Perhaps it’s time for…

I am writing this in response to Paddy Ashdown’s Essay to the Party of Monday 11th September in which he extolls us to follow Vince Cable’s lead and start coming up with our own new, dangerous ideas and debate them at conference.

I know from talking with friends and meeting people on the campaign doorstep that many people have a very negative attitude to the Liberal Democrats. I know from being a member since 2015 that the party is well organised, with plenty of ground troops, puts its principles into practice in how it deals with members, has socially valuable ideas and is full of very able and well intentioned people perfectly capable of government. However this does not seem to be picked up by many of the electorate. If we are to gain traction with the electorate something has to change. One aspect that I think would be worth looking at is our branding. If this was changed and was seen to be genuine in that the new branding reflected other more substantial changes I think it could have a positive effect. I know rebranding is often seen as a nightmare and certainly can be expensive but if done at the right moment can be effective.

I have not given great thought to how the branding could be changed but just a few comments. I think we should stick with the yellow colour but perhaps make it a more golden yellow. I personally like our present emblem with its sense of freedom and development but I wonder if it comes across as rather weak. One possible emblem, suitable in terms of shape, could be a sunflower head but it is yellow, possibly used by BP and would be probably perceived as too soft. Perhaps we should also consider changing the name of our party. 

Perhaps we could discuss these ideas amongst ourselves at conference and then we could feed ideas to a committee of about six, made of people who are suitably skilled, experienced and motivated, who could take our ideas forward consulting with the membership on a final design.

Of course all of this will have been done before but perhaps it is time to do it again!

* Jane Reed is a Liberal Democrat member and activist in York

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  • New slogan
    Peace, Economy, and Reform.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Sep '17 - 11:26am

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    Are we a political movement based on principle and campaigning or are we just another brand, to be changed at will on the whims of the day?

    Sorry, what we need to do is much more substantial than shallow “rebranding” – which no doubt some PR outfit would be paid lots of money to “research”.

  • Perhaps a new slogan ? If we’re not careful it will be “The bland leading the bland” .

    Time to get down to real the issues and tackle the injustices and inequalities of the world.

    We could also publicly regret our mistakes when in Government – over to you Vince, it’s your Clause Four moment if you want it in Bournemouth.

    Anything else, I’m afraid, is froth.

  • New slogan: “We’re sorry about the coalition. So very sorry.”

  • Yes, we need less of the we are great, we are the best, we are doing well, as per the articles from the Lib Dem Voice Team. More of the hardship and realism we are all in. Rammed home in no uncertain style by the Opinion Polls this week, National 7%, Scotland 6% and Wales 4%. Has it ever been so bad? Crickey the Greens gaining seats last week hammering us in Lewes. We should perhaps start by asking what purpose are we serving, who do we really represent, is there any point in continuing, are we past our sell by date? Sorry to be so blunt but after 50 years in the party we need to face our situation head on and stop pretending all will be better if we just do this and do that.
    My only suggestion is to ask the Free Democrats in Germany how they survived and then started to seemingly turn it around after hitting 4% in the polls. I say this on the basis of their current back to the old days 8 -10% in the polls, which used to be their normal support level. Is it just the leader, is it what he says, how he says it, have they a policy mantra that appeals, if so what is it, how are they managing this in the face of all the competing forces to the left and the right on the German scene?

  • Anyway, the sunflower head logo idea is Ambon-starter: The Green Party already has a stylised sunflower as their logo, as do many green parties across Europe and the rest of the world. The LibDems are a different sort of beast.

  • Work on the peace, political reform and economy for all theme. A possible new name could be ‘The Federalist democratic party’, which will determine our commitment to decentralisation.
    Capitalism is moving to the extreme with extreme inequality centralising power into global banksters – this will ultimately destroy capitalism and we could result in a worse system.
    Extreme capitalism unmasks itself as US expansionism or imperialism which we now see in Korea as a threat to world peace.
    Some people refer to this ‘extreme capitalism’ or ‘imperialism’ as neo-liberal and that is the problem the LD leader have in presentation.

