Why I’m backing Charlotte Gore

Charlotte Gore is back! Joy! I love this girl – so much so that I once had to hurriedly clarify to her that I wasn’t gay and trying to pick her up on Facebook, I just thought she was a really good egg! That’s how much I love her.

Her first two posts make a fascinating pair of counterweights. The first, basically, says we’re heading into the next election as principled losers with hardcore green policies where the other parties will have ditched them come 2010 and be addressing the needs of motorists. So we should ditch green policies too.

I can’t express how profoundly I disagree with this reasoning. It’s not just to do with principle – although of course I believe we should try to do what is right rather than what is expedient at the ballot box. It’s to do with taking the longer view on positioning – the view that will ultimately prevail.

I’ve been viewing the world through the lens of Maslovian types lately and what Charlotte is basically saying here is that we should be following the Prospectors and Settlers sections of society. The Prospectors, for those who weren’t paying attention at the back, are the upwardly mobile, self-interested, status-driven operators who grew to dominate political discourse over the 1990s, displacing the traditionalist Settlers, whose age of influence was the postwar period and who are now dwindling fast. Between them, these groups account for a good 60% of the population, according to the Maslovian questionnaire stats. So we want to appeal to them like Charlotte says, yes?

No, no, no! Appealing to Settlers is a loser because the Settlers, literally, are a dying breed. Hence the frantic backlash of extreme right-wing activity in the form of the BNP, hence the ever more frothily crazed screaming about corporal punishment and good British values and what have you over at the Torygraph.

From a distance of forty-odd years, this is going to look like the last stand of the Luddites. Like cornered animals, they know they’re dying and they sure as hell aren’t going to go quietly. Appealing to Settlers is a waste of time, and it’s also deeply, deeply unprincipled because security-driven, traditionalist, heriarchical Settlers are about as far from liberal ideals as it’s possible to get. So they’re out.

Appealing to Prospectors can generate tremendous instant rewards at the ballot box. David Cameron is finding that out – actually, he hasn’t found it out, he has been well-advised. Even down to his slogan “You can get it if you really want it”. If that wasn’t framed with the Maslowian Prospector group specifically and nominally in mind then I’m a tin of pears. But appealing to Prospectors ultimately gets you nowhere, because Prospectors only want to mirror other people.

This is what Labour are finding out – and boy, they really are finding out, in the same way that you wake up and think “Hey, I’m not really that hungover,” and then half an hour later whoooosh. Having warped themselves to fit the views of the dominant group of the electorate, Labour became a sort of shell that no-one quite got round to looking inside for ten years. Now the Prospectors are clamouring for “change”, by which they mean a new fashionable talking point, a new mirror image, a new set of cool-but-stamped-with-mass-approval Stuff. Nothing too edgy. They don’t do real edgy – what if no-one else likes it and they look silly? Thus, Cameron provideth.

We should carry on doing exactly what we do best, and that’s not delivering thousands of leaflets. It’s appealing to the Pioneers. The Pioneers are the people the Prospectors, eventually, listen to. Converting one Pioneer is worth ten Prospectors. It’s like Focus delivery routes – spend an hour delivering 100 leaflets, and you’ve delivered 100 leaflets. Spend a quarter of that hour chatting to a supporter and getting them to deliver some for you next time, you still deliver 75 leaflets but you’ve ensured that next time, you’ll deliver 200. The investment in a niche – the one person on the street who might be happy to deliver your leaflets – pays a dividend that the equivalent delivery time would not.

For the purposes of branding and market appeal we’re the political equivalent of tech gadgetry (no coincidence that our ranks are so thickly peopled with techies of one sort or another) and if we let that go, we lose everything. If we keep it, in twenty years’ time we’ll be Bill Gates.

Which brings me to Charlotte’s second post. She’s done what she always does brilliantly – pulled together the potential outline for an edgy, interesting, attention-grabbing GE ad campaign. It’s a positive message while still poking fun at the other side. It says everything about who we are, and why people should want to be like us. Even the rough draft mock-up she has done is streets, miles, light years, parsecs better than anything I saw from any party during the recent local elections. And certainly – oh god, the smelling salts, quick! – in a different dimension to that weepingly awful Village Idiot video for the London campaign.

