Eight interesting wordy things to come out of Brexit
1. The Facebook essay is now a thing
‘Democracy’ is a word that’s being thrown around a lot at the moment. What we've found interesting lately is how social media has ‘democratised’ the opinion piece.
Not long ago, Facebook statuses were mostly one-liners about your running route, or that hilarious thing your kid said. But during the referendum, the Facebook essay really took off. Now everyone’s busily crafting their 1,500-word think pieces and posting them to their profiles, hoping they’ll go viral.
Pre-referendum, people focused on arguing the case – often setting out the facts (with careful footnotes) more clearly and compellingly than the official campaigns.
Post-referendum, it’s become more writing as therapy: a way for people to express their reaction to the result and its aftermath.
Another example of this: it was below-the-line comments that went viral in the immediate aftermath of the result, rather than ‘official’ pieces by journalists and commentators. (Like these ones in the FT and The Guardian.)
2. The Thick of It was actually a documentary
The linguistic ingenuity from backpedalling politicians seemingly knows no bounds. Take Iain Duncan Smith: ‘Our promises were a series of possibilities,’ he blithely told Andrew Marr at the weekend. The £350m a week figure was, apparently, ‘an extrapolation’.
Meanwhile, Chris Grayling referred to that same figure as ‘an aspiration’ and, when asked about the UK’s future relationship with the EU, cryptically said the single market ‘is a phrase’. Top marks for opacity there.
3. We got to read an awful lot of resignation letters
Many of the shadow cabinet’s parting shots to Jeremy Corbyn had a formal, slightly hoity-toity tone. At least Jess Phillips MP warmed things up a bit in hers: ‘All the best. I know none of this has been easy on you and your loved ones. Nobody deserves some of the crap you have put up with. Sorry if I was ever to blame for any upset – perhaps sometimes I took straight talking honest politics a little too literally.’
4. We had the most British protest ever
Could there be anything more British than a crowd of thousands of people outside Parliament chanting ‘ETON MESS! ETON MESS!’ over and over again?
5. Good slogans work
Take back control. Take back control. Take. Back. Control.
The Leave camp were praised for their ‘message discipline’, but at times during the debates, it felt more Paul McKenna than Alastair Campbell. They definitely over-egged it during the Wembley debate – cue the strange sound of 6,000 people groaning in unison.
But it seems to have worked. Maybe it’s the ‘rule of three’ thing. Or maybe it’s that punchy imperative – urging people to actually do something is the best way to make them feel like they have control, after all.
The Remain team didn’t have anything nearly good enough to counter it with. The verbless ‘stronger, safer, better off’ felt wishy-washy in comparison.
6. Boris Johnson made his column deadline
After a jolly good game of cricket at Earl Spencer’s estate on Sunday, Boris headed home to bash out a superficially fluent but basically nonsensical piece for the Telegraph. In it, he set out his vision for our new relationship with Europe. It sounded strangely familiar.
He later distanced himself from it, saying it was ‘written too quickly’ and he was tired. (We’ve all been there.)
In the end, though, it was his leadership bid, rather than his column, that ended up on the spike. Maybe he shouldn't have let Michael Gove sub-edit it.
7. Tony Blair’s ‘house swapping’ analogy was quite good
Storytelling and metaphor were notable by their absence in the referendum campaigns. But, whatever you think of him, Tony Blair summed things up pretty neatly afterwards:
‘The strange thing about the referendum was that it was like swapping your house for another house, but you didn’t see the other house. You just had a claim and a counter-claim from two people that had said they’d seen it.’
8. And the award for best new word goes to…
#Regrexit. Nuff said.