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Who are the diehard Conservative voters behind Theresa May?

The voting population can be split into altruistic "pioneers", aspirational "prospectors" - and socially conservative "settlers". 

The Tory poll lead remains intact, just about. This despite an awful fortnight, which might easily have hollowed out Theresa May’s vote much more.

So, who exactly are the diehards who have buttressed her position? Polls suggests socio-economics and region are becoming less important. And while age has partially replaced them, it doesn’t seem enough by itself. Being wealthy or from the north often come with political and economic interests, after all – which mean it makes sense to vote one way or another. It’s harder to identify the "interests" that unite the 70-year-old social renter in Teesside with the 70-year-old homeowner in Surrey – both of whom still look likely to plump for the Tories.

What, then, is the bulwark of the Tory lead? What’s their rock-solid base?

We did analysis to answer this question, based on a poll we commissioned earlier this month (in conjunction with Cultural Dynamics, creators of the British Values Survey). And we deployed Values Modes, the psychographic tool we previously used in contributing to The Cruddas Review, to dig deeper.

The tool builds on the work of Shalom Schwartz and the World Values Survey, to establish core motivations. It splits the population into three groups: altruistic "pioneers" (driven by ethics and fulfilment), aspirational "prospectors" (driven by "getting on" and what others think), and socially conservative "settlers" (driven by safety and security).

A person’s values group is identified by a short questionnaire, developed through long-running opinion research since 1973. Questions vary from the everyday (i.e. whether someone keeps up with trends in home decorating) to the more political (i.e. support for longer prison sentences).

For our analysis we included the values questionnaire, and weighted for demographics and turnout likelihood. We looked at the values differences in voting intention. And we then spent some time comparing this with past research into the values breakdown of the respective parties’ vote. Significantly, the original fieldwork was from before the current Labour poll surge.

The findings are striking, showing a mass settler migration to the Conservatives. Among this group – who comprise 32 per cent of the population – 57 per cent said they’d vote Tory, compared to just 18 per cent Labour. The more confident pioneers and the more liberal prospectors seem to be sticking with Labour. But it’s the Tory:Labour ratio among settlers that’s really striking.

This ratio has been getting more one-sided over the past decade or so. And in recent years a trickle has become a torrent – with settlers switching to the Conservatives both directly from Labour, and indirectly, via Ukip. This process may have been accelerated by Labour's election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, with his perceived lack of patriotism and mixed messages on defence. But it goes back much further than this.

So, who are these settlers?

They’re traditionalists, worried about threats like crime, who are more pessimistic, less trusting and often older. They want things to be familiar, predictable and safe, with clear rules everyone abides by. They’re drawn to strong leadership, and think in ultra-local terms. And, while politically tribal – historically voting along class lines, for the main two parties – they can be volatile or anti-establishment if faced with rapid change. They led the Ukip surge pre-2015.

They overlap in places with what David Goodhart calls "somewheres" (as opposed to "anywheres"), and with what Jonathan Haidt calls "nationalists" (as opposed to "globalists"). At a more textured level, they are the Leave voters who opt for tangible, familiar products like PG Tips or Richmond Sausages, over abstract brands like Instagram and iPlayer.

Settlers are anti-migration, and formed the bedrock of the Brexit vote. The heatmaps below show this (with warmer colours showing stronger sentiment). That said, settlers are often also economically leftist (if fiscally conservative), and communitarian. They’re as uncomfortable with big business as the ethical and socially liberal pioneer grouping.

Political parties usually win with a mix of pioneers, prospectors and settlers. In the past, Labour and the Tories have just about held their values coalitions together, even when they’ve lost.

But if, in an election haunted by the shadow of the Manchester attacks, settlers continue to opt overwhelmingly for the perceived national and cultural security offered by the Conservatives, then that would be a major shift. This is especially true if – as polling since we did our analysis suggests – young, affluent and urbane pioneers reject this. Supplemented by the more liberal prospectors, it seems they are packing in behind a Labour Party wooing students and cosmopolitans.

Commentators are already noticing this realignment. If it continues then we could be looking at the first election to be fought and won on the basis of "values" rather than "interests".

David Evans is the Director of The Campaign Company and a former Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party. The full data set can be viewed here.

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Arsène Wenger: The Innovator in Old Age

As the Arsenal manager announces his departure from the club after more than two decades, the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, appreciates English football’s first true cosmpolitan. 

How to account for the essence of a football club? The players and managers come and go, of course, and so do the owners. The fans lose interest or grow old and die. Clubs relocate to new grounds. Arsenal did so in the summer of 2006 when they moved from the intimate jewel of a stadium that was Highbury to embrace the soulless corporate gigantism of the Emirates. Clubs can even relocate to a new town or to a different part of a city, as indeed Arsenal also did when they moved from south of the Thames to north London in 1913 (a land-grab that has never been forgiven by their fiercest rivals, Tottenham). Yet something endures through all the change, something akin to the Aristotelian notion of substance.

Before Arsène Wenger arrived in London in late September 1996, Arsenal were one of England’s most traditional clubs: stately, conservative, even staid. Three generations of the Hill-Wood family had occupied the role of chairman. In 1983, an ambitious young London businessman and ardent fan named David Dein invested £290,000 in the club. “It’s dead money,” said Peter Hill-Wood, an Old Etonian who had succeeded his father a year earlier. In 2007, Dein sold his stake in the club to Red & White Holdings, co-owned by the Uzbek-born billionaire Alisher Usmanov, for £75m. Not so dead after all.

