We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Maurice Saatchi on soundbites

There’s an interesting – more to the point decidedly respectful and even somewhat nervous – profile in the Guardian today of the “Chief Executive in all but name” of the Conservative Party, Maurice Saatchi. You can feel the political wind shifting around by the day here in Britain. Maybe it won’t shift enough to shift Labour at the next election, but it will surely make some sort of a dent in them.

This bit about soundbites particularly caught my attention:

In a swipe at William Hague, who scoffed at the “slickness” of New Labour, Lord Saatchi said that the Tories should embrace the new media age by overcoming two key “myths” – that soundbites and focus groups are wrong. “If you can’t reduce your argument to a few crisp words or phrases it probably means there’s something wrong with your argument,” he wrote.

He said the history of the world had been built on slogans, including ones loved by Tories. “The next time a senior Tory tells you that soundbites are ineffective or immoral, remind the speaker of these: ‘Your country needs you’; ‘One man, one vote’; and ‘No taxation without representation’.”

We wouldn’t endorse any of those soundbites here with much enthusiasm, but the point is, good or bad, soundbites bite. Part of the point of things like Samizdata, it seems to me, is to craft good ones – good not only in that they get around and strike home, but in that they embody good and true ideas.

By the way, I’m not saying that I lie awake at night telling myself that the Conservatives ought to win the next election, nor do I think that if they do it will make that big a difference. I’m just saying that Conservative chances are now visibly improving. But, given the scorn which both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have heaped upon them at this blog, I perhaps ought some time soon to do a posting about why party politics, disgusting though it is, does make some difference.

14 comments to Maurice Saatchi on soundbites

  • “”Maurice has come on board for the need to tackle poverty and to have a caring side,” one frontbencher said.”

    That may be a bit of Guardianista wish projection or it may be true.

    If true, then it is a signal from Mr.Saatchi that he can be safely trusted not to rock any boats nor challenge the social-democratic consensus.

    Sell-out from Day 1?

  • R. C. Dean

    Oh, I dunno, Brian. Mi> No taxation without representation sounds pretty good to me.

    Maybe a little long – lop off the last two words and you’ve really got something – but its a good start.

    Seeing as that was the slogan that launched the American Revolution, though, I can see how you Brits might not look on it as fondly as we Americans.

  • Brian Micklethwait


    Yes it was the “representation” bit that made me hesitate to endorse that one.

    My favourite comment on this particular soundbite is (all those who’ve heard this thirty times before please forgive): “If you think taxation without representation is bad, wait until you get the other kind.”

  • Rob Read

    How about

    Socialism is theft
    Socialists are lazy theives
    Fascism is honest socialism
    Income Taxation is slavery

    Incidentally if people REALLY beleive in no taxation without representation then they would like a second chamber run along the lines of 1 GBP of tax= 1 vote. Now THATS what I call reform!

  • Verity

    No ‘caring sides’, thank you. I want some hard edges. I want definition.

  • John Harrison

    I have no problem with the Conservative Party tackling poverty or having a caring side. If you care about people and want to tackle poverty, create the conditions that allow wealth to be created, give poor people the opportunity to become richer more quickly ie. don’t tax their money away from them as fast as they earn it. Poverty is best tackled by driving home to people the message that they make their own future and can’t rely on the state or anyone else to do it for them. That might be seen as a hard edge to some. Call me an old softy but I think it’s the most caring approach a government can take.

    Socialists might talk about caring more but judged by the outcomes for real people, their approach is cruelty and lies.

  • Verity

    John Harrison – The government has no business being “caring” or promoting special interests for poor or unemployed people.

    However, as you rightly note, if a government sets the ideal conditions for creating wealth – by which I mean, doesn’t get involved in business at all, other than providing the means for enforcing civil contracts – the money supply will inevitably expand and trickle down. Those who wish join in the wealth creation will be welcome. Those unwilling, or unable, to participate would seek help from voluntary private or religious institutions, not the taxpayer, who has no legal duty to care for them.

  • Brian,

    In a political context, any political position with long-term aims that distrusts and desires to undermine established politics has many choices: to opt in, to opt out, to discover other channels for disseminating their ideas etc..

    The NULab hegemony of the last six years has converted the political channel into white snow. With the interesting developments in the Tory party, this channel may now be open.

    However, NULab’s greatest success is not the mechanics of spin, it is their political strategy. Their populist acceptance of any majority view that fits in with their own ideology has proven extraordinarily successful. We often do not see this because the political decisions that are followed as a result appear so at variance with our own views. That is why the Tories floundered for so long: because they could not see that most of the public thought Blair was doing “the right thing” when he converted their views into regulation and law.

    The Tories are beginning to follow the same path. That is a concern whereas NULab understands that populism is a headline grabber for minor issues: hunting, sex selection for babies etc.

    The challenge for libertarians in the Conservative party is to formulate policy that will prove both popular and free market: wasn’t that thatcherism?


  • Brian Micklethwait


    You’re right. Coming from any other Conservative, talk about soundbites would mean very little, and if it did mean anything it would as likely as not mean the fatuous idea that soundbites alone will be enough to turn the tide, a notion I associate especially with William Hague. But Saatchi is made of more formidable stuff than that.

    His talk of focus groups is also encouraging for Conservatives. But the point is, he things strategically, as well as being tactically sensible.

  • Doug Morris

    How about: “…people with a critically rational individualist perspective.”

    Yeah, that sings. It rolls trippingly off the tongue.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    Outstanding. I can now trust my political future to an admirer of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst who knows the difference between “pro-life” and “anti-abortion” and sat at the feet of a politician who admits having survived by riding his accounts payable to people like me.

    Saved in the nick of the 21st c.

  • M. Simon

    I’ve always liked: taxation is theft.

    Now some claim extortion. I claim Proudhon in reverse.

  • Guy Herbert

    Theodopoulos Ph., I think you are (deliberately?) confusing Maurice with his brother Charles.

    Both are clearly very smart cookies, but Maurice the smarter, to the distant observer. I’ve not noticed him wasting his brains on Young British Artists. And even if he once worked for him, politically he’s no Heseltine.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    Not deliberate…just a mistake. My apologies to Maurice for confusing him with this brother when it comes to trendy Britartistes.