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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On civil liberties, David Davis has become a complete hypocrite – and I'm not sure he even knows it

The Brexit minster's stance shows a man not overly burdened with self-awareness.

In 2005, David Davis ran for the Tory leadership. He was widely assumed to be the front-runner and, as frontrunners in Tory leadership campaigns have done so enthusiastically throughout modern history, he lost.

The reason I bring up this ancient history is because it gives me an excuse to remind you of this spectacularly ill-judged photoshoot:


“And you're sure this doesn't make me look a bit sexist?”
Image: Getty

Obviously it’s distressing to learn that, as recently as October 2005, an ostensibly serious politician could have thought that drawing attention to someone else’s boobs was a viable electoral strategy. (Going, one assumes, for that all important teenage boy vote.)

But what really strikes me about that photo is quite how pleased with himself Davis looks. Not only is he not thinking to himself, “Is it possible that this whole thing was a bad idea?” You get the distinct impression that he’s never had that thought in his life.

This impression is not dispelled by the interview he gave to the Telegraph‘s Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester three months earlier. (Hat tip to Tom Hamilton for bringing it to my attention.) It’s an amazing piece of work – I’ve read it twice, and I’m still not sure if the interviewers are in on the joke – so worth reading in its entirety. But to give you a flavour, here are some highlights:

He has a climbing wall in his barn and an ice-axe leaning against his desk. Next to a drinks tray in his office there is a picture of him jumping out of a helicopter. Although his nose has been broken five times, he still somehow manages to look debonair. (...)

To an aide, he shouts: “Call X - he’ll be at MI5,” then tells us: “You didn’t hear that. I know lots of spooks.” (...)

At 56, he comes – as he puts it – from “an older generation”. He did not change nappies, opting instead to teach his children to ski and scuba-dive to make them brave. (...)

“I make all the important decisions about World War Three, she makes the unimportant ones about where we’re going to live.”

And my personal favourite:

When he was demoted by IDS, he hit back, saying darkly: “If you’re hunting big game, you must make sure you kill with the first shot.”

All this, I think, tells us two things. One is that David Davis is not a man who is overly burdened with self-doubt. The other is that he probably should be once in a while, because bloody hell, he looks ridiculous, and it’s clear no one around him has the heart to tell him.

Which brings us to this week’s mess. On Monday, we learned that those EU citizens who choose to remain in Britain will need to apply for a listing on a new – this is in no way creepy – “settled status” register. The proposals, as reported the Guardian, “could entail an identity card backed up by entry on a Home Office central database or register”. As Brexit secretary, David Davis is the man tasked with negotiating and delivering this exciting new list of the foreign.

This is odd, because Davis has historically been a resolute opponent of this sort of nonsense. Back in June 2008, he resigned from the Tory front bench and forced a by-election in his Haltemprice & Howden constituency, in protest against the Labour government’s creeping authoritarianism.

Three months later, when Labour was pushing ID cards of its own, he warned that the party was creating a database state. Here’s the killer quote:

“It is typical of this government to kickstart their misguided and intrusive ID scheme with students and foreigners – those who have no choice but to accept the cards – and it marks the start of the introduction of compulsory ID cards for all by stealth.”

The David Davis of 2017 better hope that the David Davis of 2008 doesn’t find out what he’s up to, otherwise he’s really for it.

The Brexit secretary has denied, of course, that the government’s plan this week has anything in common with the Labour version he so despised. “It’s not an ID card,” he told the Commons. “What we are talking about here is documentation to prove you have got a right to a job, a right to residence, the rest of it.” To put it another way, this new scheme involves neither an ID card nor the rise of a database state. It’s simply a card, which proves your identity, as registered on a database. Maintained by the state.

Does he realise what he’s doing? Does the man who once quit the front bench to defend the principle of civil liberties not see that he’s now become what he hates the most? That if he continues with this policy – a seemingly inevitable result of the Brexit for which he so enthusiastically campaigned – then he’ll go down in history not as a campaigner for civil liberties, but as a bloody hypocrite?

I doubt he does, somehow. Remember that photoshoot; remember the interview. With any other politician, I’d assume a certain degree of inner turmoil must be underway. But Davis does not strike me as one who is overly prone to that, either.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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