What does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat these days? We wouldn’t know, there’s only about five of them. The wipeout of 2015 pushed their breed deep into endangered status, so much so that their ideological figurehead was driven off into the arms of Mark Zuckerberg, never to be seen on our shores again. The Tim Farron era was a big nothing; the age of Jo Swinson even more inconsequential. Literally nobody in the world knows the sound of Ed Davey’s voice, and only a precious few can recognise his face, recalling from the backs of their mind that he looks like a giant baby that’s been artificially grown-up by Hollywood CGI.
In short, the Lib Dem brand is dead as disco, and where there’s crisis, there is opportunity. With ample money to be made in brand consultancy, we’re pitching to the Liberal Democrats about their options for rejuvenation: a cornucopia of policy stances, rhetorical styles and bold new aesthetics, drawn from their sister parties from all around the world – all of whom are also called the Liberal Democrats.
Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)
Logo: A big, nice flower on a burgundy background.
Ideology: Hard-right Japanese nationalism.
Summary: While it would be unusual for the British Lib Dems to campaign on revising the Japanese constitution to eliminate its post-war commitment to pacifism, you have to say that their sister party in Tokyo could have a thing to teach them about winning elections. The LDP have been so relentless in their grip over Japanese politics that they have only been out of power for four of their 68 years in existence. Better yet, they are – or were – the party of the great Shinzo Abe: statesman, leader and long-time friend of The Fence. If they’re serious about power, you’d hope that our Liberal Democrats would turn eastwards and commit to the land and sea war with China that the Japanese electorate so eagerly wants to see.
Brand synergy: 4/10
Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party
Logo: Two vaguely human figures denuded of meaning to the point of abstraction. The result is a design that looks like a third party video-conferencing platform. A masterwork of corporate blandness.
Ideology: Ostensibly liberal and outward looking; in practice, hard-line authoritarian.
Summary: Founded in 2003 by Islam Karimov, who had previously led the ruling People’s Democratic Party, the Uzbek Lib Dems have held the presidency ever since their inception. Reforms instituted after Karimov’s death in office in 2016 have nominally liberalised their iron grip, but since all other parties in the Oliy Majlis are pro-government, accountability within the Uzbek legislature is a relatively hard concept to quantify. As fans of changing Britain’s voting system, the UK Lib Dems may well take heart at their Uzbek cousins’ grand achievement in politics: creating a legislature where every possible vote is permanently in their favour.
Brand synergy: 5/10
Liberal Democratic Party (Australia)
Logo: A large L, cradling a small D, with racing stripes and a yellow flame.
Ideology: Minarchist libertarianism.
Summary: Now, the Australian Lib Dems are by no means the largest party down under (that would be the Liberals, who are even less liberal) or the nuttiest (that would be One Nation, who are even more nutty), but what they lack in parliamentary representation (currently: 1), they make up for in pure policy. They’ve got hundreds: pro-assisted suicide, anti-lockdown; pro-motocross, anti-food labelling; pro-nuclear, anti-Commonwealth; pro-immigration between Australia and New Zealand, anti-immigration between Australia and anywhere else. All our Lib Dems would need to do is reach in and grab a handful, any handful, of this bumper bag of policies and they’d come out standing for something tangible, even if it’s the abolition of consent laws and a ban on VAT.
Brand synergy: 6/10
Liberal Democratic Party (Lithuania)
Logo: An ominous looking eagle carrying a rosette with ‘TT’ in it. As if veteran character actor Terry-Thomas had asked for his personal monogram to be designed by Albert Speer.
Ideology: They self-identify as ‘left-wing’ but are in fact right-wing. Like the Lib Dems.
Summary: Founded by Rolandas Paksas, a stunt pilot who had been expelled from the country’s main Liberal Party, the Liberal Democrat party of Lithuania managed to capture the country’s presidency in 2003 in an insurgent upset. Regrettably, only a year into their period of power, their leader was impeached over corruption and links to the mafia. The party existed between 2002 and 2006 when it was rebranded as the less cuddly but more accurate ‘ORDER AND JUSTICE’ party. Their main areas of concern were the production, distribution and promotion of a film written by Paksas, the execution of impressively high levels of corruption and soft Euroscepticism.
Brand synergy: 3/10
The Liberal Democratic Party of Pridnestrovie
Logo: Check out those Cyrillics! These Moldovans-who-don’t-want-to-be-Moldovans have got serious steez. And that slashed Transnistrian flag is placed at quite the comely angle.
Ideology: Transnistrian nationalism, obviously; Russophilia; monarchism; right-wing populism. Just the top-shelf stuff only.
Summary: Under leader Valerly Kulakli, the LDPP have precisely zero seats in the unicameral Moldovan legislature, which seems like the ideal state of anti-influence the UK Lib Dems are currently careering towards. However, they are trying to score seats in a country that refuses to recognise them as a legitimate political party and they probably have the backing of the Kremlin.
Brand synergy: 8/10
Liberalna Demokracija Slovenije
Logo: The LDS is set in caps against a cheery, dull, sky-blue background. Then, you’ve got ‘liberalna’ in navy blue, ‘demokracija’ in sky-blue, and ‘slovenije’ in ‘dark green’. Liberalna Demokracija Slovenije? That sounds eerily like a drunk Oxford PPE undergrad making up a fake name for an Eastern European political party in some interminable speech at the Union. (They will be an MP seven years after this speech, before resigning just four years later after misappropriating funds to take their SPad on a ballooning trip to the Cappadocian mountains in Turkey).
Ideology: Standard procedure soft-leftism, as their name suggests.
Summary: Genuinely nothing much to these guys apart from the fact that they had bear-like philosopher and hot dog muncher Slavoj Žižek as their candidate for the Presidency of Slovenia in 1990.
Brand synergy: 7/10
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
Logo: An angry and poorly proportioned drawing of a bird flying over a map of Russia.
Ideology: Neoimperialist revanchism; insanity.
Summary: The party is the brainchild of the late Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who claimed to have been vaccinated eight times against Covid and still managed to die from it. Perhaps the best illustration of the party is a set of lists:
Things they advocate providing for free to the Russian public: weaponry, vodka, husbands, underpants.
Claims made by their leader: that he would carpet-bomb various countries, that the USA is a ‘second-hand shop filled with handjobbers’, that he would burn down Paris, that Barack Obama should divorce his wife Michelle, that he would shoot his political opponents, that ‘Romania’ is not a country but an elaborate scam by Italian gypsies, that Condoleezza Rice had or possibly still has ‘sperm in her ears’.
Party policies: Arming the entire Russian population and instructing them to shoot any migrating birds in order to combat avian flu, martial law, dropping a nuclear bomb in the Atlantic in order to flood Britain, reversing the 1867 Alaska purchase in order to use it to ‘rehome’ Ukrainian people, reversal of the partition of India, free gifts to the Russian people as above.
Brand synergy: Unfulfillable promises, arbitrary handouts, an air of eccentricity concealing deeply troubling beliefs. They’re the perfect match. 10/10.