oyster’: they can select a target, try to change it to make a difference and then move on.   The ‘farmers’ err towards wanting to tend and cultivate change in a set area.  To use a military analogy, the first are more like raiders, the second want to hold and defend ground.

In reality of course both encounter limits imposed by resources and opportunities but in very different ways.  That affects the assumptions they make before they even embark on considering campaign options.  The ‘hunters’ see a universe or landscape of potential targets.  Picking one rather than another does not necessarily imply a trade-off except because you can’t be in lots of places at once.  In the ‘farmer’ case, allocation of resources is ‘zero sum’ and any change implies shrinking effort somewhere else, so campaign planning becomes negotiated more like a budget than a journey.

hunter farmer

Managers may accidentally build in such frames of thinking by the way they organise campaign teams, ‘department’s, planning processes and resourcing.

Repeat Business or Venture Capital ?

At the level of governance and senior management a fairly common problem comes about when managers, trustees or funders demand that campaigns meet the same sorts of performance targets or predictability that you can ask of ‘repeat business’.

The problem is that although the skills and techniques used in composing campaigns can be optimised within any organisation (ie you get good at it), each new campaign tends to be a bespoke operation, a voyage into the unknown, a venture into new territory.  Hence it is an inherently high risk business, more like venture capital than a service function or other repeat business.  Decision-makers used to service-delivery with established metrics for say economy and efficiency, or probability of outcomes, may expect to apply them to campaigns.   Service-delivery charities that ‘take up campaigning’ are especially vulnerable to this, and if this also comes with a failure to set campaign change objectives at a realistic level (more about that another time), it creates a whole cascade of problems.


There’s no single best way to organize or plan a campaign any more than there is a single right way to build a building but here are some parameters that might be worth thinking about next time you are involved with campaign design or planning.   Or indeed in trying to answer questions like “how good is this organization at campaigning ?”


How embedded are you in society: how connected and established or accepted ?  Being highly embedded requires the use of a lot of time or other resources and brings great benefits but sometimes also constraints.

  1. Efficiency

How efficiently are things done within a campaign, and across campaigns ?  And how efficient in terms of delivering results, is campaigning for your organization, as opposed to other means of delivery.  By and large, campaigning should be a last resort as most other options are likely to be lower risk.

  1. Economy

How cheap is it ?  Many other things tend to be cheaper, and campaigning is replete with opportunities for false economies, such as not bothering to do research into what might work, before planning to ‘roll out’ campaigns.

  1. Effectiveness

Are the campaigns, or is this one, effective ?  A huge amount of frequently futile effort is put into ‘campaign evaluation’: futile because although what people usually want to know is ‘did it work ?’, if there is no well-defined critical path of detectable objectives, ‘evaluations’ end up measuring proxies for change instead of actual change.   In terms of relative priorities, campaigning usually merits prioritizing effectiveness over economy or efficiency.  Which is another reason why it’s better to only campaign when absolutely necessary, and other avenues have been exhausted.

  1. Agility

Campaign groups are almost by definition likely to be up against a more powerful opponent.  Greater agility ought to be one of their few ‘natural’ advantages but some organisations design it out by looking to prioritize factors such as consistency or satisficing of stakeholders.  Genuine agility within a campaign is usually about capacity for tactical redeployment, re-assignment of effort or otherwise ‘getting inside the loop’ of an opponent (see OODA).

  1. Infectious Energy

A not-bad rule of thumb in campaign planning sessions that if a concept does not excite people inside the organisation, it should not be turned into a campaign.  The idea everyone cannot stop talking about, even if it is controversial or poses a dilemma, is more likely to work than one everyone agrees it is important and ought to be done but which is very low energy.  Many campaigns require contagion, a term often applied to the spread of an idea or behaviour but which just as important, can be the spread of a common focus of attention.  This is one way things start ‘trending’ and issues are organically ‘promoted’.

