Thursday 18 February 2010

Beer Electioneering Semiotics

I often start the day with a browse of the Daily Mail's website. I know I shouldn't but it is a useful adjunct to the effects of caffeine in getting me fired up for the day.

Today this caught my eye: "Now 'Dave' claims he likes nothing better than to sit on the sofa watching darts... who does he think he's kidding?"

Apparently "Dave" Cameron has given an interview in which he talks about his love of darts, canned Guinness and 'gritty' shows on the telly." 

That is of course a mendacious and patronising attempt to appeal to working class voters and should be treated with eye-rolling disdain.

But beer gets a mention – what role does it play in Dave's electioneering?

Dave Cameron is a clever bloke and more than capable of understanding and manipulating subtle messages of "brand".

Canned Guinness says (and you may contradict me here): "I'm ordinary; I don't like fancy things but canned lager is a bit too crude for me; I choose Guinness because it offers more flavour yet doesn't possess a snobby elitist image; I'm a man of the people but not undiscriminating".

It can't have escaped your notice that he is pictured clutching a pint of cask ale. I expect this has come from the DM picture library rather than issued by the Cameron machine to accompany his interview with Shortlist magazine. Nonetheless Dave would have been aware of the semiotic value being pictured with a pint of cask ale. This will no doubt go do well with Dave's core voters – the home counties middle class. For this group – the blokes at least – cask ale is the default beer choice. 

When Dave became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, for one interview (so Dave, what attracted you to the aristocratic multi-million heiress Samantha?), he was pictured in his kitchen at home with his wife and kids. Difficult to miss, on the wall behind them was a Grolsch neon. A Grolsch neon? It can't have escaped Dave's people that a prominent brand image was displayed. I imagine the intended message was "I drink lager, I'm ordinary; however I choose drink posh import-only lager, I care about provenance, flavour etc".

All-in-all, it's a fairly confused message. The only message I think I'm getting is that Dave probably is a beer drinker. I don't think the same can be said for the humourless Scottish puritan control-freak Gordon Brown.

Will Dave the Beer Drinker, or Gordon the Hair Shirt get my vote? No. Hell will freeze over before I could vote for either of them. Nor could I bring myself to vote for Nick "it's a recession: we've downgraded from Ocado to Sainsbury's" Clegg. I'm stuck on "none of the above". I suspect I'm not alone.


junklight said...

The thing that is really disturbing me about Cameron is that he is all about appearance. Todays "message" for example is about advertising to children, like neo-prohibitionism and the expenses scandal he is picking issue that push buttons but are nothing to do with anything important.

I have a horrible suspicion that the country are going to vote him in, fooled by all his "finger on the pulse, man of the people, I know what the tabloids are full of and I understand you" and the tories are going to turn out to be *exactly* the same as they used to be.

But then the alternative is the bloody labour party....

depressing - and really hoping my plans to opt out for a few years come to fruition

Unknown said...

You are not alone.

Someone in the bar last night pointed out that perhaps a hung parliament would be a good thing. Nobody could vote in any new laws in that situation and so government would just have to get on with the job of running the country.

Alistair Reece said...

Is Cameron really all that different from Blair when it comes to being all about appearance?

I have no idea which party I would vote for if I was back in the UK, I fear the Lib Dems would be the closest fit, shame the SDP was drowned out in that particular marriage.

rabidbarfly said...

Hung parliament is right Dave, hany the bloody lot of them!

Ed said...

I'm not voting, I don't care whose fingers are in the till.

Alistair Reece said...

Perhaps a hung parliament would have some balls for a change?

crownbrewerstu said...

I haven't got a clue i'll probably just go for someone who hasn't got a chance of winning anyway

Tandleman said...

There is actually a real dilemma in who to vote for, which if nothing else, shows that after a fashion, democracy works.

The problem is (as dear old Marx said) not identifying what is wrong, but how to change it.

I think he had a theory on that too.