Keep the pink flag flying. Photo: YouTube screengrab
Show Hide image

Yes, it's bright pink and looks silly, but at least Labour has a women's campaign bus

Labour has received mockery and outrage over its choice of a hot pink minibus to launch its campaign targeted at female voters.

This week, Labour’s latest campaign strategy – and election gaffe ­– came triumphantly zooming onto our screens in the form of a hot pink minibus. The party chose the offending colour to slather all over its battle bus launching its drive to attract female voters: “Woman to Woman”.

Harriet Harman, the deputy leader who is fronting the initiative, had to defend the decision to make it pink after the party received a clickload of mockery and derision over social media. She insisted the campaign bus is not “patronising” to women, said the colour was chosen by “a collective” (how else?) and tried to make light of the uproar, joking, “Is it not magenta or something?”

Apparently they tried red, but it “looked the same as everything else”, darker red looked like “a Pret delivery van” and the women’s campaign wanted something “visible and conspicuous, to mark it out, to be different”. Shadow women and equalities minister Gloria de Piero thought it was “cerise”.

There was also the defence that it is Labour’s “One Nation” colour (the party has indeed been using a bright pink Union Jack design for its conference and speech backdrops for a number of years now).

As the politics bloggers, Guido Fawkes, pointed out, certain Labour figures – such as the shadow frontbencher Chi Onwurah – have been vocal in the war on pink. Onwurah said last year: “Why should young girls be brought up in an all pink environment? It does not reflect the real world.” And another of Ed Miliband’s team, Stella Creasy MP, has had much success in her campaign against gendered toys.

Disbelief at the ill-judged “stunt” to drive Harman and other Labour women around the country in a pink van in a bid to attract female voters has been widespread, but has distracted from the key point: Labour actually has a women’s campaign.

The party’s idea is to demonstrate that politics is not a “men-only” activity, and to create a “Domesday Book” of the electoral wishes of women voters – much like its universities spokesperson Liam Byrne and others have been doing to compile a young person’s manifesto.

Harman and co are embarking upon a 70-constituency tour to find out what women would want to see from a Labour government, in a special bid for the 9.1m women who didn’t turn out to vote in 2010 to have their voices heard. Labour will use its campaign to inform its policies on domestic violence, childcare, equal pay, representation in the workplace, the NHS, and care for the elderly.

Other parties do have plans in these areas too, but none have their own women’s campaign to ensure they are prioritised throughout the election campaign. And it’s worth noting that the Tories’ last memorable campaign on wheels told immigrants to go home.

The government also has a much weaker appeal to female voters than Labour already has. Polling throughout this parliament, and particularly recent surveys of mothers’ voting intentions, shows Labour remains way ahead of the Conservatives.

The NHS and cost of living – key to Labour’s election campaign – are women voters’ top priorities. And when it comes to mothers, the Tories are 20 points behind Labour.

Having been the only party to use all-women shortlists, Labour has led the charge in parliament to have more women’s representation, and over half of its target seats this time round have female candidates. The Telegraph reports Labour’s projection that if it were to win a majority, 43 per cent of its MPs would be women.

So yes, we may snigger as the big pink blunder-bus whizzes by, but with Labour’s superior record and intentions regarding its help for the 51 per cent of the population hit hardest by coalition reforms, Harman’s campaign is the right gesture – even if it is the wrong colour.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496