How important are party logos? asks TOM HARRIS


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.

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13 thoughts on “Does Scottish Labour need a make-over?

  1. Nothing to stop Scottish labour taking the same kind of logo as the rose, red rose with a yellow background? or a thistle with a yellow background or lion rampant instead?

  2. I think a red thistle design based on the red rose might give the right sort of impression – allied but separate, and definitely Scottish, as it were.

    I’m not sure a new logo is NEEDED, as such, but I can’t help thinking it might be a good idea, whether it’s needed or not.

      1. Carry on like that admin and you will only be ridiculing your own future. That is said in sadness.

      2. That was actually quite funny. I sincerely hope, and expect, that you’re wrong though.

  3. Cheap admin shot there…expect better than that. There’s a lot more of us than you’d think.

    Besides, ‘we’ have been using that logo for ages now. Go find your own logo….

  4. I’m very happy with Johann Lamont as leader an I don’t think we need a make-over.

    For the Conservative Party, being seen as such is toxic in Scotland. I herd that CFS were going to change their name to something like the “Progressive unionists” or something.

    The truth is, the only way the Tories can change their fortunes in Scotland is to change name – a different logo will just make them even more unrecognisable.

  5. If Labour was to create a new logo straight after the Conservatives changed theirs, I’m sure that would go down well. Logos shouldn’t be changed just because someone else changes theres – change for the sake of change is rather pointless.

    Saying that, I think the change you speak of isn’t just about changing a logo. It is my, and quite a few others’ beliefs, that Scottish Labour needs to undergo some major changes if it is to win in 2016. Thankfully, some of those changes are starting to happen. We need to keep this process going however and ensure that Labour is at the forefront of progressive policy for many years to come.

  6. I can agree Tom, with what your saying, mostly. However if my memory is correct the Rose of Scotland is White, not Red. Red Rose will always be associated with England.
    As for the Tories, well what can I say, their new logo is, shall I say it, a little suspect? “Double cross” was my instant reaction? As they say, if the hat fits…..

  7. You have to admire the self awareness of a party which brands itself with a double cross.

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