Theresa May used the phrase “strong and stable leadership” three times in the speech she made announcing her intention to call an election on 18th April outside 10 Downing Street.
In the first week of the campaign, whilst that phrase certainly featured, it was usually accompanied by words which pointed to the threat posed to the Brexit process by a “coalition of chaos” comprised of the SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
It seems that the research undertaken on the first week of the campaign is showing that the public aren’t buying the threat posed by May’s principal opponents and so the Conservatives have simplified their pitch and focused it purely on the prowess of the Prime Minister’s leadership skills.
“Strong and stable leadership” is a pithy promise and a nice take on the classic incumbent campaign of “it’s not time for change”.
Theresa May clearly agrees, or is at the very least utterly convinced by the research, as she has been dutifully repeating it at every opportunity – a fact that hasn’t escaped journalists and politicos on twitter.
Indeed the phrase is now something of a meme; Buzzfeed have pointed out that she’s used the phrase 57 times in 10 days and challenged readers to see how many times they can type it in a minute; people have taken delight in the fact that it can be sung to the same tune as “all things bright and beautiful”; it has been suggested that the regularity of its use is on a par with the number of times Andy Burnham has pointed out that he hails from the north of England.
The fact that media commentators and members of the twitterati are already bored with the slogan will be of huge comfort to Lynton Crosby, the man behind the campaign: it’s a sign that the public might have noticed it.
The importance of relentlessly maintaining a consistent narrative isn’t something that’s new to the era of fragmented communication: Brendan Bruce, Conservative Party Director of Communications under Margaret Thatcher, once said that “good communications depend on intellectual clarity, creative impact and repetition”.
A repetitive refrain or a consistent strap line is a constant feature of every major successful election campaign. Even those with a minimal interest in politics will still recall campaign catchphrases which are now months and years old: “take back control”, “son of a bus driver”, “make America great again” and “change we can believe in”.
It’s a sign of how well the Labour Party’s campaign is going that it’s not totally clear what their slogan is.
The line “standing up for you” was used in communications immediately after the announcement of the election, but it has since been removed from their social media channels’ header images and hasn’t featured on the end frame of recent online videos or even their latest party election broadcast.
There is only one campaign that a challenger party should run and that is “it’s time for a change” (or a variant on thereof).
Given Labour’s objective is to convince the electorate to get the other lot of government, their narrative needs to stoke up a sense of anger about the status quo and inspire hope about the future and there is no better word at delivering that sentiment than change.
If the Labour Party can’t get their slogan sorted soon, it’s a word that Jeremy Corbyn will be hearing a lot more of after 8th June.