A Slogan Serves for Some

If the Labour party was one tenth as good with the economy and foreign policy as it is with PR, they’d have my vote.  The new election slogan “A Future fair for All” is genius!

Never mind the grammatical flaw, there’s no ambiguity to the sense of the message. The human mind can construe (and deconstruct) far worse than that.  Most people – your humble scribe no doubt included – routinely perpetrate worse.

The crux of it is: it’s a slogan, it scans, it’s catchy, it trips off the tongue. Transpose “future” and “fair” to fix the grammar, and it becomes aurally inelegant, almost clunky. It’s the poet versus the pedant. Real poets take liberties with the language, too. If you want to deconstruct it, the alliteration puts it in the tradition of Norse heroic poetry (or Wagner in more recent times), while the scansion’s nod to iambic pentameter apes the Bard himself (or Tolkien in more recent times). Spot a pattern there? Evocative of heroic fantasy!

And the real genius: what does not kill me makes me stronger. That heroic-poetic ring is a powerful defence against reason. The resilience of religions and other fantasy show that a sufficiently good story can overwhelm logic and commonsense. An attack based on grammar is pedantic. You don’t even need to reply: the world will laugh the attacker off as a petty bore.  An attack based on ridicule will tend to polarise, between those who already support one side or the other.

That’s not to say it’s invulnerable: I’m sure our comedians will tear it apart mercilessly based on homonyms of “fair”, and perhaps find other angles on it, maybe something like a future fair for all, but fairer for some than for others.  Maybe its political opponents will successfully attack it. But it sets a high hurdle!

Posted on February 20, 2010, in politics, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It has the – “advantage” doesn’t seem quite the right word, maybe “feature” – of being hard to parse. The reader has to consciously interpret it – there’s no chance of imagining that they’ve read it literally.

    Apart from the obvious – it’s not a pledge, it can’t be measured or quantified or judged as a success or failure – it means you, the reader, have got to participate in the slogan. Unless you’re seriously anti-Labour anyway, you will inevitably come up with an idea that sounds good to you – because it’s your idea.

  1. Pingback: A plague on both your houses! « niq's soapbox

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