EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dem general election battlebus is going to be different…

General elections are really unusual beasts. There’s very little inside politics, let alone outside politics, to match what running a national general election campaign is like.

That makes doing it well a challenge, especially given typical staff turnover between elections. It’s one of the problems that the Thornhill Review highlighted.

Which is why, as I mentioned in my May report back, the party is using this May’s local elections as a dry-run for a general election. The compliance tam, for example, will be trialling a daily Zoom drop-in surgery to support agents.

Ed Davey is also putting in a very extensive and gruelling national tour, the main intent of which is to help win more council seats this May but also being done as a dry run for the general election.

Those of you who know a few faces from around the party and watched the footage of the party’s local election campaign launch very closely will have noticed some old familiar faces in the background, back volunteering for this campaign to practice working as a leader’s tour team.

But it’s not only the people getting a test. The Ed Davey campaign battlebus is also getting a try out.

Or rather, the replacement for the cliché of a battlebus.

What our recent big media moment stunts have demonstrated in this Parliament is how much the media loves a cheesy stunt – and how often those stunts have therefore got more coverage than the clashing Labour party media events. Yellow hammers beat standing in a car park. (Yes, that really was one of Keir Starmer’s election victory celebration photo op.)

And so the party’s cheese-merchants-in-chief have been bashing around ideas to replace a traditional battlebus with something more eye-catching.

Which is why that local election launch featured Ed Davey in a tractor.

If you watched very closely, you’ll have seen that he wasn’t driving it, but rather had a driver beside him, a press officer squeezed in behind them both next to a compact coffee machine, with a trailer pulled along behind loaded up with a group of mannequins.

For the choice of a tractor wasn’t a subtle jibe at the previous Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton. Rather, it was a test for doing a leader’s election tour by tractor.

The idea is that it’ll make for a much more visually attractive leader’s tour, and one where every image sends the right message. Hands on, getting things done, caring about rural areas. A bus is just a bus, but a tractor is a message.

The tractor’s superior handling qualities on rough surfaces will also make it much better suited to reaching parts of the party’s key Scottish and Welsh target seats – and indeed at navigating the neglected potholed nightmares of roads that grace so many of our Blue Wall targets seats with their badly run Conservative councils.

The tractor’s trailer has been specially kitted out to provide transport for the press pack. It’s an adapted open-air trailer with a mini-marquee to keep off the weather and day-glow orange cushions made to fit the benches. The mannequins were loaded up to test out out the trailer performs under the weight of the press pack. A generous party donor in the aerospace industry has provided access to a “wet wind tunnel” to allow for all weather testing later this summer.

I’ll be frank that the plans have proved a little controversial internally. The short range of electric tractors means the campaign battle tractor runs on diesel and therefore it was only on a 7-6 vote that the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC) approved the plans earlier this month. The key swing vote was new FCEC member, a tractor driver themselves, Loof Lirpa.

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3 responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dem general election battlebus is going to be different…”

  1. is it legal to carry passengers on a trailer, unless designed for the purpose, and passing the construction and use regulations..?
    will your insurers be happy.?
    and. the tractor cab, ideally, should be one with front opening doors, so that Ed can actually be seen when he pops his head out. This time he could hardly be seen because of the framing of the cab door and the big wing mirrors..

  2. With the possibility of a December/January GE in the winter of 2024/5 I assume that on the 1st April next year that you’ll be announcing that Ed has been practising driving a smow plough as a contingency measure!

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