TCBH Duncan Tanner Essay Prize Winner 2017: The 'Progress of a Slogan': Youth, Culture, and the Shaping of Everyday Political Languages in Late 1940s Britain.19 Jun 2018
In 1948, worried that young people would take full employment and the welfare state for granted, the Labour Party trialled a new slogan: 'Ask your Dad'. This slogan encouraged the young to learn about the hardships which their parents had experienced in the inter-war years, largely under Conservative governments. Using archived interviews and letters sent to the press, this article provides the first study of the popular reception of this slogan. Most people had not heard of this slogan, and most of those who had heard of the phrase showed no knowledge that it was associated with politics, turning instead to popular culture. Those who understood the slogan were not the passive conduits of their party's message; often, they reworked political ideas to fit their own memories. Because repeating slogans was associated with a lack of political independence, not listening to party politics could conceal an intense interest in creating political change-an attitude which was, apparently, pronounced amongst the young. This article uses these responses to suggest how political language was as much produced by ordinary people's memories and daily discussion, as it was something drawn from professional campaigners.