Charlotte has done Pioneer advertising. For every six Prospectors and Settlers who look at her ad and don’t get it, or say “LOL!!! Liberalz r such a WAIST OF SPACE* who wants 2 B like THEM!”, there will be four Pioneers who never knew they cared about politics who look at it and feel – in the words of Hector in The History Boys – like someone has reached out a hand and taken theirs. They’ll giggle, they’ll maybe vote for us next time they get around to it, and one day some of them will start writing blogs, or contributing to comment forums, explaining why all the Prospectors should be voting for us too.

Sadly, I don’t think the party is ready to accept that Pioneer advertising is the way to go yet. It’ll take this GE and probably the next one to convince Chris Rennard (ok, for me to convince Chris Rennard) that this is the prototype which will win us the air war. We’re still too mired in attempting to play the same game as the other two parties on national campaigns – and of course it doesn’t work because our policy-makers don’t play the same game as the other two. Our policies can’t be advertised in the same way as Tory and Labour policy can be.

Excellent to have Charlotte back, but why this total cognitive dissonance between the “new approach” needed on policy and the “new approach” needed on publicity? I’m not going to bust a gasket supporting her bid to get herself on the 2010 publicity team if she’s going to carry out the precise reverse of her noble experiment on our policy unit!

* This is a phrase I actually saw in reference to the Lib Dems on a Yahoo question.


  1. Mmmmm…. there’s a lot I want to say on the subject, though I think you’re broadly right Alix.

    But I don’t think Charlotte is wrong either. Its not necessarily about ditching the policies, rather just about emphasising the right ones at the right time and developing a narrative to envelop them. The punters don’t give a crap about all the policies. I’m convinced they care more about emotionally connecting to a party. That is the problem here – the Libdems just don’t connect to a big enough constituency (yet) to get them into power.

    CG has a point.. but so do you.

  2. Magnificent post on all grounds. I might have written it myself, if my utter lack of ability hadn’t held me back…

    Yes, the sheer terror that “moralists”, “traditionalists” and “nationalists” are showing proves their impotence. When they were in control, they showed their natural placidity. But modern Britain terrifies them, it’s why there are so many right-wing expats.

    I regard Islamic fundamentalists and US imperialists in the same light. They know, in some sense, that their days are numbered. And the sneering Bob Piper/Newmania types, mirror images of each other, want to go back to a world in which they could carve everything up between them, swapping power, being different but the same & supporting a consensus of shite.

    People who deride environmental causes, or pay lip-service to them while ignoring them, will be embarassed by history. And politicians who would pander to the lowest common denominator instead of giving us a lead deserve to be shut out.

    Sometimes, I feel as if we are never going to get anywhere because people are so incorrigably stupid. But then I have thoughts along the lines of your “Maslowian types” business, though not quite so sophisticated as yours, & feel a bit better. 🙂

  3. Great analysis Alix. LibDems are indeed pioneers and that is why the other parties frequently copy our policies. We should have the guts to lead from the front and concentrate on a message that tells people why they should vote for us rather than against some other party.

  4. Sorry to give you an absolute load o’ shite to wade through on your return, but I’ve got even more to say!

    I think “Old” Labour are distinctly settlerish. The BNP, whom you’ve identified as the consummate settlers, are almost to a man ex-Labour people who’ve never given up on socialism, authoritarianism and being cunts in general. As their risible “policies” show.

    Now here’s a question. Where do you place the right-wing “libertarians”? People like The Devil’s Kitchen or A Very British Dude. I think they are slightly pioneerish, and have more than a trace of settlerism, but are prospectors at heart if they’re anything.

    Having peaked and started to decline, the pioneers (well, the more intelligent amongst them) are getting angry and confused. Read something like Shite (oh, sorry, Spiked) Online and see the fear and dismay at a world that is slipping away from them…

  5. @PhilW – exactly, and that’s what I think Nick actually did pretty successfully in that article.

    I always think, as regards leading from the front, we miss a trick with Land Value Tax. It’s truly radical and it’s sort of virgin territory – there are no knee-jerk responses to it yet. If we sold it successfully to the Pioneers, they’d have very little trouble passing it on.

    Although, Sunny, can also see your point. Our emphasis can probably always be improved. Charlotte’s certainly right in that we don’t actually have to go out of our way to emphasise the policies that don’t resonate. Although we don’t always get this wrong – not making too big a thing of PR is on the whole wise, oi reckon.

    @Asquith, aha, I have started thinking along very similar lines to this! I was partly aware when I wrote the original post that of course it couldn’t possibly be as simple as a three-way division.

    I’d thought the same thing about Old Labour – classic Settlers, in many ways, with their emphasis on local communities remaining exactly the same for ever and ever, and the active prevention of Prospectors’ development.

    You’re also right about right-wing libertarians being somewhat pioneerish – maybe their own pioneering instinct is cut with a basic belief that a Settler society is still the successful model. They basically only want the Pioneering lifestyle for themselves – they’re not particularly interested in bringing the rest of the world with them. Rather like absolute monarchs who don’t believe in God themselves but see religion as a useful tool to help them maintain their position.

  6. Didn’t you vaguely hint at their being subdvisions within the three categories? That’s worth a further analysis. And then there are people who are on the cusp.

    And though bloggertarians won’t admit it… there aren’t actually that many of them in the world, anyway 🙂

  7. Obviously, the above post contains a spelling mistake, and the first sentence should say “there”, not “their”. I’m in the sort of mood where you make silly mistakes. I need to get into the afternoon and start drinking!

  8. I certainly agree with you about not dropping green taxes, though I agree with Charlotte about the presentational problems they raise (compulsively seeing all sides of the argument is one of the things that makes being a Liberal so painful) The environment has yet to loom large in most people’s consciousness so the trick is probably to have a strong set of green policies, but not boast about them (the exact opposite to how much of politics seems to be played these days). We shouldn’t hide or deny our green credentials of course, we just shouldn’t lead with them.

    Green taxes force us to push the environment front and centre since taxation is something people do care about.

  9. Christ I wrote a few posts and disappeared for a few days, assuming I’d get an email if anyone commented. I thought I’d managed to sneak back into the world of blogging unnoticed 😉

    I’m really glad people have robustly challenged me on the green taxes issue.. I need to have another think.

    Thanks for this post tho Alix, and well done on your award btw, very glad you won it!

  10. Re: “seeing all sides of the argument”…

    I think the Maslovian analysis is a painfully political attempt to appeal to all social interests in that it deliberately tries to muddy the waters sufficiently for all sides (current and historical) to be able to make multiple identifications which we than choose between on an individual level according to our own pesonal preferential biases.

    In which sense it is perfect academic guff that can be used as a good description of different types or tendencies, so it can as distracting as it can be helpful in trying to understand the real world.

    Aren’t all people a mix of all sorts of contradictions? How many of us ‘accurately’ conform to the suggested archetypes?

    …all political parties must attempt to appeal to all levels of the national mentality to be successful, those that gain power are those that have done so best.

    On the other hand those parties which reside in opposition suffer from an ongoing inconclusive battle between internal forces which can only really be resolved when a new state of equilibrium is found under individuals who show true leadership qualities of inspiration and imagination – perhaps it is only the truly liberal pioneers who can actively seek to redefine the political arguments of the day in a more relevant way to the needs of the people (or maybe that’s just my bias coming through), but it requires more than being just correct to win – you need to use every tool at your disposal which helps (though both you and Charlotte are far more than just tools for the cause, you both set good examples too!).

    More please!

  11. “Our policies can’t be advertised in the same way as Tory and Labour policy can be.”

    Well, it helps if you have policies in the first place. The Conservatives haven’t got anything like a full manifesto yet but they’re still putting the Lib Dems to shame on the policy front.

