Better Together has unveiled its new campaigning slogan because “better together” just wasn’t working for them. It’s difficult to make the claim that you’re better together when your own campaign team refuses to appear in the same room, Labour and the Tories hate one another, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown hate one another, everyone hates Danny Alexander, and John Reid hates everyone. They want us to hold fast to the Union, but they themselves are only able to hold fast to their grudges.
Worried that Scottish voters have begun to ruminate on the philosophical contradictions of a better together campaign composed of separate pieces which are not only independent of one another but have declared open warfare, and which is nominally led by a man whose grasp of the campaign is as reality based as Colonel Walter E Kurtz, panicking party leaders have decided on a change in tactics.
Better Together vehemently deny that they’re in any difficulties, not at all, the No campaign has been going as swimmingly as a drowning man. They’ve changed their slogan because they’re doing so incredibly well that they only want to experience the minty freshness of a newly coined slogan all over again.
So now they’re saying No Thanks instead. Contrary to the rumour that the new slogan is based upon the answer received every time someone in Better Together suggests that Gordie and Alistair ought to kiss and make up, it was instead a product of the No campaign’s very own branding new grassroots movement, Saatchi and Saatchi – famous for advertising standards greats such as “Labour isn’t working” illustrated by a dole queue the length of the billboard. The slogan won Thatcher the 1979 General Election whereupon she proceeded to lengthen the dole queue off the billboard, down the street, and right up the M6 taking in a scenic tour of job centres in every industrial community all the way to Wick. Saatchi and Saatchi, no thanks.
In keeping with the 1980s post-industrial wasteland vibe, the new slogan looks like it was ripped it off from another famous campaigning slogan of the 80s, Nuclear Power No Thanks. Only that doesn’t really work for Westminster either does it. Trident missiles, no thanks. Tory governments, no thanks. ATOS disability interviews, no thanks. Patronising Guardian editorials, no thanks. Nicolas Witchell, no thanks. BBC weather map, no thanks. Or to give it its correct technical meteorological designation, fuckin BBC never heard of Equal Area Projection ya cartographically illiterate designwanks weather seen from London diarrhoea coloured map, no thanks. Although admittedly that last one is not such a snappy Yes slogan.
Other possible No slogans were ruled out by Saatchi and Saatchi as they didn’t play well in focus groups. Naw no noo nae need was briefly considered, but that sounded uncomfortably like an ambulance was arriving and was thought likely to cause needless upset amongst elderly Tories with angina. This threatened to obliterate half the No campaign’s grassroots membership, leaving them with only Labour cooncillors and people who want to be Labour cooncillors to rely on. However some of those were uncomfortable with the proposed new slogan too, as it brought on incidences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after some mistook it for the sound of a polis car on its way to investigate some dodgy property deals. The only enthusiastic support it got was from George Foulkes, who said it reminded him of a dance invitation.
After ruling out the sound of an ambulance, the Saatchi team thought it might be just as well to go the whole hog and adopt the catch phrase from Mork and Mindy. Naw noo naw noo. Which might have worked, although it does bring up the uncomfortable reminder that the comedic pratfalls of naive spacecadets from another planet is quite a good description of the No campaign. But then other catchphrases from the programme were considered, and Naw noo naw noo Shazbut just didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the Westminster Parliamentary system.
Better Together has a tin ear for language. The English language – that’s supposed to be a Union benefits lads and lassies, and they cannae even use that right. Irony is meant to be such a British value too. For shame. They’re making Michael Gove upset, and that’s supposed to be Al-Iqsammin’s job. But you require a tin ear for words when the words you utter are at such variance with truth that even the most shameless liar would cringe internally when they opened their gob, at least if they weren’t comedically clueless aliens from planet Nawnoo Nawnoo.
As a lover of words and snappy slogans, it’s immensely puzzling to me why the No campaign persist in choosing slogans that are so easy to subvert. This is all the more puzzling since these campaigning slogans are supposed to appeal to the inhabitants of a country which is famous for its verbal subversion. Scotland even invented an entire genre of poetry devoted to slag offs in verse, the fine art of flyting. And we also gifted the English language with the word fuck. It’s a Scottish word, first attested in the poetry of Dunbar – makar, versificator, flyter and piss taker for the Scottish crown – in 1503. So it’s not like we don’t have previous for taking the piss and swearing a lot.
But to be fair, it’s very difficult to come up with a decent no slogan. Just say no makes you sound like the kids from Grange Hill channelling Nancy Reagan. However the real reason for the difficulty may be explained by the very word slogan itself. It’s a loanword into English from Scottish Gaelic, a mangling of the phrase sluagh ghairm which means “shout of the host”. This is not how to say “last orders” in Gaelic, host in this instance is a more polite and twee Walter Scotty type word for “uncontrolled horde of very pissed off Scottish people”. In Gaelic the term referred to the battle cries of the clans.
Since a whole horde of shouty uncontrollable Scottish people is the philosophical opposite of all that Better Together stands for, you can appreciate their sluagh ghairm difficulty. Westminster prefers its Scottish people silenced and under control, and it’s difficult to come up with a good popular and catchy rallying call to action for a message whose essence is “Shut up and sit down”. It’s the No Slogan Slogan Paradox, coming soon to the collected works of a Scottish philosopher that Dougie Alexander can misunderstand.
Independence, yes please.
Update: I did a wee graphic. Click on the image for a large high resolution version you can download and print off.