The Battle of Personality and Policy

Applying the Carl Jung philosophy to the forthcoming election.

Author: Jeremy Haines

With the approach of yet another general election, we are once again confronted with the well-rehearsed dilemma of whether the electorate vote for policy or personality.

The likelihood is that it’s a combination of a number of factors: national mood, tribal loyalties, topical issues, previous experience policy (as promised by the manifesto), the personality of both the party and the candidate and of course the perception of the party leaders. It’s a somewhat fallible set of criteria, especially if you add the buffeting that governments frequently experience outside of their control. Take the banking crisis of 2008 in which Gordon Brown, having at last reached the hallowed status of Prime Minister and widely viewed as a capable and prudent chancellor, was made to look helpless in the face of macro-economic circumstance.

So, yes, it’s complicated and in the face of complication, we resort to well-tried approaches. Snap judgement, loose association, vague assessments, what people seem to be like… and my favourite amongst them: do they feel roughly like me? Very few amongst us even get through one manifesto, never mind all of them, and those amusing online assessments of your voting preferences that usually have you voting for the opposite party to the one you thought you liked best. One thing that is for sure, our choices will be, like most other choices, more to do with paralysis than analysis.

There has been quite a lot of talk about Cambridge Analytica and their targeting of personality types with messaging that was directed towards traits identified from previous internet usage. But let’s be honest, the use of data to figure out our likely preferences happens every time we switch on our computers. In this instance, they simply chose between extroverts and introverts.  A pretty blunt analytical tool, and clearly nothing as sophisticated as some of the psychological segmentation models that have been used in marketing for many years.

There was also the hoo-hah about the sheer inaccuracy of poling ahead of the election, in which the pundits were caught out by the fact that, when asked for their likely voting preference, people didn’t necessarily give accurate answers… no shit Sherlock. I thought it was well known that people first give the answer that makes them look good, secondly the one they think the questioner wants to hear, and last of all the real answer. Most people don’t really know what they are likely to do next, still less why.

Daniel Kahneman has very effectively codified the gaps between logic and actual behavior but, in truth, these disparities have been understood by marketeers and brand people for years. Just look at some early editions of Mad Men.

We are a complex mesh of contradictions. Anxieties and aspirations compete for our attention and our emotional energy. We are fed a permanent indigestible gruel of bad news. We are told that the world is going to hell in a hand cart or that impending catastrophe is just around the corner.

We are harangued with bogeymen or, more accurately bogey-threats. The current monster poised to lay waste to our national prosperity, is ‘No deal Brexit’. Does anyone remember the Millennium bug?

So there are many who will vote for none of the above. There will be others who try to weigh things up and make a responsible democratic choice, a process once coined as ‘enlightened self-interest’. So let me suggest a structure to the personality question. How might we put a little more shape around the characters? Does he or she seem like a reasonable person? Could I trust them? Will they make a sensible decision when the next crisis looms over the horizon?

Like us, our politicians are conflicted. If they were one dimensional that would be dull, but our current crop is more complex than most. Below just for fun, is a pseudo ‘Jungean’ archetypal analysis of a few of our potential prime-ministerial pretenders.

Boris Johnson

The Ruler-Jester

Here is someone born with a silver spoon, or perhaps a plum, in his mouth. Yet another product of the most privileged educational establishment in the country, and of course following in the footsteps of numerous Etonian alumni, in recent years. Around the world we seem to be voting for people who are amongst the wealthiest slither of society. It would appear to fly in the face of the ’like me’ choice, and once again defy voting common sense. But what makes Boris more engaging, and importantly accessible, is that he comes across as a bit of a buffoon. He appears to be a genuine contradiction. We can’t quite make out whether he’s a highly intelligent bloke or just a bit of a joke.

Jeremy Corbyn

The Caregiver-Outlaw

Here’s another confusing combination, or perhaps Corbyn-nation. The Labour Party has always taken a more paternalistic attitude to society, a kind of “mother knows best”, approach or perhaps even the nanny state. Certainly socialism, in its traditional form, wraps its arms round the population and says, “don’t worry we’ll see to all this”. And Jeremy Corbyn is certainly a traditional socialist. But there is another side of socialism that manifests itself in today’s Labour Party, with the support of Momentum numerous more longstanding members of the party have been ousted for not towing the new mantra, whilst others have left of their own volition. Corbyn’s politics are strongly reminiscent of the 1970s and the suspicion of his intentions takes us back to bad dreams of ‘Reds under the beds’.

Jo Swinson

The Innocent-Hero

The publicity material and the rhetoric would have us believe she is leadership material. There’s a rather laughable photo on her leaflets that has her standing proudly in a pose reminiscent of communist propaganda from the 1930s. But the impression that she gives is one of slight naivety, of course inexperience, but also an innocence, up against the bruising heavyweights in the opposite corners.

Nigel Farage

The Outlaw-Everyman

Nigel Farage is a combative personality. He doesn’t mind upsetting people and he cut his teeth in European politics where he set about several of the commission’s grandees with accusations of corruption. He also launched the highly controversial, but also effective single issue, Brexit party.

But as well as his wolf in wolfs clothing demeanor, he also likes to portray himself as a man of the people, swilling pints of beer down at the pub.

Nicola Sturgeon

The Sage-Explorer

It’s not so much that Nicola Sturgeon is wise, more perhaps articulate and rather severe. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard her laugh. And it’s not so much that she’s adventurous, rather that she would like to lead Scotland down a path they haven’t been down for a long time. She has the character of someone you’ve been talking to for some time, thinking that it was going rather well when you suddenly become aware that she doesn’t like you at all.


It must be a bit like how the rest of Europe feel about us.