  12. Fancy seeing you round here, LFAT. 🙂

    BTW, I’ve been fanatically assigning everyone I meet to types thanks to these posts. I seem to be surrounded with prospectors for the most part, though some have got the makings of pioneers.

    Perhaps in future, pioneers will turn prospectors vegetarian.

    Next step, thinking about which type fictional charachters belong to…

    Re: your statement about the Tory Party straddling settlers and prospectors. A lot of Tories would seem to be both. Sort of on the cusp. This is an idea that needs loads of work. Perhaps someone who isn’t me could do it 🙂

  13. Oh LFAT, that is outrageous and you know it! 😀 I don’t think you could have machine-gunned yourself more thoroughly in the foot if you’d tried – are you trying to get sent home from the front or something?

    Here, for your delectation, is the pocket guide to Lib Dem policy, covering all areas to a greater or lesser level of detail:


    The main policy hub is here:


    These are the detailed papers on key areas we have come out with over the last three years:


    And here are the shorter policy briefings, some overlapping with the detail papers:


    There are all sorts of things wrong with our approach to politics – publicity is the one I’m discussing in this post – but lack of policy certainly, certainly isn’t one of them.

    Rather the reverse, if anything. In fact, your comment makes me wonder if the main problem with our policy making machinery isn’t a lack of clarity.

    There’s just so much material, much of it worked through and costed in depth by working parties for months on end – one can hardly blame a Tory for not ploughing through it all, I daresay. Hence your apparent willingness to voluntarily smother any reputation you may have as a plugged-in blogger with shit by suggesting that we lack policy depth.

    Out of interest, what new policies have the Tories added to the grand list of cutting inheritance tax for the wealthiest 6% of the nation, scrapping ID cards, possibly reducing the abortion limit and sending more health visitors into homes lately? Cos I’m not entirely sure I can form a coherent vision of society out of thaose four alone…

  14. This is a query I have with the whole notion of green taxes.

    I, obviously, agree that taxes on pollution should be raised in order to cut taxes on income & consumption. But what would happen if this policy secured what is presumably its aim, & people stopped polluting? Wouldn’t it result in a loss of revenue?

    Certainly more should be done to promote the idea that people can save money & generally benefit by going green. Just make sure ye don’t vote blue 🙂

  15. The argument about losing revenue through the success of green taxes often comes up but it’s not one that strikes me of being of that much concern. Tax rates are changed every year at budget time anyway, as those of us who’ve yet to give up smoking can attest to (Soon I tell you!). I don’t see why Green tax rates would have to be static.

    If Green taxes worked to the extent that we couldn’t raise sufficient revenue without raising the rates to oppresive levels we’d had to consider/reconsider other forms of taxation. But in that situation we’d have succeeded in a massive reduction in pollution.

  16. Aye. By no means am I disagreeing with green taxes, I’m just saying. So long as we beware of overreliance on them, I’ll be supporting them.

    Someone should come up with a policy on the matter 😉

  17. Indeed. On the other hand I do have a nagging discomfort about the precedent set by green taxes. The idea of using taxation as something other than merely a revenue raising tool is something we should be wary of – somewhere along that road lies Polly Toynebee-esque notions of punitive taxes on the rich, simply to stop them being rich. Not that it’s an inevitable progression or anything, as long as one goes from the basis of starting by working out what you want to do and how much it will cost and then working out how to raise the money.

  18. Yes, liberals regard taxation as an evil which may be necessary. One thinks of our German counterparts’ slogan “as little state as possible, as much state as necessary”. And if we are going to raise X amount of money, there are ways and ways of doing it, and in the present situation green taxes are one of the more agreeable.

    I agree with some of the Tory narrative. By encouraging alternatives to the state, in the long term spending can be reduced. We should be ending the short-termism of the conservative governments.

  19. Isn’t a measure of hypothecation the answer to an overdependence on one type or another of taxtion?
    After all redistribution is nothing more than a shell for providing subsidies.

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