No hope

With a general election mere months away, the logos of the UK’s political parties will be everywhere. Can we abstain? Michael Evamy looks at the current emblems

I thought Obama was going to change things. I thought it would all be different. But no. The logos of our political parties are just as useless as they always were.

In case you weren’t aware, the UK’s political parties are on the campaign trail in advance of a general election on May 7. If the sound of politicians squabbling through every media outlet isn’t enough to make you take to a dark cupboard until it’s all over, the offence caused by relentless exposure to their respective emblems will surely send you running to that sanctuary under the stairs.

We hardly need reminding of the potential power of a strong, simple, spray-paintable political symbol. The swastika, the hammer and sickle, the circle-A and the red star all get straight to the point. But they’re all allied to distinctive political philosophies – a point of difference with the symbols presented by the mainstream parties at Westminster.

A point of difference but not an excuse. Let’s start with the Liberal Democrats’ ‘bird of freedom’, introduced in 1989 shortly after the formation of the party. On its launch, Prime Minister Thatcher called it “as dead as John Cleese’s parrot”. She was wrong: it saw the party rise to an all-time high of 62 seats in Parliament in 2005. But its wings, clipped politically by five years of pecking by the Conservatives, now belong to a distant aesthetic era, when the BT piper pranced on phone boxes. It shuffled off this mortal coil long ago.

Labour have stuffed their red rose into a tiny box. The proud bloom that Neil Kinnock first pinned to Labour’s lapel in the 1980s is now, as often as not, reversed out of red. So they have a white rose, in a tiny box. From a distance, you could be looking at a primary school potato print of a pet cat, so indistinct does the red/white rose become.

The Greens’ symbol is indistinct at all distances. Are those leaves garlanding our planet? Because they look more like green flames. They should have just gone with the burning red of hellfire and stopped beating around the bush.

Not a bush but a tree for David Cameron: the Conservatives’ scribbled oak was his attempt to move his party onto greener ground. A cacophony of harrumphing ensued. Its leaves were soon splashed with blue, and more recently, covered entirely with the Union flag. Subtle. Look out for the tree-shaped flag that looks like a one-legged patriotic pig. With its nose in the trough. A representation we could all find credible, but perhaps not the one the party intended.

Ditto UKIP. Having announced plans in 2012 to ditch its keep-the-pound, designed-for-a-pound logo, Nigel Farrago’s lot must have recognised the ease with which it shouts down all the other party logos in the room. And, in conveying a spirit of makeshift, moronic crassness, it does a better job of representing its party than any of its competitors.

This is what we have, people. And just to think, in 2008, Barack Obama was winning over America with his circle, rising sun and rolling, red-and-white fields: a campaign identity that was considered, sophisticated, adaptable by minority groups from the grass roots up, and told a simple story with style. Roll on, May 8.

Michael Evamy is the author of Logo and Logotype. See, @michaelevamy

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