Sunday, 15 February 2015

Labour should park its pink bus along with all the other gimmicks.

This week shoppers at a branch of ASDA in Stevenage were treated to an offer that was 'special' in entirely the wrong way.

It was the launch of the Labour Party's 'Woman to Woman' campaign and involved deputy leader Harriet Harman trundling up in a van the colour of a sunburnt Miss Piggy in search of the party's lost female voters.

To say this first big stunt of the coming election campaign caused a bit of a fuss is rather like saying the pigeons got a bit of a surprise when a dirty great cat appeared in their midst.

Twitter went wild with users, not all of them women, burning up their keyboards typing out pithy messages about how this was 'patronising' and 'sexist.' Even the usually Labour friendly Daily Mirror got in on the act with political correspondent Kevin Maguire tweeting 'Pink? Pink? I'd have expected Harriet Harman to demand a blue bus election bus to fight gender stereotypes.'

Defending the whole sorry stunt in an interview with ITV's This Morning show Harman said the colour of the van, which she had twisted herself into comical knots trying to say was magenta rather than pink, had to be eye catching because 'there is a big hole in our democratic politics.'

Its one shaped like the 9.1 million women who chose not to vote in the 2010 general election because, she said, 'they just don't think politicians have any interest in their lives,' and that she wanted to send the message to women to 'use your vote, use your voice because politics is too important to be left only to men.'

Noble sentiments, most things are too important to be left only to men; at least they are if you want anything to get done about them.

Later, speaking to the Huffington Post Harriet Harman defended the colour of the bus (its pink not magenta OK) said 'well it doesn't have big pink eyelashes on the front;' phew what a relief, because that would have been really patronising wouldn't it?

She also claimed her 'Woman to Woman' campaign was was the first campaign aimed at women, which would have come as a bit of a shock to the suffragettes.

There are times when the antics of politicians really do make you despair, its almost as if they're trying to make themselves irrelevant; this is one such occasion.

Supporters may point to the fact that a ComRes poll conducted for the Independent on Sunday still gives Labour a small lead over the Conservatives, but a bungle this big so early on could be a further nail in the party's electoral coffin. The same poll shows Ed Milliband trailing David Cameron on most questions relating to leadership abilities and sanctioning a mess like this is hardly going to do him any favours.

This is a scheme that is long on marketing gimmickry and painfully short on actual ideas, politicians trundling around the country in a bus looking for voters is hardly an original concept. The fact they've decided the colour of the bus matters to which voters they attract is a new wrinkle, suggesting they think the whole process is a bit like hunting for moths. As a whole though it is all too sadly typical of the sort of nonsense Labour have been prey to since the advent of Tony Blair.

You have to feel sorry for Harriet Harman, she is an intelligent woman who has spent her career speaking up for her gender in parliament, often facing harsh criticism and cheap ridicule in the process; she deserves better than being wheeled out to front stupidity of this sort.

This is further proof that Labour, in this instance, the Tories with their black tie balls and Fifty Shades of Grey style relationship with city hedge funds are sure to come up with something equally silly some time soon, are totally out of touch with the electorate.

There is no such thing as 'women's issues', in the sense of issues that are of concern to women and nobody else. Men often think that more should be done about domestic violence or to improve access to affordable childcare; women want the government to do more to help small businesses and think the UK should have a strong defence policy.

Personal experience is a far more reliable guide to political priorities than gender or any other crude generalisation. Thinking this isn't the case is in effect supporting the 'divide and rule' tactics that force voters into dozens of small camps each set against the other that supports the defunct status quo.

It is a mindset that Labour, a party that originated in a radical challenge to the establishment, should be fighting against; not endorsing through silly stunts, however well meant they might be.

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