Political symbols and colours – Part 1 The Liberal Democrats

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


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17 responses to “Political symbols and colours – Part 1 The Liberal Democrats”

  1. Jock says :

    I always thought there was something to do with two famous boxers’ colours in the red-blue thing. Did any of that figure?


  2. JohnM says :

    So what’s the origin of the bright orange rosettes then? I wish we would change to orange, it’s a more emotive and distinctive colour – the colour of peaceful revolution!

    Might be time to let Libby go too?


  3. darrellgoodliffe says :


    As I understand it the colours will more connected with Empire and royal affiliations, especially in the Conservatives case.


    All we could really find on that was the ties to the colour gold and its ties to banking and wealth. Alot of our promotional material does use bright orange.

    Libby is an asset we feel which we could actually use more to convey our message and as part of our narrative.

    Darrell & Jane


  4. Peter Black says :

    Bright orange was used extensively by the old Liberal Party.


  5. darrellgoodliffe says :


    By gold we meant orange too :).

    Darrell & Jane


  6. Peter Black says :

    Yes I realise that but there is a distinction. The old Liberal Party used orange extensively but after the merger there was an attempt to move to a paler, more yellow gold that was resisted by some diehards such as myself. Today the campaigns team tend to use orange but some councillors and activists, mostly from the former SDP still prefer the yellow.


  7. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Yes and I do believe the Liberal Party still uses orange. It is interesting to see how colour can mean and how changes in the Parties are followed by colour changes like with Labour and the Conservatives as well.

    Darrell & Jane


  8. Peter Black says :

    Up until the 1970s the Liberals in Ceredigion used to use blue and the Tories yellow!


  9. Peter Black says :

    Have just blogged on this at http://peterblack.blogspot.com/2009/08/another-acronym.html and I have found the original Libby design guide from when it was launched by Paddy at a rally in Kensington (i believe).


  10. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Thanks for the blog post and mention :). We are big Libby fans and feel that the acronym has loads of potential uses. What do you think about it? We notice the Libby on your blog is very animated! 🙂

    Darrell & Jane


  11. Jon Ball says :

    As Peter implied gold and yellow are 80’s intentions at the time of alliance and merger. The old Liberal Party colour was orange (apart from a few regional variations). The SDP used red, white and blue in their famous logo.

    I’ve not heard the acronym for Libby before so I suspect it is a recent backronym. If there is a source for that please spill the beans. As far as I was aware it was just an abbreviation of the official title ‘bird of liberty’.


  12. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I dont think that was the case early on with the blue and maybe came more into being later on? Certainly the SDP did use those colours although the first logo of the Alliance was the rather drab orange triangle.

    We picked up the acronym online, here is the link:


    We are not sure if it is official but we think it should be! 🙂

    Darrell & Jane


  13. Peter Black says :

    It was a gold triangle rather than orange and belonged to the Alliance rather than the SDP. The SDP used red, white and blue from day one.


  14. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Either way it wasn’t the most inspiring of political symbols…

    Darrell & Jane


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