  • Traditional Rebranding of our logo etc is not necessary but bringing our policies under a major heading or “Policy Brand” is vital. We are clear of the need for good housing for all [housing of all types], good education for all [at all ages], good health for all [whether mental or physical]. So what do LibDems stand for?
    These are Human Rights in Britain and must be properly funded and administered at the highest levels. Our best minds could begin by making Human Rights our policy brand – and HR would even accommodate a better voting system especially as the current system disregards voter minorities. LibDems are a minority. A large one which needs to be visible. So, yes Jane Reed, have a go at the Human Rights party.

  • Nigel Hunter 13th Sep '17 - 1:08pm

    The post after this Everyone Matters could be a slogan AND a new motif.Yes we have a bad past in the voters memory. However we must stop navel gazing and grasp the nettle. This small team has an answer it is a start, let’s go for it.

  • Nick Collins 13th Sep '17 - 1:16pm

    @ David Becket; “New Liberal” would definitely be naff and would invite comparison with “New Labour”

    Btw it’s only those of us who are “of a certain age” who remember a party which used to picket Liberal Assemblies in the 1960s. They called themselves “New Liberals” although the ideology which they propounded was neither new nor liberal.

    Tony Greaves and David Raw, as per usual, hit the nail on the head.

  • Red Liberal
    We are sorry that real constitutional reform wasn’t brought about by the coalition.

  • No. I think voters would just have contempt for a re-name. And people would keep calling us “The LibDems, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days” for years. I’m not saying all is well right now, but the way out of our present malaise is actually quite clear: stick to our values, develop some meaningful policies, and work hard to make sure people understand what we are about. We did lose peoples trust and goodwill in 2010. But the wheel is always turning in politics, and in time it will turn again for us. IF we remember who we are, stick to our values and work like hell.

  • There is nothing wrong with the aims of the party as stated on the membership cards.
    Stated aims can be summarised as pease, political reform and an economy for all.
    Looking for a new name?
    The LD could change its name to ‘The Federalist Democratic Party’. This could distance the party from the ‘extreme capitalism’ that is sometimes mis-referred to as ‘neo-liberal’.
    Federalist to refer to the party’s commitment to decentralisation of government.

  • Oops sorry, typo: should read ‘peace, political reform, and economy for all’

  • David Pocock 13th Sep '17 - 3:12pm

    Names don’t need to change. Logos don’t need to change. Ideas need to change.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Sep '17 - 5:31pm

    Might we benefit our fellow citizens, the citizens of other nations and our party if we were to be an assertive source of “Not the Main Stream News”?

    “Britain has sent 500 squaddies to assist [ravaged British Caribbean territories.] Cuba, despite itself suffering terrible damage, has managed to send 1,000 extra doctors and nurses to other Irma hit islands.

    “Venezuela has sent more aid than the UK.”

  • Colin Paine 13th Sep '17 - 8:28pm

    Can we slip the Liberal Party a few quid to let us have the name back? 🙂

  • David Evershed 13th Sep '17 - 8:47pm

    Perhaps we could get back our liberal philosophy of freedom from the Liberal Party at the same time as acquiring the name.

  • It’s all so sad, but 90% of the people don’t trust us and here we are pretending that rebranding will help.

    For five years in coalition, our senior members, and that includes Paddy, stood by while our leadership trashed our party, its values, its supporters and the people who depended on it. Fifty years of building it up from the very roots gone in a twinkling. As a result we gave the Tories the perfect opportunity to totally undermine us: in the whole of the West Country, where we have no MPs for the first time since 1959; in Wales where we have no MPs for the first time ever; in Scotland were we were down to one MP and now have four on the basis of being the Scottish people’s third choice ‘not the SNP’ party; one MP in the whole of the north, with Tim down to a majority of just 777, again our lowest total of MPs ever; Norman in Norfolk, good on you Norman and your team; one in Eastbourne, very well done Stephen and the guys and gals there, and five seats in what I will describe largely as the comfortably well off, but with a social conscience, areas of Bath, Oxford, and SW London.

    We are now fourth in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk David Steel’s old seat, Third in Truro where David Penhalygon used to get 33,000 votes; and in most of the country we get less than 3% of the vote. We are 15,000 behind the Tories in Yeovil; and are a poor third in Ross, Skye and Lochaber. What a legacy we are leaving the new generation.

