At the last meeting of the Brand Network we were looking at what are the key issues of brand UK. I rather glibly suggested that misbehaviour was the dominant leitmotif illustrating the kind of creative anarchy that we like to entertain here in the UK
2 weeks after that we had the riots so I was required by my co-conspirator to come back and justify the analysis. This is about what we concluded. I started by presenting this photo montage.
The centre image comes from a pastiche of riot photos shown as if they were part of a prospectus for the London Olympics. You know weight lifting = running off with cardboard boxes of stuff, shot put = hurling bricks at the police. All in the great tradition of British Satire.
Seeing it as part of my brief to be tough on the causes of riot I’ve chosen to surround them with some prime movers in our public life. So please welcome TBliar, the Bullingdon boys, the Duchess Fergiana, Fred the Shred, Rebekah who is largely responsible for creating the hysteria that required 10 million of her fellow citizens to go on a useless CRB register as well as the phone hacking imbroglio and the appalling Hazel Blears shown hypocritically complaining about oiks instead of MPs stealing things.
Other items include the BP logo as redesigned by Greenpeace, Clarkson and poor Amy who demonstrate careers built on creative misbehaviour, and some local misbehaviour from the Lewes Bonfire, some Pagan Morris men and my band Newick Folk illustrating the local values of “wunt be druv” as they say round here.
So what we said can be summarised as
Brand UK is about creativity contained. We recognise that creativity and anarchy are two sides of the coin but that over time the balance has shifted and needs to be rebalanced
– The energy has got a bit darker
– The powers that be have behaved badly
– The infrastructure has been run down
– We are more controlled and have become the CCTV capital of the world
We concluded that’s what needed is just enough structure to keep the balance between the powerful and the rest of us. That means we need light touch interventions for most of us unlike the “Regulatation, Regulation, Regulation” of the Tbliar era and tough rules for the powerful to be vigilant against structural corruption. We need to end the strike of Capital we’ve endured since WW2 and maybe we need to revise down the Monopolies and Mergers threshold to stop the powerful from abusing market share.
We need to regenerate national capital instead of running it down or selling it off cheap whether it was Margaret flogging off the family silver, Gordon selling off the Gold reserves at rock bottom or the shameful way in which successive governments have devalued our higher education system that should be a pivotal building block in the knowledge economy.
We need to persuade our politicians to deal with this to preserve our creativity – all we have to work with in the knowledge economy.
This is not to say there have not been some noble attempts and dare I say it successes achieved in a very quiet and British way.
Sports education is a case in point. We have build some great University based centres of excellence recently while lottery funding of sport has let us succeed in a wide variety of disciplines. Who would ever have thought we would end up with the number one cricket team.
The way that the riots have been dealt with is also a triumph for the British Way. Old fashioned policing, use of CCTV and getting people before the courts where standard if exemplary sentences have been handed out has contained the situation now that they know that enough of them will get caught to restrain the rest. At least it’s stopped the radical right in it’s tracks.
We also see the spread of effective crime prevention measures like Speed Awareness Courses which instead of handing out fines and points give the inattentive an hour and a half of “speed kills” and two and a half hours of advanced motoring skills – all run by experienced lady driving instructors.
Very clever that – we need more of it.
So our prescription for brand UK is to foster creative anarchy with just enough structure to channel it.
This means investing in infrastructure, reversing the run down of research and training for practical activities and build a culture of competing on the edge.
Inventing a pill to deliver “Science from first principles” would be handy too.