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Taking a broader perspective…

‘Make it 50’ will come back to haunt the Yes Campaign….

Matt Wootton studies “cognitive policy” with colleague Rupert Read at the Green Words Workshop. In 2004 he rebranded the Green Party as the party of “Real Progress”. This post is reproduced with his kind permission from the Green Words Workshop.

How do you make a slogan? It might surprise you the key rule of slogans is the public need to already like your slogan even before they’ve heard it.

Cognitively-speaking, you need to be activating an area of your audience member’s brain that is already associated with good and positive things in their mind, and then associate yourself with that.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said for “Make it 50”, the cryptic slogan unveiled today by Yes to Fairer Votes.

The boring technical reason that “Make it 50” is problematic is that it’s not necessarily true. And that’s assuming you know what it means, which we should probably explain:

“Make it 50” refers – we think – to the hope that AV will make MPs work harder by needing to win 50% of their constituency’s support.

(If you needed to be told that of course, as most of Britain will, it means it’s not a very good slogan).

But the problem is that, as the impartial Electoral Commission leaflet that you’ll be getting through your door says, “Because voters don’t have to rank all of the candidates, an election can be won under the ‘alternative vote’ system with less than half the total votes cast”. Oh dear.

This is of course, in the grand scheme of things, a relative technicality that shouldn’t detract from the general gist. Unfortunately since most Yes activists so far have veritably built their campaign on scrupulously-researched rationalist benefits to the voter and technical explanations of how AV works, that rather leaves them in a delicate position, which the aggressive and shrill No campaign will surely waste no time in exploiting.   

But mainly, the problem with a slogan like “Make it 50” is it’s just simply dull. Compare the blandness of the slogan to what was said on the stage beneath it this morning. By Eddie Izzard: “Don’t wake up on the 6th of May and go back to business as usual in Westminster. Seize this opportunity”. By Amisha Ghadiali: “AV will let us vote how we really feel… it will lead to a more honest democracy”. From Emily Wilkie: “I’ve been inspired by people through history who have fought for democracy. When did we become so complacent?”. And, from Kriss Akabusi: “let’s get jiggy with it”.

At the moment as I’ve argued in my post AV is…. [blank]…, AV still can’t be summed up by most people, and that’s where it’s the job of the official campaign to frame it for them.

Unfortunately, I can’t see that “Make it 50” will help. It seems to me the zenith of public information campaign thinking. It sounds like something that would come from the PR department of some smaller government ministry.

We can only hope that the politicians themselves – not exactly the most popular of people of course – can inject more life into the campaign, before postal votes start hitting people’s doormats in less than a fortnight.

What would have a better slogan have looked like? Well, my criteria from a “cognitive policy” point of view emphasise emotional resonance and connection with principled moral values, neither of which “Make it 50” really has. Any of the following dozen slogans would be better:

AV – As easy as 1 2 3
AV – Good for Britain
AV – Honest voting, a stronger voice
AV – Hold politicians to account
AV – Good for voters, good for democracy
AV – Government for the people, by the people
AV – Tackle tribal politics
AV – A chance for change
AV – History in the making
AV – Out with the old, in with the new
AV – For the majority
AV – allows you to vote with your conscience
AV – Keep extremists out

In fact if you want to choose between these options you can find them – and “Make it 50” – on this poll on Facebook. You can vote for them using AV!

(we don’t want to give anything away.. but with two dozen people having voted so far.. “Make it 50” is not doing very well… It’s got 0 votes).

And of course we’ve been putting some reframes into practice with our home-spun Yes! Postcards site.

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Filed under: Electoral Reform,

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