  1. Responsiveness

It’s easy to see that a campaign group which automatically aligns itself to every ripple in the zeitgeist, every twist in ‘fashion’, may be led far from its carefully charted critical path which leads to the ultimate objective.  On the other hand, being seen as responsive to the public mood and concerns tends to make an organisation liked and trusted, and NGOs are in competition with politicians to achieve this.  The real challenge is develop the critical faculty to spot, and the skills to exploit, opportunities to harness the public mood in ways that move a step along a strategic pathway.

  1. Competence

It is strange how little systematic attention many campaign groups seem to give to simply being good at what they set out to do.  Being good at campaigning requires skills that cannot just be gained through reading books, attending courses or ‘sharing’ expertise.  How much application leads to competence in campaigns is unknown but I at least would always favour hiring campaigners with a track record of delivery or overcoming identifiable obstacles through their own efforts, as opposed to those with a long string of more theoretical qualifications.  Then for organisations to become good at campaigns requires management to build a machine of people that works.

  1. Intelligencing

An intelligencer is an old word for someone or some group that acquires and passes on ‘secret’ information in a way that makes a difference.  Surprisingly few campaign groups are good at this, or to put it another way, many are much less well informed than they could be, about what might make a difference in their chosen field of operation.   Many simply react to information that others have already put into circulation, for instance in the media or social media.  ‘Secret’ in this context may mean information that is deliberately kept from public view but is more likely to be information that is simply not widely known or scrutinized but with some effort, could be discovered and used.

  1. Followership

A campaign may leave the development of a ‘following’ to chance or there may be a deliberate choice to invest time and effort in it.  It’s not hard to see that the size and relationship-quality of a following then affects the ability of a campaign to ‘deliver’.  Nowhere is this more true than when Real Life human activity is required, as in political canvassing and other forms of political ‘organising’, in ‘community’ work where committed messengers are needed, in organic human outreach to new audiences and in demonstrations.  This may lead to requirements for permeability and accessibility, ie the opportunities to join in.

  1. Iconography

The campaign organisation which has a kit-bag of visual iconography to deploy in constructing its communications is at an enormous advantage over those that do not.  These are not ideas or arguments but the means of visual communication, and if the organisation ‘owns’ them, they promote its brand at the same time as doing the day-job of making change.  Most of these stem from moments that become stored as memories.  Any campaign group which lacks them should consider investing in activities that create such moments but the moments need to be real, and to flow from campaigning as they will not arise from ‘stunts’ or the use of borrowed imagery.

  1. Discipline

Effective execution of campaigns requires discipline, such as when to forgo opportunities to become involved in topical public debates because doing so would feed the media but not further the campaign or your longer term ability to campaign.

  1. Hunter or Farmer

As discussed above, a campaign group may take either approach but the question really is, which do you set out to become good at, and how effective are you in using it ?

  1. Instrumentalism

In campaigning this means using campaign techniques to produce a practical result in terms of change: following through to the end result, or putting in motion such forces that the end result is inevitable (whether you are seen to do so by others or not).   If for instance you use the sequence awareness> alignment> engagement> action, it means following through to action.

  1. Advocacy

Advocacy in itself is not (in my book) campaigning, although sometimes people use the words inter-changeably.  Advocacy is about making and presenting a case, which is usually a part of campaigning but it’s not about making instrumental changes to the contexts, the messengers, the actions that others take and a host of other things that may be needed to bring campaign outcomes about.

  1. Charm and Empathy

Making change can often involve upsetting someone along the way.  If you can charm and disarm the unpersuaded or the opposed, rather than have conflict, so much the better.  The ability to do so is often the difference between success and failure.  Obviously angry groups are rarely attractive.  A lot of campaign groups have a surfeit of people with drive and cause motivation but a lack of ability to empathise with others and to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of others.  Understanding values and other psychological metrics can help overcome this but it’s not enough in itself.   In MBTI terms this can mean recruiting some high Feeling and Sensing people not just Thinking and Intuitive ones.

  1. Durability

No campaign has to last forever but any campaign entity has to last long enough to see the thing through.  This is why most effective campaigns are run by organisations which have a funding and institutional base.

