Two-thirds of Brits want new political party to fight against Tories and Labour : r/unitedkingdomTwo-thirds of Brits want new political party to fight against Tories and Labour : r/unitedkingdom

With the UK’s general election just days away, British voters are seeing a burst of colors everywhere they look. Their TV screens, mailboxes, and newsfeeds are all filled with vibrant hues.Although the older, established parties trace these associations back to their foundation, the importance of color in campaigning blossomed with the advent of new technology and advertising between the 1950s and 1970s, explained Dominic Wring, a professor of political communication at the UK’s Loughborough University.

Much like commercial brands, political parties understand that a single, bold color can make them instantly recognizable. Whether it’s out on the campaign trail or checking the latest polls, these colors help voters quickly identify each party.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during Scotland's election campaign manifesto launch on June 24, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

On July 4, the blue of the ruling Conservatives will face off against the red of Labour. While these are the only two parties with a realistic chance of winning the election, other smaller parties add a splash of diverse — and sometimes similar — colors. The Liberal Democrats (orange), Reform UK (turquoise), and the Green Party (you guessed it, green) are all vying for votes.

The Scottish National Party uses yellow, while Northern Ireland’s Sinn Féin and Wales’ Plaid Cymru are represented by nearly identical shades of green.

Though older, established parties have long-standing associations with their colors, the significance of color in political campaigns grew with the advent of new technology and advertising between the 1950s and 1970s, explains Dominic Wring, a professor of political communication at the UK’s Loughborough University.

“The advertising industry itself underwent a transformation with the introduction of color television,” he explained in a phone interview. “As a result, colors and more innovative designs became increasingly important. During this period, political parties began to simplify their messaging.”

Beyond basic brand recognition, certain colors have been associated with specific values and ideologies for a long time. For example, yellow is often linked to liberalism, while black has traditionally represented anarchism or fascism. This is especially true in Britain, where followers of the British Union of Fascists in the 1920s and 1930s were known as “Blackshirts.”

For the Labour Party, red was an obvious choice given its strong ties with trade unions, social democrats, and democratic socialists. Since the French Revolution, red has been widely associated with left-wing politics, symbolizing the blood of workers who died fighting against oppression.

When Labour was founded in the early 20th century, it adopted a red flag as its official logo. “The color is central and symbolic to the labor movement and has been since that period,” said Wring, noting that the party’s logo has since evolved to a red rose.

The Conservative Party has traditionally embraced the colors of the United Kingdom’s flag — red, white, and blue — to position itself as a defender of British values. Of these, ultramarine blue became its main color, symbolizing wealth and conservatism, and remains prominent in its branding, even though the current tree logo features a lighter shade.

For smaller parties, color choices have often been straightforward. The Green Party, for example, uses green, reflecting its environmental focus. Others, like the Liberal Democrats, have been more pragmatic. The Liberal Democrats’ orange emerged from the merger of the Liberal Party (yellow) and the Social Democratic Party (red), creating a unique identity.Traditionally the most expensive color to produce, blue has long held connotations of wealth and conservatism.

Additionally, the color orange provided the Liberal Democrats with a distinct advantage: it was unclaimed by other major parties. With the Scottish National Party using yellow, switching to orange helped the Liberal Democrats stand out, especially as they grew to become the UK’s third largest party until the 2019 election.

For recent newcomers like the short-lived Referendum Party in the 1990s (pink) or the UK Independence Party (purple), distinct colors help them stand out in a crowded political landscape.

While some colors have historical links, none are permanently tied to specific ideologies. For instance, in Europe, orange is associated with the Christian Democrats and post-Soviet uprisings like Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” In other countries, green may represent Islamic parties rather than environmental ones. Brown, despite its links to Nazi groups, is also prominent in the logo of the Marijuana Party of Canada.

Even the idea that blue and red represent right and left-wing parties, respectively, is inconsistent. In the US, Democrats are blue while the more conservative Republicans are red. Before the 1988 presidential election, TV networks often did the opposite, and the terms “red states” and “blue states” only became common during the 2000 presidential election.

The irony in both the US and Britain is that despite the color-coded campaigning, the ballot papers on voting day are printed in black and white, meaning the final, crucial decision is made without any color cues.

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