Purpose is everything. Our sense of purpose defines who we are and what we do. A compelling purpose expresses what an organisation stands for and what it aims to achieve in the world. It unites people inside and inspires people outside to identify with the brand on a deep and emotional level. Political parties should be the ultimate purpose-driven brands, but are they inspiring us?
Free from the profit motive, political parties exist to improve the livelihoods, wellbeing and happiness of every citizen. Delivering big ideas to shake up the status quo and open up new opportunities for all. Yet, as the UK election campaign gears up, you can hear people groaning up and down the nation. Already, some have had enough. All this despite the fact that two new challengers are changing the face of British politics, making the 2015 election result anything but a foregone conclusion. With Labour and the Tories neck and neck in the polls, the SNP as potential kingmakers and UKIP forcing immigration and EU membership onto the agenda, old certainties mean nothing and it’s all to play for.
Already there’s a lot of noise. What Ed Miliband looks like eating a sandwich. Whether or not he has a funny voice / face / manner. How many kitchens he has and whether that photoshoot happened in the right one. Will Cameron debate or won’t he? Should he have said he doesn’t want to serve 15 years as PM? Does it make a difference if he said it whilst chopping carrots? So often the ideas get buried amongst so much trivia.
Our party symbols and slogans are as unclear as party politics. Maybe that’s not a surprise.
The party symbols and slogans don’t reveal much. The Tory party sketchy oak tree started life green, went blue when green issues dropped off the political agenda and now it sports the Union Jack. Strong leadership. A clear economic plan. A better, more secure future. Cameron and Osborne are leading with continuity and stability, rather than bold ideas and deeply-held convictions.
Labour promises a fairer, more equal society and its red rose connects both to the global socialist movement and traditional British values. Love them or hate them, Miliband is clear about the the principles of democratic socialism inspiring Labour party policy, offering voters a clear choice with purpose and principles at its heart. Whether or not that choice is in tune with what Britain wants remains to be seen.
Unsurprisingly, the Lib Dems plant themselves in the middle with the derivative line Stronger economy. Fairer society. Although their message isn’t differentiated, their bird of freedom is an immediate and meaningful symbol.
The SNPs ‘together we can make Scotland better’ statement seems anodyne and nebulous for a party that’s rampantly ambitious, determined to rewrite not just Scotland’s but the UK’s political future if it hangs in the balance after the election. Their upside down breast cancer / AIDS awareness symbol could have been worn on millions of lapels in quite a subtle, stylish way but was stamped on badges, rosettes and placards during the referendum campaign.
UKIP’s slogan for its polarising agenda is ‘Believe in Britain’. Just what you’d expect from a party that surged into the mainstream on the back of a single issue. Farage is the only politician to have been chased out of a pub by a carnivalesque protest led by breastfeeding mums, disabled people and other groups on the receiving end of his unreconstructed, un-PC rhetoric.
Expect much more of this. Scandal after scandal, where UKIP representatives are fired for 1950s-style racist slurs reveal more about UKIP’s beating heart than its stated purpose of getting the UK out of the EU. UKIP’s yellow and purple pound symbol makes them look like a slightly more expensive competitor to the 99p stores. Their use of a harmless and universally liked symbol is smart and helps the party gloss over its intolerant and divisive bias.
With last night’s TV debate, it’s just beginning to get interesting. According to a post-debate ICM poll, 54% of viewers thought Cameron had won with 46% thinking Milliband came out on top. Of the undecided voters, 56% would vote for Labour, 30% would vote Tory. Over the next few weeks the challenge facing all the parties is to rise above the tit-for-tat negativity and aggression to inspire everyone in Britain with a new sense of their purpose, their principles and the opportunities they want to create. Hopefully, we’ll hear less about broken Britain and more about our endless potential to achieve something positive together. Whatever happens next, it’s going to be interesting.