  1. Scalability

How scalable is a particular campaign or step in a campaign, if a bigger impact is subsequently needed ?  A great campaign which has no subsequent impact or for some reason cannot be taken to scale, is generally a poorer investment than one which is an easily replicable model (or better, self-replicating).

  1. Transparency

By transparency I don’t mean revealing the internal workings of the campaign or any sort of formal social accountability but transparency of meaning.  A campaign which communicates the essence of why you are doing it as well as the particularities of the situation is higher value than one which does not, particularly in building and sustaining a brand.  Put it another way, if it expresses your ‘brand values’, it is more likely to help sustain your long term campaign capacity.  (See Glass Onion model pp 262-4 in How to Win Campaigns)

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A Case Study in Campaign Directness

Quite often the constant pressure to refine ‘messages’ leads campaigners to get too clever for their own good.

Sometimes, especially when in doubt, it’s best to say it straight, and simply to do the obvious.  When the people trying to do the communication see their case as obvious and are doing it locally, they are much less likely to over-complicate things or try too hard to be ‘sophisticated’.  Even more so when it’s direct, that is not via third party medium like the newspapers or even a social media channel.  Here’s an example.

defra sucks 1

A few years ago a fisherman friend of mine used his van to send a message to the government about his displeasure with their policies.  DEFRA is the English Government’s Department of Food, Environmenat and Rural Affairs.  ‘Fishermen’s Friends’ are a famously fierce throat lozenge long promoted as something allegedly sucked on  by deep sea fishermen.  This iconic British brand has been sold worldwide.  The tin below (image from Wikipedia) is a version from Taiwan.


On the rear of his van he simply wrote this:

wot no quota message

The point being that he’s one of Britain’s many ‘small fishermen’ who have repeatedly lost out to the ‘big fishermen’ in allocation of quotas.  (Following campaigns by small fishermen and environmental NGOs the last ‘reform’ of the EU Common Fisheries Policy was designed to give more quota to small fishers but as it did not lay down exactly how much, the English government effectively ignored it*.  Yet again the small operators lost out.)

My friend’s van is often parked on Wells Quay which in summer is populated by many thousands of visitors.  As a result it became quite well known, and gave some amusement to quite a few people in the fisheries policy community, which is usually a bit short of laughs to say the least.  A wider lesson for campaigns is that the capacity to do direct communications is often a limiting factor.  It’s worth asking yourself what assets and resources you have which might enable you to do this.  Vans on the street are obviously just one example.  And if you don’t have those, who might help your campaign, who does have them ?  Retailers for example, who often have shops and car parks as well as vans.

A year or so later his van had to be retired and he got a new one.  The message however remained the same, although now professionally sign-written:

defra sucks 2

A couple of years further on, and being an entrepreneurial sort of person, he and his partner opened their own restaurant (Wells Crab House Cafe), and he got another van, this time sign-written to advertise the cafe and with a nice picture of his boat, The Blucher (with which he supplied the cafe with locally caught crabs).   There’s no message about DEFRA on the side.

defra sucks 3

But there is on the back.

defar sucks 4

Hes’ now sold the business and gone back to sea.  But I don’t imagine his campaign has ended.

* EU fisheries reform fails to live up to green hopes ENDS Report 493, March 2016

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Brexit Puts A Cat Amongst the Green Pigeons

UPDATE 13 June 2016

On 1 June the RSPB and WWF announced that they had changed their position and would make it clear to their 1.7m members/ supporters that on the balance of evidence, it would be better for the UK to remain in the EU.  It seems that in the end, they decided to follow the ‘moral compass’ lead of the Wildlife Trusts (see blog below) and do what is right, even if it might upset some members.

Prime Minister David Cameron who supports staying in the EU, visited Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve near London on 3 June.  Mike Clark RSPB CEO said “we will not be telling anyone how to vote in the referendum. However, when considering the implications solely for wildlife and the environment, we have concluded that the safer option for nature is for the UK to remain a part of the European Union.”

