Our #BollocksToHate campaign is for everyone

One question we have to address as a party, locally and nationally, is how to allow grassroots energy to contribute to coherent and effective campaigns.

Energised by the EU election result, the Islington LibDems are in top form. We did extremely well last May and there is a palpable sense of optimism and determination in the borough. Local activists led by chair Pierre Delarue and deputy chair Katherine Pollard have been holding lots of events, drinks, brainstorms and sessions to discuss next steps. How do we harness this power and start to get on a general election footing?

One of their first ideas was to do something about a series of pernicious stickers that had started to pop up around the borough, North and South, promoting racism and Hate. We spotted them and decided to print up some stickers to stick over them, with the simple message Bollocks to Hate. To be honest they looked very strong…and they covered over the vicious messages others had put there.

It sparked an idea. Why don’t we do an Islington values campaign on Hate…and Pride 2019 would be a perfect place to launch it.

We felt we needed buy-in from HQ, and we got Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter on board. They loved the idea and got very enthused over tea at the House of Lords. We showed them some sample graphics and they said go for it. Then we met with LibDem Creatives Charles Brand who advised us on the right imprint for the materials and crucially that we should ask everyone who appeared in the photos to sign consent release forms, giving us permission to use their photos in our campaign online. Lib Dem deputy CEO Emma Cherniavsky gave us her blessing and advised we focus it as an Islington campaign, and if it worked, HQ would consider taking it wider. She agreed this is a values campaign.

As this was Pride weekend in London, we decided in the first instance to focus on LGBTQ+ rights even though Hate and hate crimes are much wider than this. More of that later.

So we printed 4,000 stickers and created two enormous lollipops in the Lib Dem orange. Matthew Trigg, a leading policy exec in Islington and social media expert, designed a catchy graphic in animated bright colours. We did some early test shots with the lollipops and created some other graphics which we then scheduled to appear on Twitter and Instagram from first thing on Saturday morning and then throughout the day. This would give us a backbone of content via HootSuite to keep the message flowing online all day.

We were buoyed when first Vince Cable retweeted #BollocksToHate, then Jo Swinson, then Ed Davey. We hoped to get their endorsement and this put wind in our sails.

Since Saturday, we have posted more than 100 pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The hashtag #BollocksToHate is being picked up by people of all ages, who, like us, feel outraged at prejudice and discrimination. Next up – we are going to produce some short films on other hate crimes. We are looking for people to get involved who will speak in a very intimate way about anti-semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, racism and other forms of hatred. We hope to make these films this summer. They will be very different in tone from the noisy street campaign, but complementary.

And happily, the lollipops are travelling to Bristol Pride this week and hopefully Brighton Pride after that.

This is just the beginning. #BollocksToHate !!!

* James Burstall is CEO of the film and TV production company Argonon and a member of Islington Lib Dems.

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  • OK. [deep breath]. First and foremost, well done. I love the energy and the organisational work that has gone into this. But I am going to be a bit of a wet blanket I’m afraid. I’m going to talk ‘Bollocks’ (so to speak).
    Now personally, I liked it when we adopted ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ in the Euro-campaign. I loved its directness, and its shock value. And clearly so did a lot of the Remainer voters. That said, I think its very power was in the moment. It was a uniquely extreme reaction to a uniquely extreme issue.
    In other words, it worked as a one-off in that campaign. I wasn’t sure it worked so well in the T-shirts in the Parliament, and I don’t want to see us just applying the slogan “Bollocks to…” as a marketing solution to every issue. I think we tried the patience of a number of people with it already. Let’s not push it.

  • Can we have “bollocks to privatisation”, “bollocks to Saudi Arabia” and “bollocks to neoliberalism” as well please…

  • James Burstall 11th Jul '19 - 8:08pm

    Thanks for your comment here TonyH. I take your point. The Bollocks slogan is noisy and rebellious, which is why it struck a chord with so many people, including me. It is one of the reasons I decided to join the LibDems this Spring. Of course it must be just one part of a wide and deep series of campaigns. But as a punchy roar of defiance I think it is extremely strong and punches through the cacophony of other noise. The people in the streets at London Pride chanted the slogan and were queueing up for stickers. So as part of something bigger I do believe it has an important part to play.

  • Thanks James and I am delighted you joined the party because of B2B. We do need people with great messaging and marketing instincts – God knows we’ve been getting those wrong as a party for the last decade – so the last thing I want to do is dissuade you. I just think we need to avoid becoming the party that says ‘Bollocks to [whatever we dislike this week].’
    The other point I would make is that not all parts of the country are like London Pride. It’s great you got the reaction you did there, but we are currently fighting two very crucial by elections in areas which are quite socially conservative: Brecon & Radnorshire, and also Shetland (Scottish Parliament). I don’t think the Bollocks slogan would be especially helpful to us there. I just think we need to be careful, that’s all.

  • We should never be quiet about being against intolerance, no matter what area we stand in, Tony.

    We tried this decades ago and ended up with loads of racist Lib Dem councils well into the 90s

  • I don’t think I suggested being quiet Olly. I’m talking about how we campaign.

  • I agree with TonyH and this slogan is being over-used. Can you give an example of loads of racist councils in the 90s? I am not aware of any racist lib dem councils it seems a bit of a sweeping generalisation.

  • Sue Sutherland 12th Jul '19 - 1:03pm

    I love Bollocks to Brexit and I can understand why you are applying it to hate stickers but the original slogan was humorous because of the alliteration and without that I think it loses its punch, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise if it gets a good response.

  • jayne mansfield 12th Jul '19 - 3:52pm

    @Ruth Bright.
    I am so sorry to hear of your relative’s experience. I doubt that it is unique.

    I agree with you about trivialising slogans.

    I am the matriarch of a rainbow family and it is deeply upsetting. What the B- to everything brigade don’t understand is that B to whatever is perceived as B to those holding those views, and as someone who has spent my lifetime, ( well not quite, but from early teens), challenging them in more mature way. I regret this infantile approach. I see it as ultimately counter productive.

  • David Allen 12th Jul '19 - 4:01pm

    We can say Bollocks to Brexit because it’s not just something we happened to have come out against, it’s a truly terrible disastrous idea. We shouldn’t say Bollocks to nuclear power, or to SATs, or to austerity, because whilst we may be against these things, there is a case to be made in their favour and it behoves us to argue rationally for our point of view.

    What about Hate? Well, it’s a little bit indefinite. There are things we ourselves are liable to hate – the death penalty, foxhunting, etcetera. Yes, I know that’s not what you mean by “Hate”, but, what will the public think you mean by it? If you’d said something clearer, like “Bollocks to Racism”, I’d have said that was fine. But to “Hate”? On balance, no. Keep the shock language for sparing use, then it will have more effect.

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