LONDON — Prime minister Theresa May’s comments yesterday that she wants a “red, white, and blue Brexit” were widely mocked for being an essentially meaningless and faintly ludicrous political slogan.
The slogan is a reference to one recent report in The Times which suggested that the government no longer talk about a “hard” and “soft” Brexit but a “white,” “black” and “grey” Brexit instead. However, it is not clear how many people watching May’s comments would have understood this reference, or found it at all enlightening if they did.
As many people also pointed out, there are lots of other countries, including European countries, which have red, white and blue flags. Was this May’s first indication that she wants a Norway-style deal within the EEA? Or perhaps it means we will just revert to full French-style EU membership? Perhaps not.
May’s new catchphrase is just the latest in a long line of cringeworthy political slogans. Here are some of our other all time favourites.
“Chillin, meetin, tourin, #votin” — Britain Stronger in Europe
There were many mistakes made by the Remain campaign in the EU referendum, but none were quite as embarrassing as their attempt to appeal to millennial voters with slogans such “Chillin, Meetin, Tourin #Votin.”
Other attempts included the similarly cringeworthy slogans “workin, learnin, earnin, shoppin,” and “ravin, chatting, roaming, #votin.” The Remain campaign thought they had found the key to youth engagement and it involved removing the letter ‘g’ from the end of words.
“Big Society, not Big Government” — The Conservatives
David Cameron’s obsession with the ‘big society’ was widely blamed for the Conservative party’s failed attempt to win a majority in the 2010 general election. Dreamt up by his sandal-wearing political guru Steve Hilton, the “Big Society, not Big Government” slogan was meant to herald a new era of personal responsibility and “nudge politics.”
Instead it left voters feeling vaguely baffled. What is good about societies being big? Was this just all a cover for mass-privatisation? Why did all the big society posters have smilies on them?
“Alarm Clock Britain” — Nick Clegg
It is easy to forget now, but there was a point when Nick Clegg was a hugely popular politician.
However, his decision to enter a coalition with the Conservatives’ and his subsequent decision to agree to tuition fee rises led to a collapse in his personal ratings. Clegg and his team spent months trying to come up with a message that would turn things around for the party.
They held seminars and extensive consultations with think tanks and policy experts in order to come up with the perfect slogan to help the party re-connect with ordinary members of the public. In the end they came up with “Alarm Clock Britain.”
Remember Nick Clegg’s “Alarm Clock Britain”. What the HELL did that even mean?
— Calum Sherwood (@CalumSPlath) September 11, 2012
As well as being faintly patronising and reminiscent of the title of a dystopian sci-fi novel, it also posed the question as to who in 21st century Britain still uses an actual alarm clock, as opposed to just using their phone. It did not catch on.
“It’s not good enough for me. It’s not good enough for Britain” — Ed Miliband
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was the master of the failed political slogan.
Throughout his tenure he launched, and subsequently abandoned, dozens of political slogans. With the exception of “the squeezed middle” which was quickly stolen by his opponents, none of them caught on. One of his favourite themes was the idea that “Britain can do better than this [current Conservative government].”
This basic idea went though a number of variations, which he attempted to bludgeon into the public consciousness by sheer repetition. It never really worked.
“Hardworking Britain Better Off” — Labour
Another feature of Miliband’s slogans was the sense that they had been written by a committee. This process often led to the final result being barely literate, such as Labour’s 2014 election slogan “Hardworking Britain Better Off”.
You could tell that it was meaningless by the fact that you could rearrange the four words in almost any other order and get essentially the same result. It was not popular with the party either.
NEC member Ann Black surveyed 200 party members and found that 98% disliked it. “It suggests Labour only supports those in paid work and does not value the old, the young, the sick, the carers, the disabled, the jobless: it is dog-whistle code for scroungers,” she was told.
“Britain can deliver” — Conservatives
The Conservatives’ 2012 party conference slogan used “deliver” in the sadly now ubiquitous form of being a synonym for achievement.
However, it also had the effect of making Britain sound like a take-away pizza restaurant. Britain can deliver, but only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays and only within a two mile radius. Charges may apply.
What are your favourite bad UK political slogans? Have we missed any? Please put your suggestions in the comments.
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