    The thing that has to change is us. We have to admit we messed up, allowed the work of generations of Liberals to be squandered and betrayed the people who voted for us by focusing on saving the country from the bankers, when what was equally needed was to save the people from the Tories.

    Now the UK is leaving the EU, the country is at its most polarised in more than forty years, Conservative ministers have just been given absolute power without any scrutiny over vast swathes of legislation; and Labour is now being led to a position which Michael Foot would have condemned as ridiculously too left wing.

    Do we have the courage to say it was us?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Sep '17 - 11:44pm

    Jane tries but there is more than rebranding needed, and like messrs Greaves and Raw, and Evans, I think we need to look at that.

    New names are worth looking at sometimes, but it bothers me that most keen on it at times are those who dismiss the SDP and democracy , let alone social democracy , and think it sensible to be only Liberal , as if to return to the eighties and part of the current party is inclusive and positive, der….!

    The party could call itself The Alliance Party, sub title , of Liberals and Democrats, to unify with our colleagues and friends in NI and EU.

    It returns us to respect for the ADP rather than not, as The Alliance was the unity of the two parties.

    I think we need to become a common sense exciting radical and moderate grouping, radicalism and moderation , needed at different times in various situations.

    Sir Vince as a senior player in coalition and Jo a lesser one need to do some soul searching or deeper thinking on all of it .

  • Antony Watts 13th Sep '17 - 11:44pm

    Simple, adopt the many good ideas and principles (yes the most important thing is principles not policies) from the new DiEM25 party of Europe. Things like, quote,

    * TURNING IDLE WEALTH INTO GREEN INVESTMENT: Europe’s future hinges on the capacity to harness the wealth that accumulates in Europe and turn it into investments in a real, green, sustainable, innovative economy. What matters is not the boost of one European country’s ‘competitiveness’ in relation to another European country but the rise of productivity in green sectors everywhere 

    * BASIC GOODS PROVISION: All Europeans should enjoy in their home country the right to basic goods (e.g. nutrition, shelter, transport, energy), to paid work contributing to the maintenance of their communities while receiving a living wage, to decent social housing, to high quality health and education, and to a sustainable environment. 

    * SHARING THE RETURNS TO CAPITAL & WEALTH: In the increasingly digital economy, capital goods are increasingly produced collectively but their returns continue to be privatised. As Europe becomes more technologically advanced, to avoid stagnation and discontent it must implement policies for sharing amongst all its citizens the dividends from digitisation and automation. 

    * MACROECONOMIC MANAGEMENT CANNOT BE LEFT TO UNELECTED TECHNOCRATS: Europe’s economies are stagnating because for too long macroeconomic management has been subcontracted to unaccountable ‘technocrats’. It is high time macroeconomic management is democratised fully and placed under the scrutiny of sovereign peoples.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Sep '17 - 12:09am

    No, it isn’t time, Jane, it really isn’t. I am more proud to be a Liberal Democrat even than I was to be plain Liberal, with its greater inclusion of worthwhile belief. I love this party with its care for individuals and communities, its activists and councillors and MPs and peers who work hard for a better society and better world, and don’t do it for personal gain or to identify with a certain caste or group of society and shun the rest. I know that in our small way we are worthwhile citizens of the world. So of course I shun totally the idea of ‘rebranding’, and I don’t think any of us seriously think that would help. What will help will be to tell society what we really are, and go on with our worthwhile and patient work, while enjoying the challenge and the good companionship that we share.

  • David Evans
    Margaret Thatcher was the best man the Liberals ever had. It was her divisive policies which gave the Liberals a great boost in local council representation.

  • Ernest
    Parliament is going to debate the petition – “To make votes matter, adopt Proportional Representation for UK General Elections” on 30 October 2017.

  • David wilkinson 14th Sep '17 - 8:26am

    Rebranding will do nothing and will be a costly and time consuming exercise.
    What is required are a few core policies and principals that the public can clearly understand what we stand for and what we want to do for the people across the various communities of the UK and our place in the wider world and then sell it.

    On the issue of apologising for the coalition years. I did not agree with some of the decisions and they have come back and bitten us big style, but there comes a time to learn from the past and move on and say what you are going to do now.

    Tony Greaves and others were right about the party being relevant to the public and for most of the most of the public we are not, which is shown in the numbers of MP’s, MSP’s AM’s, councillors and the poll results

    Recently we had appointments of Nick, Sarah and Mark, however what is the mass communication plan of our principles and policies for the vast swathe of the Liberal minded public.

    Then we might have a chance of making ourselves relevant to the public across the country and not just in a number of declining Lib Dem hotspots

  • Janice Gale 14th Sep '17 - 9:03am

    How about we just get really proud of what we stand for, trumpet it on every possible occasion, nurture a younger, dynamic and fresh leader who will be seen as a break from the past and rampantly campaign for a socially fair and inclusive Britain? Just a thought!

  • Peter Watson 14th Sep '17 - 9:17am

    @Manfarang “Parliament is going to debate the petition – “To make votes matter, adopt Proportional Representation for UK General Elections” on 30 October 2017.”
    But will anybody notice or care?
    In 2010/11 there was great publicity and national debate, followed by a referendum to choose between two voting systems, neither of which Lib Dems really wanted. A wasted opportunity.

  • Mike MacSween 14th Sep '17 - 12:36pm

    Tony Greaves is right. No amount of ‘rebranding’ is going to make up for a (perceived or real) lack of genuine political convictions.

    As Tony knows, my familial political background is left Labour. I joined the Lib Dems because I thought I saw genuine committment there, mainly due to their opposition to the Iraq war. But I’m starting to think I was wrong.

    The Lib Dems seem so scared of causing offence (faith schools, anybody?) that they won’t state principles clearly. Even the conversion of the EU into a de facto matter of principle (which it’s not) hasn’t done us any good at all.

    Instead we have the nonsense of a broken policy (tuition fees) followed by an utterly meaningless ‘apology’.

    Changing the shade of yellow isn’t going to help.

  • Stephen Booth 14th Sep '17 - 1:10pm

    Here’s a really radical idea. Let’s start campaigning locally on national issues!

    ALDC has done sterling work but it has resulted in too many councillors who clearly love sorting out fences, roads, pavements and other very local problems. And don’t the people love it. They’ll vote for someone who’s prepared to be a glorified social worker and street orderly, sorting out rubbish, fences, pavements . . . etc. It relieves Tory and Labour councillors from doing anything to bring them into contact with their passive electorates. Leave the Lib Dems to do all the donkey work of holding council officials and services to account. Yes, we love the Lib Dems, but we won’t vote for you nationally because you don’t have a chance of a forming a government and anyway we don’t know what your policies are.

    Getting councillors elected is just not enough. I know, I know get the critical mass and the prize is the MP. Alas, there are too many constituencies where this is just about to happen but it never does. In my neck of the woods, where I’ve lived for 45 years, we are always going to win a particular constituency because we controlled the council, either in majority or coalition. But we always come second.

    The party needs to seriously ask why this is otherwise we will remain a party of local government alone. Let’s put our energies into campaigning for things that only Westminster can change.

  • “Sound Economy, Fair Society”

    That’s our core message in four words, not a suggestion for renaming the party.

  • There was an interesting documentary a few years back showing the rebranding exercise that a long-established German penmaker went through. The key focus of the exercise was to establish a modern corporate image and all that went with that – corporate colours, logo, motto’s etc. After about a year of brain-storming and the expenditure of milion’s of Euros on PR consultants and work-ups, the new brand image decided upon was a pen – remarkably similar to the old logo.
    A political party, as with any organisation, has no automatic right to exist, it has to justify its relevance if it is to attract new support. The question always is – If the Libdems did not exist, would a new centrist Liberal party be created to fill the gap?

    The financial crisis of 2007-08 and the austerity that it necessitated has changed the landscape of politics and pushed voters to the extremes in the search for answers. Conservative voters largely support strict financial discipline, moderate taxation and a focus on living within ones means as a fundamental underpinning of the economy. Labour’s focus is on the state as a provider of basic services and redistribution enabled by higher taxation and greater levels of public borrowing.

    To be relevant, the case has to be made for an alternative Liberal approach to these economic fundamentals that delivers stable and properly functioning public services while addressing extremes of inequality in society. That alternative recognises that individuals have both rights and responsibilities. The right to economic freedom in access to decent housing, education, health services and employment. The responsibility for the care and well-being of one’s self. one’s family and one’s community and the economic power to meet that responsibility.

    TonyH encapsulates it well when he comments “the wheel is always turning in politics, and in time it will turn again for us. IF we remember who we are, stick to our values and work like hell.”

  • Peter Watson 14th Sep '17 - 4:06pm

    @JoeB “Conservative voters largely support … Labour’s focus is on …”
    I think the problem for Lib Dems is that this describes a widely understood preference or default position for those parties, but neither Conservatives nor Labour are entirely committed to those black or white approaches for everything (despite how some might like to portray May and Corbyn). Conversely it is not obvious what shade of grey represents the Lib Dem position.
    I am sure that voters would accept that Lib Dems want what is best for everybody, “Sound Economy, Fair Society” and all that (though what party would ever claim it wants an “unsound economy, unfair society”?), but who knows what tools the party would pull out of its bag in order to deliver that, what combination of state regulation and free markets would it prefer. It’s that hoary old chestnut about “freedom from” vs “freedom to”, social liberalism vs. economic liberalism, etc. that the party has not yet addressed. This could be a strength if the party were trusted to deliver the best compromise / centrist / evidence-based / non-ideological approach to government, but trust is in short supply and I think the lack of a distinctive, clear identity is a weakness.

  • @PeterWatson

    For an unsound economy – McDonnell

    For an unfair society – Duncan-Smith

    And the parties they represent …

  • Peter Watson 14th Sep '17 - 5:52pm

    @crewegwyn “For an unsound economy – McDonnell. For an unfair society – Duncan-Smith”
    So a centrist Lib Dem party wants both? 😉

  • Peter Watson 14th Sep '17 - 6:04pm

    More seriously, election results suggest that there are plenty of voters who believe that McDonnell’s economics are “sound” (because it will redistribute money from wealthy “others”) and plenty of voters who believe Duncan-Smith’s policies are “fair” (because it reduces the subsidy to ne’er-do-well “others”), but not so many who are buying what the Lib Dems are selling. Is that because voters don’t want it or because they don’t know what it is?
    Both McDonnell’s and Duncan-Smith’s approaches, however unattractive they might be, appeal to a reasonably well-defined part of the electorate. But what is the Lib Dems’ unique proposition for voters?

  • @ crewegwyn Knocking the personalities in other parties is a switch off. I have one exception, St Jacob the Mogg.

    You have to give him (Universal) Credit for his latest uplifting contribution :

    “The voluntary support given to food banks is “rather uplifting” and “shows what a compassionate country we are”, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has said. He told LBC radio the only reason for the rise in their use was “that people know that they are there. The former Labour government had failed to inform people of their existence. When the Tories came to power, they had allowed Jobcentre Plus to tell people food banks were available”

    As a Food Bank Trustee I find that most inspiring (Not).

  • @ Peter Watson “But what is the Lib Dems’ unique proposition for voters?”

    It’s a well kept secret, Peter, but Vince must surely have a cunning plan ? Or not as the case may be.

  • Peter Watson,

    for much of the post-war period, the centre ground has been maintained by the swing of the pendulum between Conservative and Labour governments. When the Country finds itself too far to the right, out go the Tories and in comes Labour and Vice a Versa.
    That is one way of achieving a moderate level of balance over the longer term. The other has to be a party that can successfully combine the attributes you note – “freedom from” vs “freedom to”, social liberalism vs. economic liberalism.

    Jettisoning the politics of class division and celebrating individual freedom and responsibility should be the raison detre of the Libdems. That does mean standing back from the punch and Judy show that passes for Parliamentary debate and focusing on an evidence-based / non-ideological approach to government.

