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Today’s hot topic: What price political slogans?


AND so the chant of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ fades into history . . . we hope.

It was first heard at a concert held at the Tranmere Rovers football ground in Birkenhead in May 2017, when the Labour leader addressed the crowd.

From there, it went viral. And soon the tune – from the 2003 song Seven Nation Army by American rock duo The White Stripes – was busting out all over, most memorably at Glastonbury later that year.

But it was transformed into a funeral dirge for Corbyn in last week’s general election. Not so much ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn,’ more ‘Woe, Jeremy Corbyn.’

However, you’ve got to admit that – love it or loathe it – the tune stays stuck in your head. And, that of course is the aim of every political slogan, song, campaign poster, manifesto title, buzzword, catchphrase, call it what you like.

You can go back as far as you like for such slogans or their equivalent. During the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the priest John Ball preached to the rebels a rhyme which neatly encompassed the idea that all men are born equal: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

In the 1880s, ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’ forcefully encapsulated the bitter opposition of Protestants to Home Rule for Ireland.

To a nation exhausted by the Second World War and feeling that something worthwhile must emerge from the struggle, the 1945 Labour manifesto, Let Us Face the Future was a winner. By contrast, the Tory appeal, ‘Help him finish the job’, based on Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership, fell on deaf ears.

In 1957, Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan told us: ‘You’ve never had it so good.’ Labour hit back with: ‘You’ve never been had so good.’

Perhaps the most memorable slogan of modern times was devised by the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency for a Tory poster in the autumn of 1978. It showed a long queue outside an ‘Unemployment Office’ with the caption Labour Isn’t Working. In May 1979, Margaret Thatcher swept to power.

In 1997, Tony Blair’s New Labour had its revenge with the slogan ‘Britain Deserves Better’, using D:Ream‘s Things Can Only Get Better as the campaign song.

In 2017, Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ slogan generally went down like a lead balloon and possibly helped cost the Conservatives their parliamentary majority.

In last week’s election it was Labour’s For the Many Not the Few versus the Tories’ Get Brexit Done. And we all know how that one turned out.

So do political slogans matter? Do they influence the vote? Or are they just flim-flam? Discuss!

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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