Cameron said: “EU membership underpins many crucial environmental protections in the UK, while amplifying our voice in the world on vital issues like cutting global emissions”.  WWF and RSPB emphasised that this means support for the EU Birds Directive and Habitats Directive. While Cameron’s words fall short of an outright endorsement of EU green protections they probably indicate some sort of deal with RSPB and WWF to at least change the political mood music on environmental protection, and are in stark contrast with Chancellor George Osborne’s attack on green protections going back to 2012 when he stated  “wildlife protection rules were “placing ridiculous costs on British businesses”.

The bad-mouthing of environmental protection by Cameron and Osborne has involved years of attacking rules as a burden to economic activity and ‘green crap‘ and is an evidence-free zone.  It has been purely political and doctrinaire, a combination of ideological commitment to less regulation such as the ‘Green Tape Challenge‘ which is  part of a ‘better’ (ie less) regulation initiative, and anti-green positioning designed to please right-wing potential UKIP supporters.   The government’s own evidence in fact showed social and economic net benefits of environmental regulation (£3 for each £1 invested) while it’s own case by case study of 26,500 land-use planning decisions found no economic obstacles to business in 99.5% of cases.  That review cited only one such example which was a wind farm refused planning permission on environmental grounds !

The RSPB-WWF announcement leaves the UK environmental movement united in endorsing the value of staying in the EU on conservation grounds, and if it helps a reorientation towards backing green regulations it will have given RSPB and WWF something to show for their efforts.   Presumably Cameron and Osborne did not anticipate that they might need the support of green groups to help swing the EU Referendum.  Whether this kiss-and-make-up comes too late to make much difference, remains to be seen.


My last blog ‘The Brexit Values Battle‘ showed how values differences are probably a very strong underlying driver of the UK debate over ‘Brexit’.  It now seems that this divide may be posing a dilemma for some the UK’s environmental NGOs, some of whom have a more values-mixed support base than others.

Broadly speaking, Pioneers and some (Now People) Prospectors will lean towards ‘Remain’ (stay in the EU) and the instinctive support for ‘Leave’ comes from the Settlers and ‘Golden Dreamer’ Prospectors, motivated mainly by a yearning to recover an old national identity.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have both come out strongly in favour of the UK remaining in Europe, because on balance, it seems highly likely that would be better for the environment in the UK and beyond.  Their support base is strongly Pioneer.  Sometimes this is a weakness in terms of gaining broad support (as Pioneers are only about 40% of the population) but it probably makes it much easier to declare a view.

Others such as the National Trust, RSPB, WWF and the Woodland Trust, have discovered that their members are split on the EU issue and some of them vehemently so.  Faced with what some fear could be a damaging divide, they have opted not just to stay out of the campaigning (which all these NGOs have) but not to express a view one way or the other.

This ostentatiously neutral position involves sitting somewhat uncomfortably on the fence because the overwhelming analytical evidence is that leaving the EU would be very high risk for the environment, on matters from nature protection to waste, climate and renewable energy, and pollution.

Of course the staff of these organisations are well aware of this.  There simply is no even half-serious case for thinking that the ‘leave’ option will be better for the environment. Many of its leading proponents are climate sceptic for example and some have shown a visceral dislike of all sorts of ‘greenery’.


soc env ends eu study

Last week the environmental professional’s intelligence magazine ENDS Report  (issue 495) published a hugely detailed poll (893 responses)  of its readers showing they were overwhelmingly (77%) in favour of ‘remain’.  It was commissioned with the Society for the Environment and can be downloaded here.  That poll shows that on measure after measure including non-environmental ones such as attitude to the honesty, efficiency and accountability of the EU, the professionals have a vastly more positive view than the wider public.  Values (a factor in intuitive decision making) will have played a part but direct experience, knowing what really happens through regular involvement, will be the main reason these environmental professionals are so pro-EU.

E4E logo

This is also why a bevy of ex-Chief Executives of environmental NGOs and other environmental luminaries came out as very pro-EU earlier this year in support of E4E, the non-charity campaign group ‘Environmentalists for the Europe’.  The Guardian reported:

Leaving the EU would be damaging for the UK’s environment and quality of life, a group of academics and former high-ranking government officials has said.

