As a person with a blood pressure that I value, I try to avoid any unnecessary debate about Brexit. But as a person who lives and breathes communication strategy I am fed up with watching this one sided massacre.
The politics of the right have always understood the power of the symbol. The eagle has appeared on thousands of battle colours, on millions of statues and billions of coins. This embodiment of proud freedom is a good one, and its power is proved by its withstanding millennia. Is there a left wing or centrist equivalent?
Perhaps, but it’s not jumping to my mind – and if that is the case then it has already failed in its central purpose as a symbol – to demand and preserve attention. It’s not my job to remember the symbol, it’s the symbols job to be remembered by me. So, my point stands – historically the right wing understand and harness the symbol to a level that their centrist and left-wing rivals have failed to.
But how are today’s latest incarnations doing?
Well the great centrist hope, the Independent Group/Change UK can’t even name itself properly – caught between being named after two directly contradictory terms and a not very subtle attempt by Chuka Umunna to ram his initials into the headline En Marche style. IG/CHUK have decided to name themselves twice, and to accuse anyone of wondering if this might cause confusion amongst the voter as being ‘obsessed with Westminster style politics.’ It’s pathetic.
Since they failed to name themselves properly, they’ve pulled out of running in a by-election, and running into the European elections they are polling at a low level. I thought that it would be impossible for them to allow design-by-committee strategy to bleed into every aspect of their campaign – but then I saw their bus.
I am staggered by how dreadful it is and will spare my blood pressure the luxury of venting at it, although I will add one thing you might not notice – that Union Jack is the wrong way around. They are quite literally running a distress symbol before they even begin to run.
And in the other corner – the far Right is absolutely wiping the floor with them. Take the Brexit party insignia, at first glance it looks so simple and clumsy, but it’s a piece of symbolic and persuasive genius. When it is waved on signs it elicits the famous Dad’s Army arrow, that famous image of a serpentine Union Jack pushing over the channel and into Europe – what a subliminal tick for the target audience.
But see it on the polling paper to appreciate its true genius. Simple, clean, it starts a thought process that ends with the cross in the box. ‘Brexit?’ it asks, ‘Here’s what you are looking for’.
And more than simply enjoying the implicit momentum of a symmetrical arrow, the subtle unexplained divot to the left of the arrow creates a desire in the voter to restore symmetry, by committing pencil to the blank box.
A political communication campaign is built for one purpose – to put your cross in that box, and with that in mind – this is the most brilliant political symbol I’ve seen in memory. And remember – if it’s not in my memory, it doesn’t count.