89 Not Out: Day 58, Slogans Aren’t Everything

Image shared by UK Prime Minister on Twitter, 7th April.

S&C contributor and Pompey Politics Podcast host Ian Morris shares his experience of the lockdown, as someone with diabetes. It’s Day 58 and Ian turns to the controversial issue of the government’s much critiqued new guidance to ease us out of lockdown in phases.

Tuesday 13th May, Day 58 of 89.

Three word slogans. 

Back in 2017, you might have thought that the rebirth of three-word-slogan-politics had no chance of a healthy future. Theresa May’s ill-fated ‘Strong and stable’ was repeated ad nauseum and, after the wheels came off in the ensuing election, most might have thought that was the end of boiling down the nuances and subtlety of economic policy into a catchphrase.

It wasn’t a new phenomenon though. Perhaps I should do some research on this, but I don’t claim to be a proper writer. However, I do remember the late 1970s, when Margaret Thatcher came sweeping to power following a series of billboards – are there still billboards? – with posters declaring ‘Labour Isn’t Working’, with a photo of a massive queue of workers coming out of the doors of the ‘Unemployment Office’ (see image below). 

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


The chirpy slogan came back last year with Boris Johnson’s ‘Get Brexit Done’ and I guess it went so well that this seemed like the best course of action to tackle a pandemic. So we had ‘Stay home – Save Lives – Protect the NHS‘ which all seemed to make perfect sense to me, but some in the online world began to froth: ‘Stay home? That’s not what they mean, there are all sorts of caviats and exceptions! It’s all so very confusing’. 

Then on Sunday the Government binned ‘Stay home and protect the NHS’ and subbed in ‘Stay alert – Contain the virus – Save lives’. The online world went into meltdown. The same people who had posted on social media that ‘Stay home’ was as complex as a game of three-dimensional chess with a blindfold on were posting they couldn’t believe the government had ditched the crystal clear ‘Stay home’, in favour of the indecipherable ‘Stay alert’. 

What struck me is that nobody believed we were ever going to go from lockdown to ‘as you were’, and that the return would be gradual, phased and longer than we would all hope. 

I am not sure how any government can easily communicate such nuanced messages.

To be fair they made a dingo’s kidney of the ‘back to work’ message: – ‘Go back to work tomorrow, er, sorry no, on Wednesday, and follow the guidelines. What guidelines? Oh sorry, hang on a minute they are here somewhere……there you go.’

Ultimately, as the conditions change we can’t expect a series of two and three word soundbites to dictate to us each how we should behave.

One post I read yesterday said, ‘I am being told to go back to work. I have an 8 year old child and am in one of the high risk groups.’ It seemed their expectation was that an online form or some such should have been developed so they could fill it in and it would spit out a series of clear and unambiguous instructions on how to proceed. 

So in an unpredictable world you can tell everyone you read it here first. There will be more soundbite slogans, they will be almost universally hated until they are retired, when of course they will be remembered with great fondness. 

In the spirit of not just throwing stones, here is my offering to get us all through to the other side.

Don’t panic – Use your brain – Stay safe.

It will never catch on.


Find out more

Download or read the 60 page government guidance, Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy .

Don’t miss Ian’s diary each day, keep an eye out for new entries here, along with past editions of the Pompey Politics Podcast. How are you managing the lockdown at the moment? Get in touch with us over on Facebook or Twitter and let us know your experiences and any hints and tips you’re finding helpful right now.

Featured image from UK Prime Minister, Twitter.

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