At Aesop, we know that embracing conflict is at the heart of all great brand stories. Turns out it can be a pretty canny move in winning an election too. Here we define how some elements of narrative theory might swing it on June 8th.
Employ the element of surprise
An unexpected announcement outside Westminster. Anticipation was brewing. Was she going to share some polaroids from her Welsh walking holiday? Were we at war with that nice Kim Jong Un? I resisted setting up a tab at my nearest bar to wait for the sirens and listened. Nine minutes ahead of schedule: a good bet. She was banking on it being too early for most of the hacks to have dragged themselves there. Everyone loves surprises, don’t they. Don’t they?
Define your enemy
Enemies are everywhere. They’re behind the shed, they’re under the bed and they’re in your head. Looking at the way narrative works, you can see that all enemies can fall into three different categories: external enemies, societal pressures and inner demons. If this was a normal political story, May’s natural external enemy would be the opposition party. Yet Corbyn, who narrowly missed saying “there is only one rule: there are no rules” in his speech today, has in fact been relegated in favour of this motley crew…
- External enemies
Well firstly it’s those bloody “saboteurs” – the ones what need crushing. For those of you who missed it, the Daily Mail ran a headline that was almost as good as their ‘Legsit’ one a few weeks back. These “saboteurs” are none other than those pesky politicians (turned out there were only 13 of them) who would dare defy Theresa. External enemies also encompass The Remoaners who are a punk band famous for hits such as I Wanna Be Sedated and Rockaway Beach.
- Societal pressures
Well, the potential failure of Breakfast obviously. Too much ink has been spilt on this issue already so I’m using an assumed name throughout. Breakfast is the ultimate societal pressure for May, as failed negotiations or a bad trade deal would mean her undoing. A weetabix so soggy it is destined to drench all future political moves in its wake. Delicious.
- Internal demons
Judging from her left eye on that same Daily Mail cover, she’s clearly got a lot of these. However most importantly for our purposes here, the antagonist is Government itself.. “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” she declared: the enemy is within. A Conservative win would provide a mandate from the people, meaning that her ruling Government is, in theory, not so ‘Establishment’ after all.
The Conservatives have clearly defined their enemies – the Westminster naysayers who risk causing a failed Breakfast and, as a result, a failed Britain. Not so for the others. The Labour party is allegedly against ‘the Establishment’, and the shadowy ectoplasmic forces that keep them in power. Corbyn refers to these in his speech as the ‘cosy cartel’, which to me sounds like the best Netflix sitcom ever, but I digress. The point is he can’t define them properly. And unless you’re good at portraying yourself as a non-‘Establishment’ figure, like a certain American politician, this is a tricky card to play. The Lib Dems have gone for the anti-Breakfast stance, but due to the fact that after last month’s events we are already well into Brunch, this is probably a case of too little too late.
We can see this pattern playing out the world over: first in America, and soon, perhaps, in France. The winning parties are better at setting out clearly and simply what they are against – and in the end, to the voter, it doesn’t matter what they’re for. May, after all, didn’t even vote for Breakfast. If there’s one moral to take from this, it’s be careful of picking a fight, because you might just end up winning.