March 11, 2010
It’s clear that the coming election will be fought over adjectives. Specifically, the adjectives one likes to place in front of ‘Britain’. Anyone with even a cursory interest in politics can’t help but notice the proliferation of phrases like ‘Blackout Britain’, ‘Breakdown Britain’ and other pejorative epithets riding on the back of Cameron’s ‘Broken Britain’ soundbite. They don’t constitute particular policy pledges or indeed any form of party allegiance, but rather a peculiar way in which an individual can lend identity to their political statements.
For example, take this comment on CCHQ. I have always taken it as read that anyone who liberally sprinkles their postings with CAPITALS and quoted soundbites is a moron, and this principle has served me well. However, this style of posting is endemic across the blogosphere across the political spectrum, and is reflected when canvassing; members of the public will often repeat soundbites (*cough*, ‘messages’) back at you on the doorstep, if their authors have done their job correctly. They immediately place their political allegiance and voting intention, which is very useful. They determine intellectual identity; a ‘Broken Britain’ user will view contemporary society as being a morass of failed marriages, immigrants & violent crime, regardless of whether that is true or not.
Unlike other soundbites, the ‘Britain’ line directly refers to contemporary society, so rather than being an easy way to encapsulate a policy pledge (i.e. ‘Education, education, education’), it becomes a method by which a politician can establish a shared identity with the electorate. It’s an effective way of saying, ‘Look chaps, I see the world they way in which you do’. Witness the mutual backslapping on comments threads when someone establishes themselves through the use of a phrase as having a particular outlook. It’s a very powerful tool.
We’ve attempted to use it, with ‘Building a fairer Britain’, but in doing so have missed the point. It’s a statement of identity rather than a policy pledge. It’s not aspirational, it’s saying who you are. Therefore, if we must use an adjective in front of Britain, it must say something about our voters – how they see themselves, and how they view their role in society. Therefore, I would advocate a truncation of the current slogan, into ‘Building Britain’; intended to refer to the voters who view themselves as contributing to society while remaining aspirational; public sector workers such as teachers & doctors, and private sector leaders such as small business owners. For the reasons given above, I argue this would be a more effective slogan.
On the other hand, this could be so much PR wank.