In the pre-Wenger years, unfairly or otherwise, the Gunners were known as “lucky Arsenal”, a pejorative nickname that went back to the 1930s. For better or worse, they were associated with a functional style of play. Under George Graham, manager from 1986 to 1995, they were exponents of a muscular, sometimes brutalist, long-ball game and often won important matches 1-0. Through long decades of middling success, Arsenal were respected but never loved, except by their fans, who could be passionless when compared to, say, those of Liverpool or Newcastle, or even the cockneys of West Ham.

Yet Wenger, who was born in October 1949, changed everything at Arsenal. This tall, thin, cerebral, polyglot son of an Alsatian bistro owner, who had an economics degree and was never much of a player in the French leagues, was English football’s first true cosmopolitan.

He was naturally received with suspicion by the British and Irish players he inherited (who called him Le Professeur), the fans (most of whom had never heard of him) and by journalists (who were used to clubbable British managers they could banter with over a drink). Wenger was different. He was reserved and self-contained. He refused to give personal interviews, though he was candid and courteous in press conferences during which he often revealed his sly sense of humour.

He joined from the Japanese J League side, Nagoya Grampus Eight, where he went to coach after seven seasons at Monaco, and was determined to globalise the Gunners. This he did swiftly, recruiting players from all over the world but most notably, in his early years, from France and francophone Africa. I was once told a story of how, not long after joining the club, Wenger instructed his chief scout, Steve Rowley, to watch a particular player. “You’ll need to travel,” Wenger said. “Up north?” “No – to Brazil,” came the reply. A new era had begun.

Wenger was an innovator and disrupter long before such concepts became fashionable. A pioneer in using data analysis to monitor and improve performance, he ended the culture of heavy drinking at Arsenal and introduced dietary controls and a strict fitness regime. He was idealistic but also pragmatic. Retaining Graham’s all-English back five, as well as the hard-running Ray Parlour in midfield, Wenger over several seasons added French flair to the team – Nicolas Anelka (who was bought for £500,000 and sold at a £22m profit after only two seasons), Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pirès. It would be a period of glorious transformation – Arsenal won the Premier League and FA Cup “double” in his first full season and went through the entire 2003-2004 League season unbeaten, the season of the so-called Invincibles.

The second decade of Wenger’s long tenure at Arsenal, during which the club stopped winning titles after moving to the bespoke 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium, was much more troubled. Beginning with the arrival of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2003, the international plutocracy began to take over the Premier League, and clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, much richer than Arsenal, spent their way to the top table of the European game. What were once competitive advantages for Wenger – knowledge of other leagues and markets, a worldwide scouting network, sports science – became routine, replicated even, in the lower leagues.

Wenger has spoken of his fear of death and of his desire to lose himself in work, always work. “The only possible moment of happiness is the present,” he told L’Équipe in a 2016 interview. “The past gives you regrets. And the future uncertainties. Man understood this very fast and created religion.” In the same interview – perhaps his most fascinating – Wenger described himself as a facilitator who enables “others to express what they have within them”. He yearns for his teams to play beautifully. “My never-ending struggle in this business is to release what is beautiful in man.”

Arsène Wenger is in the last year of his contract and fans are divided over whether he should stay on. To manage a super-club such as Arsenal for 20 years is remarkable and, even if he chooses to say farewell at the end of the season, it is most unlikely that any one manager will ever again stay so long or achieve so much at such a club – indeed, at any club. We should savour his cool intelligence and subtle humour while we can. Wenger changed football in England. More than a facilitator, he was a pathfinder: he created space for all those foreign coaches who followed him and adopted his methods as the Premier League became the richest and most watched in the world: one of the purest expressions of let it rip, winner-takes-all free-market globalisation, a symbol of deracinated cosmopolitanism, the global game’s truly global league. 

(2017)

Postscript

Arsène Wenger has announced he is stepping down, less than a year after signing a new two-year contract in the summer of 2017. A run to the Europa League finals turned out not to be enough to put off the announcement to the end of the season.

Late-period Wenger was defined by struggle and unrest. And the mood at the Emirates stadium on match day was often sour: fans in open revolt against Wenger, against the club’s absentee American owner Stan Kroenke, against the chief executive Ivan Gazidis, and sometimes even against one another, with clashes between pro and anti-Wenger factions. As Arsenal’s form became ever more erratic, Wenger spoke often of how much he suffered. “There is no possibility not to suffer,” he said in March 2018. “You have to suffer.”

Arsenal once had special values, we were told, and decision-making was informed by the accumulated wisdom of past generations. But the club seems to have lost any coherent sense of purpose or strategic long-term plan, beyond striving to enhance the profitability of the “franchise”.

The younger Wenger excelled at discovering and nurturing outstanding young players, especially in his early seasons in north London. But that was a long time ago. Under his leadership, Arsenal became predictable in their vulnerability and inflexibility, doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes, especially defensive mistakes. They invariably faltered when confronted by the strongest opponents, the Manchester clubs, say, or one of the European super-clubs such as Bayern Munich or Barcelona.

Wenger’s late struggles were a symbol of all that had gone wrong at the club. The vitriol and abuse directed at this proud man was, however, often painful to behold.

How had it come to this? There seems to be something rotten in the culture of Arsenal football club. And Wenger suffered from wilful blindness. He could not see, or stubbornly refused to see, what others could: that he had become a man out of a time who had been surpassed by a new generation of innovators such as Pep Guardiola and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino. “In Arsene we trust”? Not anymore. He had stayed too long. Sometimes the thing you love most ends up killing you.

 

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. He has been the editor of Granta, a senior editor at the Observer and a staff writer at the Times.