Does Scottish Labour need a make-over?

25th November, 2012 1:57 pm

Much excitement earlier today when the Scottish Conservatives unveiled their new logo – a kind of Union flag-coloured saltire, with blue being rather more prominent than the red.

I think it’s rather effective, to be honest.

And the thought occurred (not for the first time, it has to be said): should Scottish Labour get itself a new logo?

It’s such an obvious move that I don’t doubt that those at the top of the party have at least already considered it. Who knows? The unveiling might be closer than we think.

Obviously logos are, to an extent, superficial; a good logo is no substitute for values, policies and leadership. But at the same time, good policies, values and leadership might be made that more effective with a corporate identity that interests and even engages the target audience.

“Corporate” logos have taken on huge importance in the last 25 years or so. Time was when a party’s logo didn’t really matter, or was rarely even used on local literature. The SNP’s familiar… what do you call it…. twirly thing is one of the best known political symbols in the land; they were mad to try to re-design it back in 1991 and wise to revert to the familiar… er, twirly thing.

The Scottish Parliament’s “logo” is a great example of why competitions should never be used to identify corporate designs. They seem like a great idea at the time to the chief executive, chairman or Presiding Officer of the organisation in question: “This will involve ordinary people, make them feel part of the new venture, democratise our image, etc.” And it will also be cheap. David Steel made the mistake of launching such a competition among design students, and the result is the rather clumsy, amateurish and cheap-looking “marque”, with inelegant swathes of dark blue all over the place and a St Andrew’s flag dropped unsubtly in the middle of it.

So here’s the thing: if you want a professional, attractive, adaptable and instantly recognisable logo, pay an agency to come up with one. Which is what the Scottish Tories seem to have done.

Labour, under Neil Kinnock and the guidance of our then Director of Communications, Peter Mandelson, ditched the short-lived “flag” logo which had been used extensively during the disastrous 1983 campaign and in 1986 came up instead with the now well-established (though since evolved) “rose” logo. In Scotland there was the inevitable whinging about the rose being a symbol of England, an argument quickly destroyed by anyone who had spent more than five minutes reading about international socialism.

But having established the rose as our logo in the minds of most voters, do we want to risk changing it now?

To be honest, I’m not sure. There’s a case for establishing a strong separate identity for the party that was given unprecedented autonomy in last year’s party reforms. If we’re to do it, now would be as good a time as any.

So, what do you think? Does Scottish Labour need a new corporate identity? If so, what should its essential characteristics and elements be?

Tom Harris is the MP for Glasgow South and is a Shadow Environment Minister. Follow him on Twitter at @TomHarrisMP. This post originally appeared at LabourHame.

  • Amber_Star

    Does Scottish Labour need a new corporate identity?
    Ach Tom, the word “corporate” in that sentence says so much about your way with politics! You manufacture controversy by using a seemingly ill-thought-through turn of phrase.
    Johann Lamont used the same tactic for her: ‘Something for nothing culture’ speech.
    This ‘way of doing business’ – i.e. deliberately trying to create outrage or at least annoyance as a substitute for stimulating proper consideration of a proposal – has worn out its welcome. Please stop doing it; it’s cheap & nasty.

  • Alex Otley

    It depends whether having consistent branding with the national party is seen as a hindrance or not. Clearly for the Scottish Conservatives it is – the Tory image is toxic and it’s unsurprising that they want to try to promote a sense of independence from the party in Westminster. Labour on the other hand is doing well nationally and it may be that maintaining a visual connection with the main party helps.

  • Andrew Ben McKay

    The logo is irrelevant to most people. Come the next election, people will go – “What happened to the kids drawing of a tree?”.
    Lamont will lead us to a victory next time round because she is treating the Scottish people like grown-ups and telling them the truth about “free” services.

  • Andrew Chandler

    Plus, the red rose is not just an English symbol. Rabbie Burns’ poem, ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’ is a favourite on boths sides of the border. Maybe it could be counterposed with the thistle. Personally, I don’t like people mucking about with the saints’ flags and colours. I don’t think many Scots will appreciate the Tory logo either. Labour is now the only party that can keep the union together. Fly the union flag, it’s got plenty of Scotland in it.

  • franwhi

    What about your sonsie face Tom – that’s all the visual connection we need !

  • AlanGiles

    ” But at the same time, good policies, values and leadership might be
    made that more effective with a corporate identity that interests and
    even engages the target audience.”

    So you can make the unpalatable more acceptable provided you have a “nice” logo and a pretty picture?. I don’t think so.

    This is one of the most superficial articles I have read on LL for some time: lets think of the red rose – I have many in the garden, the look lovely (at the right time of year) and many smell beautiful (one smells like raspberries). But does the lovely picture used by Labour take away the stench of Iraq or Purnell and Freud?. Of course it doesn’t.

    This is a case of preferring the box to the chocolates and I am astonished this article came from a senior Labour figure.

    I am not Scottish, but I do have Scottish friends living both here and in Scotland and I don’t think one of them believes that their lives will improve just because the Tories have got a nice new logo, or that you might have.,

  • BrianMcC

    Follow him on twitter! Tom has a somewhat severe blocking policy.

  • Edward Carlsson Browne

    The only use of the logo is to decorate podiums and to provide some measure of brand identity for voters who don’t read the ballot paper properly. Those aren’t entirely worthless (the foul-up with the logo and Labour Co-Op nominations in 2010 established fairly clearly that some voters do just look for the rose and get confused if it isn’t there) but it doesn’t suggest that the logo is actually a core element in deciding voting behaviour.

    Lewis MacDonald’s deputy leadership campaign used a thistle quite a lot on its literature, which wasn’t ineffective and does have certain connotations that could be made to work. But at the end of the day the problems with Scottish Labour relate to complacency, appearing to be out of touch and not doing enough voter ID. I’d rather we focus on the real problems first, especially since parts of Scottish Labour have already demonstrated how to fix those, before we worry about our corporate branding.

  • uglyfatbloke

    A different label? Will that help? You’d think autonomy would have allowed Labour to develop a distinctive message in Scotland, but it has n’t yet. The choice is to adopt policies that people like or face another defeat at Holyrood. It’s all very well to kid ourselves on that Lamont is getting the better of Salmond at FMQs except for two things…one is that hardly anyone pays any attention to FMQs unless they are political animals with set loyalties and the other is – if you actually watch FMQs – he generally wipes the floor with her. Giving him the opportunity to reiterate an apology he has already made is not a success.

    Will Lamont ‘lead us to victory’? Probably not unless she adopts some policies that people actually like. If the gnats really screw up over the next couple of years she might lead Labour to a coalition with the glib-dumbs, but only if there are enough glib-dumbs to make a difference which does not seem at all likely. Even assuming the glib-dumbs tank at the next UK GE they may well hang on to as many as 15, maybe even 20 seats in England, but they stand to lose pretty well everything in Scotland except Ork & Shet…and Fife if Ming Campbell does not retire to the lords.

    At Holyrood they will do well if they can keep the 5 MSPs they have just now. How many gains would Labour need to make to get the gnats out of government? About 27 directly from the gnats. or slightly fewer if the glib-dumbs can stage a recovery and are prepared to do a deal. Is that possible? Yes it is, but not without some pretty radical changes.

  • Pingback: The Union Saltire: Scottish Conservatives’ new logo » Open Unionism()

  • Siôn Jones

    Having copied Tory policies on almost everything, why not ask them if Labour can share their logo as well?

  • Jimbo2010

    Yes Scottish Labour has become far too right-wing. It is a dsigrace that Scottish Labour was speaking in favour of University tuition fees in the year before the referendum. An absolute disgrace.


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