Stay Alert For The Sunlit F***-Uplands.

"Stay Alert," the new English government advice for dealing with Covid-19, threatens to split the union. England is on its way to disaster on the international stage, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stay home. Football fans will be familiar with that state of affairs, but it's no joke as 40,000 are dead. Today we're talking about the recent vogue for completely empty, meaningless slogans, and why they're so wildly successful.

Back in the political prehistory of 2015, a strange new development took over the Tory party here in the UK. It wasn't a policy, or a manifesto, nor was it some divisive issue that drew new battle lines inside the party. It was a strategy. A simple, powerful, effective strategy that would, in short order, sweep away the existing leadership, and with it the moderate, centrist wing of the party. At its heart was an idea as old as British identity itself, pith. Condense your idea down into a simple, easily digested few words and use them as an answer to a complex question.

What was new, though, was that these words were now weaponised. Honed to razor sharpness, they left every speck of actual, comprehensible meaning on the grindstone. They were purified emptiness, intended not to mean anything at all whatsoever, and to be wielded against discourse. They were windmills for the people to tilt at over and over until the slogans themselves began to look comfortingly certain and familiar, compared to the endless miasma of debate. They were used to destroy David Cameron immediately and Theresa May, naively playing with them, had one blow up in her hands. Then along came Boris, and with him, a critical shift from sloganeering about abstract politics, to sloganeering about literal life and death. How did we get to the stage where people will literally be counting the dead whose loss can be ascribed to two words on a podium?

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Ev Buckley