TAKE BACK CONTROL
It was the killer phrase that won the Bexit referendum in June. It was memorable, it was shrill, and it appealed to the visceral. All other aspects of the campaign fit neatly, and reinforced, that killer slogan. From controlling immigration, to reasserting the sovereignty of parliament, to deciding for ourselves how we spend our own money (£350 million a week for the NHS). They were all elements that were encapsulated under the umbrella of the killer slogan.
The Remain campaign had no killer slogan. It was a mixture of non-credible numbers and complex technical arguments with no snappy unifying message that appealed to the visceral.
And it’s happening again.
The battle for control of the Brexit process rages through the courts, in parliament and in the public debate. The government and its supporters believe the process should be largely secret and controlled solely by the executive with no accountability to parliament or the electorate. To achieve this, they have come up with another killer slogan. They accuse anyone who would interfere with the process of “Frustrating the will of the people.” It’s another powerful phrase. It’s as inaccurate as the original Take Back Control slogan. But that does not diminish either its power or its visceral appeal.
Once again, those on the other side of the argument are failing to come up with an effective slogan of their own. Once again they are putting out endless complex technical, legal and constitutional arguments that will fail to galvanise the public. They are convinced of the righteousness of their position and seem unable to understand that it’s not whether one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ that matters but rather whether those arguments can be encapsulated in a simple, strong, viscerally appealing catchphrase that all the other statements can support and reinforce.
You’d think that those who now wish to maintain access to the single market and/or the customs union would have learned from the failures of the Remain campaign. So far there is no evidence of that. The good news is that there is still time. The bad news is that they may, once again, be convinced that their own position is so undoubtedly correct that they will treat with disdain and consider mere superficial spin the need to find a unifying, powerful, viscerally appealing slogan under which people can be brought together.
We shall see.