Matthew Elliott is Chief Executive of
Business for Britain & Founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
1. Avoid jargon
The first language rule for the Right is to avoid jargon, especially
when talking about the economy. Speeches are littered with terms which
mean nothing to the average voter, terms like GDP per capita, incentives,
marginal tax rates, fiscal policy, the Laffer Curve, and sharing the proceeds
of growth. Margaret Thatcher was very good at talking about the economy in
terms of a household budget. Phrases such as "You can't spend more than
you earn" was a simple way to explain why the Government shouldn't run a
deficit. And Gordon Brown was very clever to use the term “Investment” to
describe his hike in public spending.
2. Adopt the language of the Left
The second rule is that the Right should adopt the language of the Left,
who have a virtual monopoly on some extremely powerful words and phrases such
as "Social Justice", "Fairness" and "Equality". Another
word the Left always uses is “Jobs”, whereas the Right talks about the economy
in terms of taxation and regulation. So the Left talk about the ends
(Jobs) and the Right talks about the means (a low tax, low regulation economy).
In doing so, the Left appeals to people's Hearts and the Right appeals to
people's Heads, which is less convincing because it doesn’t engage people
3. Use international, outward-looking language
The third rule is to use international, outward-looking language when talking
about the European Union, rather than using "Little Englander"
language. Eurosceptics should talk much more about how Britain should position
itself as a trading nation, not just looking to our immediate neighbours in
Europe (which has low economic growth), but to high-growth countries outside
the EU, such as Brazil, India & China. This language wins over
floating voters, because it shows that the speaker isn't parochial, uncomfortable
with the wider world, or – dare I say it – a "swivel eyed loon".
4. Learn how to rename policies to give them a bad name
A fourth rule, the Right needs to learn is how to rename policies to
give them a bad name. Who remembers the Community Charge? Brilliantly rebranded
the Poll Tax by the Left in the 1980s. Just as George Osborne's attempt to
simplify VAT was renamed the "Pasty Tax" or the recent changes to welfare
was called the "Bedroom Tax" by the Left. These are all great
examples of policies which the Left has re-branded to frame the debate on their
terms (and some have said that the fact that they dubbed it the “Bedroom Tax”
is credit to the success of the TaxPayers’ Alliance). This is why Inheritance
Tax is dubbed the "Death Tax" in the United States. And is why some
people refer to the Licence Fee as the "BBC Tax".
5. Don’t use language which isolates the Left
The fifth rule is not to use
language which isolates the Left. In the recent Referendum on changing
Britain's voting system, the Yes2AV campaign made the mistake of not reaching
out to people on the Right. They had the support of UKIP, but they ignored Nigel
Farage. At No2AV, we purposefully reached out to the Labour Party, knowing
that Labour voters were the swing vote in the Referendum. We set up Labour
No2AV, ran a "Vote Labour, Vote No" campaign, and purposefully used
arguments and language which wouldn't isolate the Left and Labour voters. That's
how you turn round a referendum from being 2-1 behind, to winning with 68% of
the vote. And it also shows the power of language in political debate.