My children love Clacton. It’s our nearest beach and the teenagers can’t wait to get to the pier.
Obviously I only really know the last 100 metres (soon to be yards?) of Clacton but that bit is fun.
The area has one of the oldest age profiles in the country. It is therefore likely to be a town of ‘Settlers’ by Schwartz’s definition of basic human values.
In case you haven’t come across this way of breaking down the population, it is a pretty watertight categorisation that considers three different ways that people view the world from value-based perspectives. Each is important to creating stable, prosperous and progressive societies, but people tend to have a greater or lesser inclination to one category: there’s a bit of each in all of us, but we tend to be driven by one more than the other…
Pioneers are people who find concepts and big ideas fascinating and can dedicate their lives to pursue actions that lead to fairness. Ideologues, campaigners for alternative futures, with a strong sense of self-agency, they try to convince others that their vision is valid, discerning and worth the risk. (If you’re reading this you’re likely to be one).
Prospectors like to bet on winners, to be in on a trend and make personal advantage of it, they like to be successful and gain esteem from others because of their success. They are optimistic and forward looking and will take risk for personal gain.
Settlers are driven by a need for stability and security, tend not to take risks and like to make their home their castle. They are not very reflective nor interested in changing the world, rather ensuring that it is predictable enough to look after themselves and family. They are particularly susceptible to newspaper scare stories as these will often reassure them that their fears are warranted.
Studies using these categories tend to be consistent enough to show all sorts of predictable outcomes. And political party affiliation is strongly connected.
Obviously parties have to appeal to all three with different elements of their offer. For example Labour ideology has often appealed to Prospectors whilst Labour solidarity appeals to Settlers. Meanwhile Conservative voters value their party’s emphasis on enterprise and the hard-working self-made man whilst pleasing the Settlers with their sense of continuity with tradition.
Interestingly for our purposes, there are hardly any young people who come into the Settler category (13% of 15-25 year olds compared to 43% of over 65s ibid p15). Rather, youth is the age of the Pioneer and Prospector. The time of life when most are ready to strike out with little to lose and an urge to prove themselves to the big wide world.
Back to Clacton (but not the pier). And back to UKIP. I’m sure you can see my connection… it’s probably a Settler thing.
But that doesn’t make it a ‘right wing’ thing. Following the financial crash and Euro crisis the rise of populist parties of all hues has increased across most of Europe. It just so happens that England’s manifestation has been a turn to the political Right (compared to the left in Scotland?), but in other countries it has been a return to an alternate golden-era of communism, when times were more secure before the European project enabled us to blame the new ‘others amongst us’ for current woes.
But what does this rise of the golden-past mean to young people… The non-Settlers with no golden-past to draw on?
Those of you who work with young people will notice how often the word ‘racist’ is synonymous with UKIP in the minds of many. I’m not saying UKIP are racist, I’m saying that’s how young people often assimilate their message.
And that’s probably because the Pioneer in them can’t hear a progressive future in their communications and the Prospector can’t see their single issue focus offering the country greater prospects. In fairness, that may change, but let me end with this…
I heard this week that 5% of those over 60 in the UK are from minority ethnic groups. But 25% of those under five are from BME groups.
Inevitably the world and the future will look different at different ends of the age spectrum. Young people know that diversity is here to stay. They don’t view that phenomenon socio-economically, they see it in interpersonal terms. It’s about their mates. They will now build a different future not recreate a past.
Our schools will help them prepare for that. But they will have great difficulty dealing with political nuance when one party is attracting voters with a value system alien to their students. It’s not just a politics thing, it’s an age thing.
Still – the conversation must happen. Life is more than a thrill ride.