Expert Blog

The new politics of the white van driver

When it boasts about the pace of the economic recovery, the Government likes to point out that more people are in work than ever before. But there’s another, similar factoid that doesn’t get as much airtime, although it should. There are now more vans on Britain’s roads than ever before. According to recent statistics, there are about 3.3 million of them pushing goods and workmen through the capillaries of our economy. And guess what the most popular colour is. Yep, that’s right: white.

The Government may finally be waking up to these heartening statistics, though. One of the country’s 1.9 million white van drivers was, I’m sure you noticed, recently at the heart of a political storm over a disobliging tweet by a Labour MP. And this provoked the Conservatives into a chest-thumping response. Indeed, George Osborne’s entire Autumn Statement was spun as a paean to white van drivers. Our own verdict at the time was that it mostly succeeded – although there are questions about whether the Chancellor will actually deliver on his promises. 

This appeal to white van drivers has continued into the New Year. A few weeks ago, David Cameron joined The Sun in celebrating the rise and rise of White Van Women. They are, he told Robert Halfon MP in Prime Ministers’ Questions, the ‘wheels’ of the recovery. And, as it happens, they also count towards another record high: six percent of all tradespeople are women.

It’s only right that these numbers are celebrated. Male and female white van drivers are, as we’ve said before, the oil that makes our county run smoothly. They deliver our parcels, fix our plumbing, carry our groceries… and so much else. By some estimates, they contribute well over £50 billion a year to the economy, which is enough to make the recession seem a distant and diminishing nightmare. We ought to be very grateful for their endeavours.

And what a year to show that gratitude. You can forget the politicians fighting for votes ahead of the General Election; it’s also the fiftieth anniversary of the Ford Transit van. More than seven million Transits have been sold worldwide since 1965. And guess what the most popular colour is. Yep, you got it again. Three cheers for the white van drivers.

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