13 March 2010

Slogans and Actions

We now know what banners the parties will fight under for the upcoming election.

Labour have A Future Fair for All (Freud kicked in as I was typing this and it initially came out as A Future Fail for All), which is bland and inoffensive (Who ever campaigned for unfairness? Well the Republican Party seem to, but even they try and dress it up), but it also reeks of "Jam Tomorrow". Let's face it, they've been in power for 13 years so have had plenty of time to deliver a present fair for all.

The Tories have gone for Year For Change. It's vague (changing what to what?), and if anything, it's worse than the Labour slogan: 'change' is one of those concepts that sends otherwise rational human beings into a state of frenzy. Some people dive on change as exactly what's needed, without stopping to think what's being changed or why, and want to get rid of things just because they're old. Other people freak out at change - they want things to stay the same, however crap things are. Why? "Because this is how we've always done it!" Again, no one stops to think about what's being changed and why. Trust me, if change were automatically a good thing, Obama's already solid margin of victory against John McCain would have been far, far bigger.

The SNP have sought to repeat the message that served the party well in Glasgow East: More Nats, Less Cuts. Now I agree, it should be Fewer Cuts, but the message has a zing about it, and conveys an idea in the way that the other two don't: SNP MPs will be able to prevent cuts to the Scottish Budget. It's leaving a hostage to fortune, perhaps, but it offers a clear marker. It's short, it's sharp, it's a stark message. In short, it's effective.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrat message is anything but. Change that Works for You: Building a Fairer Britain. Firstly, it's a rip off of the Labour and Tory slogans (though it implies that their change would be better than Tory change, and in fairness, I would be inclined to believe that), and they aren't all that good. Secondly, it goes to highlight two things that the LibDems' critics love to flag up: that they're part of the consensus and don't find it easy to stand out (they've gone with two ideas that are already in use) and they're trying to face both ways (it's the Labour slogan AND the Tory slogan). And from a communications point of view, it's dreadful.

Firstly, and I can't stress this enough: slogans should not have subheaders. Ever. That misses the point of a slogan.

Secondly, it's overly long at nine words. It's longer than the Labour and Tory slogans put together and it conveys no more information than either of them. Obama's Change You Can Believe In was five words and worked. The SNP's It's Time was only two words (and could be customised, as in: It's time... to put more police on the streets, for example) and worked. Labour's New Labour, New Britain was four words, conveyed a message (that Labour had changed for the better and was in a position to change the country for the better). The Tories' Labour Isn't Working was horrendously negative, but conveyed a serious message in only three words.

But there's a broader point: it's looking like a Hung Parliament. And that means the LibDems will have a real influence. But I'm not convinced that they're capable of doing anything meaningful with it. Remember 2007? They went in a sulk in Scotland, and ended up cut out of the political process, having ruled out a Coalition (and so influence) with everyone. In Wales, they had the choice of being in a Labour-LibDem Coalition, or a Plaid-Tory-LibDem Coalition, but indecision crippled them, the other parties ran out of time and a Labour minority Government was formed leading to a Grand Coalition with Plaid. The LibDems would have had to be a part of any majority Coalition in Scotland and blew it. They should have been the kingmakers in Wales and they blew it.

Now, at Westminster, even their slogan is indecisive. It might be that they're trying to hedge their bets (always wise), but it's generating even more uncertainty and if that mindset carries on for very much longer after the election, however important the LibDems are to the overall outcome, then they could find themselves cut out of the process. Again. Their voters will want their policies to bear fruit. Their activists will want a result that gets them somewhere, doing something, to prove that their work wasn't in vain. But their MPs, like their MSPs and AMs before them, could end up chucking it away either in a fit of pique or a fug of indecision. They will deserve what happens to them. The rest of the party will not.

No comments: