[Picture from ITV News: http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/update/2015-02-18/prime-minister-visits-the-region/]
A little while ago, we wrote about the new politics of the white van driver. Our point was that, as the election approaches, politicians seem to be going all out for the votes of white van men and women. George Osborne practically dedicated his last Autumn Statement to them. David Cameron recently lauded them in Prime Minister’s Questions. And then Labour’s Emily Thornberry… oh, wait, that’s not such a good example.
The reason we mention it is because the politicians have been at it again. A week or so ago, Mr Cameron visited Vauxhall’s van plant in Luton. He was there, ostensibly, to talk about the Coalition’s apprenticeship programme. But, in truth, this was more about the photo-op. The Prime Minister was snapped fitting a front grille to one of the vehicles coming off the assembly line. Not only is he celebrating white vans, he’s now making them too.
In this way, white vans are becoming one of the great symbols of the forthcoming election – and in the same year that the Ford Transit turns fifty, too. It’s easy to see why. As we’ve written before, white vans have always represented something about the British people and their qualities: resourcefulness, ambition and sheer grit. It suits politicians to be associated with those same qualities themselves, particularly when they’ve got an economic recovery to sell. And it probably suits the Tories doubly so. Most opinion polls suggest that they’re still seen as a party of and for the rich. Fitting more front grilles could help dispel that notion.
And what of Labour? They’ve been playing with vans as well. Except theirs wasn’t white. It was pink. They took a pink Transit on to the roads to try and appeal to women voters – but were promptly accused of sexism because of the colour. It was left to Harriet Harman to try and defend it as a ‘One Nation’ hue.
Well, that’s politics for you. And the way it’s going, we may have to introduce a special ‘Van Watch’ segment during the election campaign. Stay tuned for more.