Liberal Democrat Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander holds up the Lib Dems "budget box" during the party's spring conference at the ACC on March 14, 2015 in Liverpool, England. Photo: Getty Images
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How can we trust the Lib Dems when they don't know if they're yellow or orange?

Colour confusion.

Labour are red. The Conservatives are blue. Ukip are purple. The Greens are, well, you know. But what colour stands for the Liberal Democrats?

Look to Danny Alexander, for example, and it might appear a simple answer: it's yellow. Above, you can see him holding that yellow briefcase he had specifically made for his awkward damp squib of an "alternative" Lib Dem budget.

It's hard to define what colour something really is from just one photograph - for a host of reasons - but chances are that briefcase adheres to the official Lib Dem internal style guide, which mandates that the primary colour for party materials should be Pantone 1235C:

(Pantone is a company that produces standardised colour reproduction systems, ie, a way to define colours more precisely than "a sort-of goldy-yellow".)

This precise tone of yellow was introduced in 2009 as part of a party-wide branding exercise; but look through any photo archive, and it's clear that the Lib Dems still don't know what colour they are.

Look through the merchandise available on Lib Dem Image ("the official supplier of Lib Dem party branded goods, gifts and campaigning products for over 14 years") and it's a riot of orange and orange-related shades. Badges? Orange. Bags? Black and bright yellow. Car flags? Slightly darker orange. Rosettes? Slightly lighter orange. Stickers? Black and Halloween orange.

Lib Dem conferences seem to change colour from year to year. Compare 2015...

Photo: Getty Images

...to 2014...

Photo: Getty Images

...to 2013...

Photo: Getty Images

...to 2012...

Photo: Getty Images

...and so on and so on.

Go to a Lib Dem rally, too, and it's hard to miss that the big diamond placards that the party has handed out to activists for years come in a range of yellow-to-orange colours:

Photo: Getty Images

This crisis of brand identity is even referenced (subtly) in the design of the party's website:

Maybe this inconsistency is deliberate - maybe it's an unconscious representation of how much success the Orange Bookers are having in internal party discussions. And perhaps it's just because the Lib Dems are good-natured, go-with-the-wind types who know that both the SNP and Labour have their own tones of yellow, and avoiding confusion is sometimes more important than brand integrity.

But the question remains: if a party has no integrity in its brand, how can we trust it to have integrity in government? Hmm? #makeuthink

UPDATE: We have been informed by a party insider - who wishes not to be named - that the logo for Liberal Reform (a group within the party that "promotes four-cornered freedom in the Liberal Democrats – personal, political, social and economic liberalism") contains four shades of yellow-orange:

We're through the looking glass here, people.

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.