How a brilliantly simple slogan helped the Labour Party win control of the U.K.

After 14 years out of power, the United Kingdom’s Labour Party won a majority in the July 4 parliamentary elections to take back control of government. They did it with a simple message: “Change.”

Political messaging often boils down to one of two sentiments: now is the time for change, or now is the time to stay the course. See former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign slogans during his first campaign versus his second: “Change we can believe in” in 2008 compared to “Forward” in 2012.

[Screenshot: courtesy of the author]

The cleverness in the Labour Party’s branding is that it was hardly clever at all. The party stuck largely to a one-word slogan that could be easily adapted. They used it across signage and advertising, rendered in a no nonsense typeface and set against the deep “Labour Red” (Pantone 199). Campaign signs held by supporters at events showed elements of the Union Jack flag and read “Change,” while digital ad templates used by local candidates had room for a candidate photo and the slogan “Vote for Change.”

[Screenshots: courtesy of the author]

Other social media assets read “It’s time for change. Vote for it,” and Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is now prime minister, unveiled a wallet-sized “pledge card” in May that listed six steps he would take “for change” if Labour won, like cutting wait times for the National Health Service and recruiting new teachers. The card featured a serious black-and-white photo of Starmer, who some compared to a photo of former Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1997.

Labour did have a secondary slogan that its brand guide calls its strapline: “Let’s Get Britain’s Future Back.” To American ears, it sounds vaguely MAGA, looking both forward—“Make America Great Again”—and backwards. Like MAGA, “Change” is a slogan that benefits from its lack of incumbency. Labour was able to frame the Conservatives as the party of Brexit, inflation, and pandemic response. The U.K. had lost its way, so vote for change.

[Screenshot: courtesy of the author]

Bigger branding lessons

Political observers in the U.S. sometimes look to election results from allied Western democracies for a tea leaf reading of the global political zeitgeist. With Labour’s U.K. win along with victories over the weekend in France by leftist and centrist parties over the far right, panicked Democrats may take heart.

But there’s a major difference between the political landscapes faced by the Labour and Democratic parties. As the incumbent, President Joe Biden isn’t running on change like Labour could; instead, he’s running on staying the course.

Biden’s camp chose “Finish the job” as his slogan. Meanwhile former President Donald Trump can now run as an outsider candidate who promises to bring change.

For Biden, there is no easy parallel between Labour’s strong showing and Democrats’ hopes for November. Instead, he’s running with a message that any change Trump makes will be ultimately be bad for the country. It’s a tricky needle to thread, but considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on presidential immunity and “Project 2025,” the recently released blueprint for a second term written by Trump allies, the Biden campaign has new material to work with. They may well take at least one lesson from the Labour Party’s victory, though: Keep it simple.

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