The received wisdom in politics is that brute repeating studies. But by promoting vapid mottoes over rational controversies, and message discipline over authenticity, are legislators being reckless with democracy?
Theresa Mays solid and stable election mottoes has rapidly become a strong and stable meme, with people gratifying in counting its ludicrous repeats, and even EU legislators openly mocking it; the European parliaments Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: Any Brexit deal requires a strong& stable understanding of the complex issues involved. On her One Show appearance, May shamelessly trotted it out again, adding that she came from a strong and stable family, and thought her husband was very stable when she met him. People are clamouring for solid and stable Ikea shelving and posting photographs of the PM seated at a desk with the caption strong and table. Has there ever been such a deafening cyclone of political echolalia? Are we about to reach peak slogan?
Not any time soon. A good reason for the continued omnipresence of solid and stable is that most people in the country are yet to hear it. A YouGov poll last week suggested that only 15% of members of the public are familiar with the phrase, and that the message has yet to cut through to everyday people. This viral gobbet of persuasion is not, plainly, aimed at sophisticated politics junkies, but at the average voter who thinks about politics for only four minutes a week( according to Jim Messina, who managed Barack Obamas campaign and is now reportedly working for May ). If you want to make sure your message squeezings in to those four minutes, you had better make sure it is totally unavoidable. The sensible strategy for the Conservatives, then, is one of continued rhetorical carpet-bombing got to make sure every inch of their constituencies is covered.
The phrase strong and stable has been criticised as a vapid ad slogan but, like all brilliant mottoes, it is pregnant with meaning. Cleverly, it frightens while soothing: it implies that the future could be one of terrifying disorder, while simultaneously offering the antidote to that disorder.( This contrast is induced explicit when the soundbite applies in approved conjunction with its alliterative spouse bloc of chaos .) In days of uncertainty, the slogan indicates, you want a firm hand , not some flighty intellectual. Note that strong does not inevitably connote intelligent or right: we are here in the neighbourhood of the realpolitik motivatings for backing Middle east despots( or strongmen) in the 1980 s and 1990 s, because at least the latter are maintaining everything from falling apart.