    The distinctiveness comes from being seen as the grown-ups in the room. A party that is more interested in a measured and pragmatic approach to solving problems; than the daily fare of point scoring that the public is subjected to by Conservatives and Labour, might actually make some progress.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Sep '17 - 7:54pm

    ‘The right to economic freedom’ as Joe B. spells it out (2.34 pm) does actually strike me as different, Peter Watson, and worth focusing on. That right ‘ in access to decent housing, health services, education and employment’, matched with responsibilities as Joe suggests, would be wide-ranging, easily comprehended and a bit different from the other parties’ offerings. I also agree with Stephen Booth, on the need to campaign on national issues and not just be ‘glorified social workers and street orderlies’ , as he tellingly puts it. And David Raw, for all your scepticism and jokiness, David, you put your finger on it (as so often) earlier – not rebranding, but getting on with seeking greater fairness and equality; and seeing clearly the pity of food banks being necessary at the present time. Well, I must leave my lap-top and get ready for Bournemouth!

  • JoeB
    “The financial crisis of 2007-08 and the austerity that it necessitated”

    Just like the financial crisis of 1929 didn’t necessitate the austerity that followed, the 2007-08 financial crisis did not necessitate the austerity that we with the Conservatives inflicted on the people of the UK.

    As the descendants of the Liberal Party of Keynes and Lloyd George we betrayed our own tradition, history and philosophy.

    “Conservative voters largely support strict financial discipline, moderate taxation and a focus on living within ones means as a fundamental underpinning of the economy.”

    The Liberal Democrats need to reject strict financial discipline and running government finances as if it was a household.

    “Labour’s focus is on the state as a provider of basic services and redistribution enabled by higher taxation and greater levels of public borrowing.”

    I don’t think Labour voters see Labour that way, they might see them as willing to tax the top 5% highest earners, end austerity, increase spending on public services and re-nationalise the railways, electric, gas and water suppliers and Royal Mail. This is more problematic for us, because we shouldn’t oppose any of these on principle. Can we present ourselves as wanting to increase tax on the top 40% highest earners, wanting to end austerity, end the benefit freeze and reverse all the Conservative benefit cuts, increase spending on education and the NHS, better regulate markets to control over-powerful business and increase the public’s influence on the things that affect them?

  • JoeB – What’s wrong with focusing on the state as a provider of basic services and redistribution enabled by higher taxation and greater levels of public borrowing, when this is the norm in Continental European countries: Scandinavian countries, France, Belgium, Germany… Besides, in the past, since 1918, Liberal manifestos and policy platforms always stated that public services and utilities must be state-owned. Or you want this country ends up like the US, whose healthcare system sucks (except for those who can pay).

    “Conservative voters largely support strict financial discipline, moderate taxation and a focus on living within ones means as a fundamental underpinning of the economy.” – That kind of thinking had caused disastrous consequences for Britain not only between 2010-2017 but also during the 1920s-1940s. Besides, you cannot implement proper industrial policies under Conservative platform, because such policies will certainly cost a lot of taxpayer money: subsidizing SMEs and new industries/technology, R&D and education spending… Actually, you can still create money and increase spending as long as total spending does not exceed national productive capacity (it currently does not, especially outside the South East).

    Michael BG – I want the party to bring back the forgotten slogan “New Deal” from the grave. Both Keynes and Lloyd George himself actually used it and called for it during the 1930s.

  • Even the Tories are thinking of lowering tuition fees apparently, and yet we persist in sticking to our mantra on this. We were wrong – please have the courage to say so and change our policy on fees.

    We need intelligent problem-solving policies rooted in reducing regional inequality and boosting the economy and meaningful employment.

    People want hope and a better life. Surely we have something meaningful to offer – if not let’s turn the light out….

  • Peter Hirst 20th Sep '17 - 5:51pm

    What about debating how unfettered immigration is a non-sense? I know much of it is non-eu but I don’t understand how inter-eu movement is a unalienable right. Common sense says there is only so much immigration that a country can take wherever it is coming from. In this age of online job searches why should anyone change borders to look for work? It seem to be an excuse for seeking enhanced quality of life at that country’s expense. We should maintain free movement for work, education, family and short stay reasons.

  • Simon Banks 6th Oct '17 - 9:33am

    The most effective slogan in the memories of the oldsters, and the one that best expressed something fundamental about Liberalism, was “Take Power, Vote Liberal” (February 1974, when the Liberal Party got more votes than the Liberal Democrats have ever done, though few seats). “Take Power, Vote New Deal Liberal”. Hmm. Too much like “Nubile Liberal”?

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