“The case is clear: we will be better able to protect the quality of Britain’s environment if we stay in Europe,” said the group, which includes past heads of the RSPB, the National Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England, in a letter to the environment secretary, Liz Truss.

“Britain’s membership of the EU has had a hugely positive effect on the quality of Britain’s beaches, our water and rivers, our air and many of our rarest birds, plants and animals and their habitats,” the 13 experts wrote.

Of course this doesn’t much help those NGOs who face a dilemma.  Their supporters are vanishingly unlikely to read such material.  Instead they use values (how they feel) and ‘System 1’ heuristics or what Daniel Kahneman calls ‘a mechanism for jumping to conclusions’, to decide about Brexit.

This is why the green NGOs cannot be said to be ‘split’: none are in favour of a leave option.  The divide is between those who have weighed the evidence and shared their conclusions, and those who have the evidence but have chosen to remain silent about what they think.  This may be expedient but is it the right thing to do ?  It’s a dilemma NGOs can face on many different issues.

The Unexpected Case of the Badger That Spoke Out

WTrusts logo

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are campaign groups which are used to dealing with controversy on a daily basis but the same cannot be said of Britain’s Wildlife Trusts.  They are normally one of the quieter organisations with a much lower profile than say the RSPB or the National Trust.  Perhaps they had in mind Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows when they chose a badger for their logo, for that character says “No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

Yet this spring the Wildlife Trusts spoke out very clearly on whether or not it was best for Britain’s environment if we were to stay in the EU:

In accordance with its charitable objects “to promote the conservation and study of nature” and in keeping with Charity Commission guidelines, the UK Council of The Wildlife Trusts has considered how the outcome of this Referendum may affect nature and decided to make its conclusions publicly available …

The Wildlife Trusts believe that our wildlife and habitats will be better off if they continue to benefit from EU environmental legislation and a cross-Europe framework for nature conservation. We have formed this view because of the positive impact they currently bring to the UK’s wildlife and the uncertainty of the alternatives

It hasn’t exactly been a silent spring on the topic for groups like the RSPB and WWF which have so far adopted the fence-sitting position but they have chosen not to reach a ‘view’ and instead to call for ‘more information’ from the Leave and Remain camps about what they would do for the environment.  To my mind, this is not really the issue.  Even if such information is as objective as independent studies, which seems unlikely, their followers and the wider public look to such NGOs as brand trusted to analyse the wealth of evidence that ordinary members of the public have neither the time nor capacity to do, and at least tell them whether they think that on the balance of evidence, it would be better to stay in or get out.

It’s one thing for groups like WWF and RSPB to say that they will not campaign on the EU question, or that it’s not their job to ‘tell people how to vote’ but to my mind it is their job to speak out on the evidence.  RSPB for instance has a pro-wind/ renewable energy policy although that was a divisive issue and UKIP for instance wants to bring back coal.

The strange thing is that the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF all quote extensively from the same study they jointly commissioned from the authoritative Institute for European Environmental Policy, as the basis of their current positions.  Anyone reading that very detailed report could be in no doubt as to what the evidence shows. For instance on p 48 it concludes:

Under Scenario 2 (entirely outside), most of environment legislation would no longer apply, and the UK would be free to relax and lower environmental standards, creating as a result a scenario with real and uncertain environmental and health risks

Several other expert analyses and Parliamentary studies reach similar conclusions.

The Known Knowns: Dirty Man of Europe

Donald Rumsfield was much pilloried for his inscrutable remarks about the ‘unknown unknowns’ in war scenarios (although he had a point) and nobody knows for sure what would actually happen to the environment in the event of Britain staying in or leaving, not least because that depends upon politicians.

What we do know for sure is Britain’s track record in the EU, which has all too often been one of trying to resist, stifle, ignore or opt out of progressive environmental policies, often while disingenously trying to hold the moral high ground by claiming to have a better idea.

This attitude and behaviour as much as it’s actual poor environmental performance was why in the 1980s it got the reputation as ‘The Dirty Man of Europe’.

dirty man of europe book

I wrote a book called The Dirty Man of Europe (Simon and Schuster), about it, published back in 1990. On page three it stated:

‘From entering the [European] Community in 1973 to the end of the 1980s, Britain was in increasingly frequent conflict with the European Commission and its European partners over the environment.  At the time of writing, for example, Britain faces the possibility of legal action by the European Court over the contamination of groundwater by pesticides and of drinking water by nitrates.

Without pressure from Europe, it is difficult to see how Britain would have made any environmental progress (possibly with the exception of curbing radioactive emissions) in the 1980s.  Britain had the legal and administrative machinery to require FGD on power stations but, before an EC Directive was drafted, showed no signs of using it; even small pilot schemes in the 1950s were shut down.  Left to its own devices, Britain would probably still be setting standards for fumes from diesel engines by running lorries past people sitting in deckchairs (the EC will instead require specific, measurable emission limits).’

[The deck chairs thing is not a joke].

The rest of the 320 pages explored the track record of the UK Government on the gamut of pollution issues in more exhaustive detail than I could be bothered with today.  It’s a ripping read and I thoroughly recommend it, especially the 34 pages of references.

All in all has anything really changed in the intervening decades ?  Not really.  On a long list of green issues from air pollution emissions to neonicotinoid pesticides, the UK has often been obstructive in the EU.

The basic problem is that Britain the nation has never been as ‘green’ as its NW European neighbours such as Germany and Denmark, and  to be so has been out of step with the mainstream in both the two main political parties, Labour and Conservative.  Of the two, the Tories have tended to be the worst but there’s little to chose between them.  Senior British politicians who really stand up for the environment have been the exception rather than the rule.

So the simple answer to the question, ‘would it be better or worse for our environment if Britain left the EU’, is easy to answer.   It would be worse because Britain would be left to its own devices.   Or rather England would, for both Scotland and Wales have started to become ‘more European’ in their attitudes to the environment, nature, pollution and so forth.  This is another big reason why sitting on the fence is on the issue not a very convincing position: to ignore the UK’s track record in Europe in the hope that Brexit would be accompanied by a Damscene conversion of green-haters into greenies also requires hiding your head in the sand at the same time.

The Cat Factor

So what’s kept some of the green pigeons sat on the fence ?  I fear it’s the cat factor.  All NGOs involved in seeking change have to triage opportunities and challenges when it comes to deciding whether to take risks or expend resources: things we don’t need to try and change, things we could change, things we couldn’t change if we tried.  Fair enough but sometimes you also have to do what is right, even if it looks very risky or hard to change.

Cats are an example.  Britain is known as a nation of pet lovers and many cat owners make little distinction between loving cats and loving other animals, eg birds.  This is may well be the reason why neither WWF and RSPB has to my knowledge ever done anything very proactive about the cat problem in the UK.

fat cat no bell

Domestic cats are non-native introduced species. Evidence from a Mammal Society study found:

‘the British population of approximately 9 million cats was estimated to have brought home in the order of 92 (85-100) million prey items in the period of this survey, including 57 (52-63) million mammals, 27 (25-29) million birds and 5 (4-6) million reptiles and amphibians’.  

Brought home dead of course.  By any standards that’s quite a lot.  And that’s without any they snacked on while away from home.  Plus they are also progressively wiping out the native Wildcat as a genetically distinct species by inter-breeding.

The obvious question for any NGO, is ‘what would our members think ?’ if we launched a campaign about cats.  The shortcut way to answer this is simply to ask ‘how many of our supporters have cats ?’ – answer quite enough not to want to go there.

This goes some way to explain why our woodland nature reseves are studded with high seats from which to cull introduced Muntjac deer, large sums are invested in anti-grey Squirrel campaigns in favour of native reds, extinction programmes are set up to eliminate introduced American crayfish from water catchments, and we have traps for Mink but cat flaps for cats.  The cat evidence is essentially ignored.

