Three things you can count on during the General Election campaign are PR gaffes, silly news stories and journalists travelling around the country using various modes of transport.
This week, those three collided as Channel 4’s Michael Crick took a pink Cadillac on the road in search of Labour’s little pink bus.
The little pink bus is touring the country as part of a campaign to get more women to vote.
Because women love pink.
And if that doesn’t work, Labour has a plan B which involves sticking a ribbon on it and painting some puppies, unicorns and ponies on the side.
The decision to woo women with a pink bus certainly attracted a mix of criticism and derision this week and a level of media coverage that was probably disproportionate to whatever offence it really caused.
However, while some cried “patronising” and others cried “massive over-reaction” it does seem odd that nobody in Labour’s hapless PR team could see how this would inevitably backfire at a time when the media knives are out for the party and everybody is looking to see the awkward and the ludicrous in all they do.
But undeterred by accusations of being patronising, Harman headed off in her little pink bus in search of some women to talk to in kitchens and supermarkets.
Inevitably some have suggested men are the real victims in all of this. Overlooked and forgotten about once more. So perhaps we should expect to see Ed Balls touring the country in a tank that plays the Match of the Day theme and fires out cans of lager.
Not to be outdone by Labour’s little pink PR snafu, the Conservatives staged a glittering £15,000 per table PR horror show / fundraising ball this week where super rich party supporters were given the opportunity to get their credit cards out and ingratiate themselves with the Tory hierarchy.
This festival of fat-cattery included an auction where donors keen to curry favour could bid for lots such as a copy of the budget, signed by George Osborne.
Imagine waking up with a stinking hangover and the dread sense you did something really stupid last night, only to remember you paid a fortune for a copy of the budget, signed by George Osborne.
For most normal people there would be no coming back from that. Even once you?d destroyed the evidence by shredding it and burning the receipt and credit card bill and moved house and changed your name, the shame would never leave you. You’d never be able to see George Osborne on television without being wracked with a crippling sense of guilt and self-loathing.
“Why do you leave the room to go and sit in the kitchen sobbing whenever George Osborne comes on television?” a family member might ask, if that didn’t actually seem a pretty reasonable reaction.
Or how about shoe shopping with Theresa May?
No me either.
But apparently that lot raised £17,500. That’s right, somebody paid £17,500 to go shoe shopping with the Home Secretary though presumably they were more interested in ?talking shop? than talking shopping. After all, if they were just interested in shoe shopping they could have spent their £17,500 far more wisely.
£17,500 would buy a lot of shoes.
The auction is really a mechanism for packaging up large donations to the party while avoiding some of the ugliness of just handing over a wad of cash with a nod and a wink. As a fundraising exercise it was no doubt a massive success but from a PR point of view it will surely have served only to reinforce many voters’ suspicions about the party.
It’s almost as if they sat around brainstorming the worst possible idea for an event.
“What can we do to show people how little we care about what they think and how far removed our lives are from their dismal existence?”
“What about a £15,000 per table ball?”
“With an auction!”
“Where people shell out thousands for relatively worthless items, like tea with Julian Fellowes or some roast chicken with Michael Gove.”
The Tory party gets to bank the cash, the donor gets to bank a favour and somebody gets to eat chicken with Michael Gove.
Not all the lots fell into the ‘cash for companionship’ with a cabinet minister bracket. There was an opportunity to shoot some pheasants (which was definitely not a typo, apparently), an opportunity to shoot some deer and also the chance to own a JCB digger for anybody whose gardener needs a bit of help with the weeding on the country estate. Bidders could also pay for the chance to kick a poor person down a flight of stairs, burn down a food bank or close a hospital of their choosing.
And finally, The Sun which has often led the criticism of Miliband and Co. last week dispatched a colleague to the foothills of the Himalayas after the Labour leader had joked that there may still be some “yak farmers in Nepal” who haven’t yet seen the infamous photos of him fighting a losing battle against a bacon sandwich.
So The Sun put paid to that:
The Sun spent so much on air fares there was nothing left to spend on the headline.