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Sunday, 28 September 2014

"Together we can"...what?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Labour has, at least since the early Blair years, been synonymous with vacuous slogans.

"Britain deserves better" wasn't too bad - it was obvious what they were referring to. But what about the excruciating "hardworking Britain better off", "a future fair for all" and the ridiculous "forward not back"?

Their current one is an absolute corker. Delegates at their Manchester conference were confronted with the latest exercise in spectacular vapidity - "together we can".

Which naturally raises more questions than it does answer: together we can what? Destroy the economy? Launch illegal wars? Pretend to have working class friends? Dance with unicorns? It means nothing, and as the adopted slogan leading into a General Election it is so banal as to be rendered meaningless.

Even Barack Obama's "Yes we can!" slogan had the benefit of a background message of hope. Labour, on the other hand, are struggling from something of a self-inflicted identity crisis that this attempt at cultivating fake togetherness highlights rather than remedies.

"Together we can" is so inept I fear for the future career of the advertising exec who thought it was a good idea. It's slightly more sane than the notion of using young labrador bondage in the bathroom as a sales point for Andrex, but unlikely to be anything like as successful (it's a bit difficult to sell Ed Miliband as cute, or Ed Balls as cuddly). The "Labour's plan for Britain's future" might have been more credible if they had produced anything resembling a plan - they're still tying themselves up over how to deal with the Scottish devolution question.

Perhaps Labour needs to realise that politics isn't showbusiness. No-one is terribly impressed with people who claim to be sufficiently equipped to run the country finding new ways to be seen as out of touch, or just plain stupid.

Labour aren't able to express their ideas convincingly - some might cruelly suggest that is because they have none - but I would argue this is a product of the style over substance school of Blair, Mandelson et al. It is not that they lack ideas as such, but have forgotten how to communicate them in a way that is believable and authentic. Perhaps the empty slogans also demonstrate a party that is perhaps not ideologically vacuous, but one that is deeply uncomfortable with itself to the point it is scared of what it might say.

Labour's current problems are legion and well-documented. However, democracy demands a strong opposition and I can take no joy from their current predicament: the principal beneficiaries of ineffective Labour messages are likely to be UKIP and the Conservatives.

Perhaps this is not only Labour's problem, but one for all professionalised policitians. A lack of authenticity is obvious, compounded by the fear of speaking one's mind. And so refuge is found in glib, meaningless and uncreative slogans that are hoped will resonate with a public blindly assumed to find such soundbites appealing.

Labour not only needs to find its voice, but its soul. It needs to be more original, more genuine and speak with conviction. It has to realise quickly that vapid slogans are no substitute for a well-communicated message.

3 comments:

Jenny Blain said...

The style over substance thing isn't unique to Labour... and was evident in part of the Yes campaign (and doubtless the No campaign, though I stopped following that). It has been my chief lament for how ideas do not get across - because they aren't given substance and detail. There are assumptions here about the viewer or listener's ability to interpret or understand, and increasingly this is denigrated.
Even in the current Lib-Dem 'federal' conference agenda, I am seeing it, with buzzwords substituted for content. So the vapid slogans are only part of the current problem.

Andrew said...

You're right Jenny - it's not only Labour who have this issue, but they do need urgently to revert to substance over style...especially when the style neither suits them or works for them.

I too have been very frustrated by the many buzzwords in common parlance among Lib Dems - including using terms like "federalism" when what is actually meant is "devolution"...

Jenny Blain said...

Indeed I've seen (as said on my own blogspot) that 'Federalism' is coming to be used as a buzzword where 'devolution' is meant. I completely agree that they are not the same. Devolution (of 'powers') may be a way of achieving a federal system, but could be a slow and plodding way, with no guaranteed endpoint. Devolution is giving out 'powers' and Federalism implies coming together with shared interests, or at least starting with what these shared interests are - I think it was Michael Moore who talked about the need to identify 'reserved' powers rather than 'devolved' ones.

My blog is at http://landscapeself.blogspot.co.uk/ There doesn't seem to be a good way to make blogs one likes appear on the blog main page - there used to be!