[The RSPB cites the above study and says there is no evidence that cats are causing declines in bird species that do not often come across cats.  The Society also argues that cats often take young birds (amongst which there is high mortality anyway) or sickly ones but that’s true of many predators.    It does sell cat deterrents for gardeners (‘what you can do to help’).  I find it unconvincing that so many cats killing so many birds and animals in effect, has no effect.  Lack of studies rather than lack of impact probably best supports such a conclusion.]

fat cat bell

Putting a bell on a cat is said to reduce bird kill per cat by about 30%.  Not having a cat cuts it by 100%

Setting aside my personal enthusiasm for a well-structured campaign to start reigning in cats, I think it would be entirely understandable if the green groups sitting on the fence are concerned that they might lose some support, maybe legacies and donations, if they were to inflame pro-Brexit members by going public with their analysis of the evidence on the Leave or Remain question.  But this is a much more important issue, with a huge amount evidence, than even the cat problem.  And in most such cases what feels like a torrent of complaints often turns out to be a trickle of desertions so long as your actions are based on your values and mission (see below).

In the Final Analysis

This is one of those questions where what you decide to do, depends on how you decide.  All ’cause’ organisations need two ways of deciding: by strategy (what’s effective) and by morals or ethics (what’s right).

chart graphic

What’s the best route to take ?

Making strategy is like making and using a map to chart the best route to your objective, preferably along a Critical Path.

Ideally what’s effective coincides with what’s right but sometimes, due to lack of certainty or information or extreme urgency or importance, you have to do what’s right, even if you don’t know it will be effective.  Then you need a compass, an ethical or moral guide that simply says ‘this is the right way to go’.

 compass graphic

Which is the right way to go ?

There is no doubt that the EU in/out question is an almighty mess and divisive, even in families (eg Boris Johnson, an outer, versus both his brother a pro-EU Minister and his dad Stanley who is an in-er and a founder of E4E).  And it’s ironic that the Remain camp of the Government now wants NGOs to speak out in favour of staying in but has frightened the life out of them by a campaign of vilification against charities (in order, it’s rumoured, to reduce any influence they have at the next election) and a lot of restrictive new rules.

But whatever the result of the Referendum, environmental NGOs are going to have to live with the politicians now taking sides.  All of them have had run in’s with government before: taking them to Judicial Review for example.  It’s also true there are a lot of instinctive pro and anti Europeans in the UK, and the latter are a lot crosser about the whole thing but there are also a lot of undecideds.   And although whatever green groups say is not in itself going to decide the issue one way or the other, if organisations which exist to pursue a cause and which want evidence based policy from governments, do not themselves weigh up the evidence and at least share the result, that is not a good thing.

WWF, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have asked the Leave and Remain campaigns to say what they will do for the environment, so there is still time for them all to arrive at a considered view on whether the evidence shows in or out looks better, in the coming weeks.  I hope they do.

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The Brexit Values Battle


UK political classes and media are gripped by the ins and outs of the Brexit battle (a referendum of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union is due to be held on June 23rd).  Many other Europeans are baffled, not least because the politics are entangled with a very British Conservative Party leadership struggle, and because both Labour and Conservatives are split on the Brexit issue.  But values research from CDSM shows that values differences underly the polarised ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ positions in the UK, and, similar political-values antagonisms are at work in several other EU countries, including on immigration.

The UK party specifically associated with Brexit is UKIP.  Below is the UKIP vote from around the time of the last election, along with the core readerships of several national newspapers and the Liberal Democrats, longstanding supporters of EU membership.


UKIP’s core vote was concentrated in the Settlers (top and top right), overlapping with the base of the Daily Mail and The Sun. The Liberal Democrats and The Guardian mostly show the opposite pattern: their support being concentrated lower right in the Pioneers.   In between the two are the Prospectors, likely to be the swing voters in the Referendum (as a previous blog described, values surveys before and at the last election commissioned by John Crudass MP showed how the Labour Party lost much of the Prospector vote, and lost the election).

CDSM’s model is calibrated with the internationally verified values model of Shalom Schwartz.  The polar antagonism in values is shown in the red line below: “power” versus “universalism”.


Whoever manages to appeal to the values left of this line, such as achievement hedonism, stimulation and self direction, is likely to swing the decision.  In political parlance this means establishing a ‘narrative’ of optimism, the prospects of future success, enjoyment and looking good, whether as a country, a business or individually.  Further appealing to the ends of this polarity will only entrench it and may even turn off the bulk of Prospectors, leading them to stay away on referendum day.

A ‘key issue’ has been immigration.  UK Settlers overwhelmingly agree there are ‘too many foreigners’ in the UK.  This is a reflexive judgement caused by unmet needs for safety, security and identity, and fear of the unknown.


UKIP has successfully played on this concern.  Attacking it on universalist grounds and with ‘facts’ will not make any difference, except possibly to drive entrenched views deeper.

How The Remain Campaign Could Win

Only an optimistic success-oriented alternative is likely to make a difference.  A key group will be the Golden Dreamers (GDs above), who are in turn very influenced by the Now People (NPs above) Prospectors, who having achieved esteem of others, are role models for GDs.  The NPs are more fashionable, confident, optimistic and less disciplinarian.  The benefits of Euro-railing, enjoyment of foreign holidays, making friends and having a good time doing business with Europe, and the endorsement of celebrities for the same, are likely to have more effect on this than any amount of ‘economic argument’.

AfD in Germany

In a recent article Alternative for Germany – how far can it go ? at the CDSM research website shows that the recently successful AfD or Alternative for Deutschland party has a very similar values appeal to UKIP.  Such parties are usually called “right wing nationalistic” parties but in truth they are more Settler identity-seeking parties.  Below: core AfD base in December 2015.


The indexes mean support is above or below average (100 = average).  Dade also points out that AfD’s vote overlaps with wider German concern about ‘too many foreigners’ and this means it could:

‘significantly increase the size of its franchise in a very short period of time – taking it from a fringe party to one that could have significant part to play in a larger coalition with another party or parties. Perhaps more importantly, AfD is well placed to become the voice of these disenfranchised, alienated, angry and frightened people who may not have voted in the past but now feel that there is a party which understands them. If this is so, and they give AfD their vote, they will change the overall narrative within the whole German political system’.

In Britain this opportunity may come on June 23rd if the ‘remain campaign’ does not get its act together.  (For more on AfD read Pat Dade’s piece and for anyone who sees a similarity with Donald Trump’s approach in the US, have a look at his older analysis of the Tea Party).

EU Views and Values Differences

CDSM’s 2015 survey of five EU Member States (UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France’ – data here) also tested agreement or disagreement (on a six point scale) with the statement ‘On Balance the EU is a Net Benefit’.

This is obviously relevant to Brexit and other possible ‘xits.  Pat Dade will be posting a proper analysis of this in the next week or so but he has let me have some slides to share here (please contact him directly for more).

Here are the pro European values maps – those who agree the EU is a net benefit.


Italy: the Pioneers and NP Now People Prospectors (to their left on the map) are most convinced.  There is also a pro EU skew amongst the C1s and ABs (socio economic group).  Overall support is 43.8%


France: 45.6% overall support and a similar pattern.  The Settlers and Golden Dreamer Prospectors are much less supportive than the Pioneers and Now People.


Germany: 61.6% agree overall but Settlers much less so.  Golden Dreamers are split over the question.  Now People and Pioneers agree most.


In Spain there is mass acceptance, it’s a mainstream view, although even higher amongst ABs.


Finally, back to the land of the Brexit debate: UK.

Support for the EU is almost the mirror image of those who most support UKIP and feel there are too many foreigners in the country.  The Now People (lower left) are significantly more pro European than the Golden Dreamers (upper left), showing why this is the key battleground that will probably determine whether Britain votes in or out.

Behind these ‘terrain maps’ is a lot more detail which Pat Dade will explore in his forthcoming analysis at www.cultdyn.co.uk, where you can also test your own values using their online questionnaire.

For more on how values shape many issues in our societies see my book (avialble at this page or from Amazon etc) What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers.


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