British Politics – Haidt

Haidt’s focus and analysis has been on US politics and the clean divide between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. This solid stable duopoly in American politics is an artifact of two things: the election of the President via an Electoral College whereby nearly all the States apportion all their votes in the College to the candidate winning a simple majority of that States’ voters. Parties, then to win the Presidency need to have a chance of winning all across each 50 states and winning within each State. It follows from Haidt that any party capable of winning everywhere will need to be one which speaks directly to the basis of our political psychology, our deepest moral intuitions about right and wrong, hence the Democrats strongly representing the Care/Harm and Fairness foundations and the Republicans speaking to all six foundations but weaker than the Democrats on Care/Harm and Fairness.

Note what is happening, only huge national parties can win, only parties clustered around the foundations can win, there can only be two parties as a consequence.

In the UK the electoral constraint is less compelling and simple majorities in each of 650 electoral districts is sufficient. This has allowed, given that Haidtian constraints are universal for more than two parties, a significant third party has emerged on the centre left and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland smaller parties rooted in national identity emerge.

Is it possible to see the Haidtian outlines more clearly given this dispersion of votes? I think so and I have put together some illustrations of the Moral Foundations (amended by me) as they apply in UK politics. Note that I am going to add the Moral Foundations to Fiske’ Social Relations Theory to get a full picture of how Parties fill out ecological niches in political psychological space.

Comparing Labour and Conservative
Note that I assume left Parties full of Reverse Dominance and Right Parties high on Dominance and Respect for Authority. I concede that the Conservatives have scores on the Care/Harm and Fairness as redistribution spectrum and stronger than Labour on the Fairness construed as proportionality foundation. Labour scores weakly on Freedom to, strong on Freedom from (I have half and idea that Freedom from is the same as Reverse Dominance or can be subsumed within it.

Labour tracks zero in regarding in group loyalty as moral value, the Tories regard this as a moral worth and allied to this they sacralise the symbols of the in group – Flags and institution such as the Monarchy (related to Authority as a moral worth).

Labour to Conservative Comparison1

Interesting to compare Conservatives with their right wing rivals UKIP. To UKIP I ascribe greater In Group Loyalty, higher Dominance/Authority valorization and greater sacralisation. UKIP hostility to the EU and immigration leverages each of these three foundations in spades.

The smaller Nationalist Parties exist because the In Group Loyalty Moral Foundation can apply to any social construct, so it can switch between groups. The SNP/Plaid Cymru/Irish Republicans and the SDLP all lever the In Group Moral Foundation as moral centre piece. It was this Haidtian sense of morality which allowed Irish Republicans to launch a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland and then move peacefully into normal political life. They consider that they, whilst at war, were operating to a greater moral imperative, one which sanctioned the use of arms.

Notably the SNP/Plaid Cymru have prospered politically by moving from left to right over the years keeping a strong right profile in terms of the big two on the right In Group Loyalty and Sanctity (flags, historical memory) along with both of the Freedom foundations, they have then appended the Fairness Distribution foundation into their rhetoric and practice.  The Ulster Unionists ply their identity politics along strict Haidtian lines.

The+Nationalists (1)

And the Lib Dems, moving Left in the last three decades  acquiring a profile like Labour but inheriting the old Liberal Party concern with positive Freedom.  Note how that concern is so distinguishing, defining and resilient over time as you would expect a Moral Foundation to be



The UK Green Party’s profile is interesting in respect of Haidt’s Moral Foundations in that the core environmental message only plays strongly to Sanctity/Degradation and weakly to all the others.  In response to this and the feeble traction that results the Greens have adopted an oppositionist anti-authoritarianstance along with a leftist nod to fairness as redistribution policy, somewhat weakened by a generalised hostility to the economic growth which the left uses to facilitate redistribution.  It is interesting that the most successful of the European Green Parties – the Germans have broadly mimicked the stance of the German SPD and has become it coalition partner of choice.  In other words the success of the German Greens is founded o nthe pressing of Moral Intuition buttons beyond the normal scope of Green politics.












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