Take a Pink Bus and add a General Election

I’m apolitical. I hold no party allegiance. I dislike them all equally. However I’m absolutely fascinated by politics.

For me, this week has marked the start of what will no doubt be a completely hilarious run up to the General Election in May. Everyone knows it’s very close and there will be no outright winner – we’re heading for a coalition again and most likely a Labour-led one. This closeness means the two main parties are fighting for the votes of the undecided and the people who don’t traditionally vote: namely, young people and less-well-off women.

Enter the Pink Bus. Well, it’s a van really and it’s not pink but a ‘One Nation Labour colour’ evidently (didn’t see that one in my paint box as a kid in the 1970s). Anyway, regardless of colour or type, the bus is a prime example of political PR gone mad. It’s only slightly worse than the Conservative Party’s online poster from May 2014 with the strapline: ‘Cutting the Bingo Tax and Beer Duty. To help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy’.

In PR terms both fail. The bus and the poster are incredibly patronising, make sweeping generalisations about the lives of millions of people and lump them all together under one focus-group heading. Women like pink and will therefore vote Labour if you give them women politicians in a One Nation Labour colour. Working class people like beer and bingo therefore if you make those things cheaper – and chuck in a few free flat caps and whippets - they will vote Conservative. Even politicians who have zero empathy, no self-awareness and have never had a job outside politics must see that this is ridiculous.

But patronising and sweeping generalisations aside, could any part of their reasoning be correct? Will pink buses and cheaper beer and bingo get their target audiences to vote for them? Well…no. They’re not right because for an undecided or a reluctant voter - or indeed a significant number of voters who thought they were aligned to one party but are now not so sure - the decision-making process is extremely complex. It’s mired in tradition, exasperation, apathy, frustration, fear, previous hurt and future hope.

But most of all, asking someone to vote for you is asking them to trust you. And of course, the biggest problem for politicians today is not that they don’t have enough pink buses, it’s that people don’t trust them. In PR terms, until they can regain some trust - and that means new leaders all round - no amount of beer, bingo or buses will save us from another coalition.