Is there a 'red tape' myth?

1. The project

With an ageing membership, under 40s are a hugely politically valuable to the Conservatives. They’re therefore a key group to get on-side when it comes to protecting or increasing regulation in the UK. Our approach was to prompt them to talk about the ways in which they might encounter regulation in their day-to-day life, in order to find ways of framing regulations more positively. 

2.  The audience 

They’re locally minded and fiercely distrustful of big institutions (multi-national companies, the government, the media). Despite this, they have a strong sense of national pride. This extends to Brexit, which they see as an opportunity for England to pave its own way. They have a clear sense of right and wrong and are frustrated by things they perceive as ‘unfair play’ (benefits cheats, companies not paying tax, NHS tourism). 

3. The finding 

Despite Government claims to the contrary, there isn’t a demand for less regulation amongst this audience. Phrases like ‘red’ tape and ‘nanny state’ have not cut through, and broadly speaking they see regulations as a good thing. We identified three effective ways to frame regulations which re-enforce this, each with its own specific communication challenge.

4. The strategy

4.1. Protect me and my family

  • Educate people on the small regulations they don’t notice that make the world ‘work’, like the regulation height of a door frame so you don’t bang your head!
  • Celebrate successful regulations that have averted disasters. Currently regulations are only talked about when they’ve failed (e.g. Grenfell Tower, the horsemeat scandal) .
  • Show people how they have been empowered by regulations, with a ‘citizens: know your rights’ website.

4.2 Stop people doing things I don’t like

  • Emphasise enforcement. This audience only thinks regulations are as strong as the people enforcing them, show that this is under threat. 
  • Show that the rules are being applied fairly by campaigning to close ‘loopholes’ that the better informed can slip through.
  • Explain the need for certain regulations, and that they’re for other people (with less common sense).

4.3 . Stop me doing something for my own good

  • Explain the rationale behind these regulations – that they’ve been created by experts to let you live your ‘best life’.
  • Encourage people to weigh up the consequences for breaking regulations.
  • Promote a hypothecated tax system in certain areas so you’re not paying for other people’s mistakes. For instance, a tax on sugary drinks to be directly channeled to the NHS.