We started our investigation by looking at the different colours political parties use and have used in the past. Frankly, the differing colour schemes are quite baffling as illustrated by this exchange about party colours and rosettes. It seems totally weird now to think that the Conservatives once used red and that the old Liberal Party favoured blue. The main determinant of early political colours appears to be closeness to local landed interests or a desire to affiliate with local communities (hence Labour’s early dalliance with Catholic green).
The actions of other political parties seems to weigh heavy too; with a suggestion that the Conservatives settled on blue to hoover-up Liberal votes and build a broad social coalition (presumably against Labour ‘reds’). Gold and yellow could have found favour due to associations with trade and banking in Liberal circles although Labour used yellow a lot in their early years (and indeed still do). Standardisation seems to have been the product of the advent of colour television and the need for a nationally recognisable colour. Colour can still play a highly symbolic role with both Labour and Conservatives ‘adding-In’ new colours (purple and green) as a ‘symbol of modernisation’.
Despite the changes in colour over the years, the Liberal Party, SDP and the Lib Dems have had a close affinity to the colour gold. This can be shown in the logo choice of the Liberal Democrats, with the gold “Flying Bird of Liberty (Libby)”. As mentioned above, we found that gold was chosen to signify the importance of wealth and money. Thus, we concluded that the gold bird ‘Libby’ shows how as a party we have moved away from the old Liberal Party’s emphasis on free trade and markers, to one of more equality and freedom in terms of how wealth and income is distributed. Furthermore, in keeping the gold colour the Lib Dems maintain important associations with classical Liberals, such as Gladstone.
Interestingly, we found that the acronym ‘Libby’ stands for “Life Is Better Because Of You”. We believe that this could be used successfully in a Liberal Democrat campaign, taking on two main themes. It could be used to address the individual specifically, stating that the party is better with that individual. Alternatively, the slogan could be used by the party, to say that life is better with a Liberal Democrat government. Thus, we are arguably missing out on the chance to capitalise on the name of our symbolic bird, highlighted by discussions around whether or not we should replace it. Instead, as a party, whichever way we choose to draw attention to the acronym, Libby the bird should play a more central role in our campaigning and message.
By Darrell Goodliffe & Jane Watkinson