The Candidate’s Aide’s Briefing – Lesson 3 – Open topped Vehicles


Cornish lanes are very narrow - battle buses can get lodged between cottages by their tannoys!

No election campaign is complete without the health hazard that is a ride in an open topped bus.

Roaring along the roads of Littleborough and Saddleworth, during the 1995 by-election, on the top of an open topped Southport bus, was something to remember.

Chris Davies’ campaign needed a bit of razzmatazz and so I was given the job of organising a whistle stop tour on top of the bus.  It was a great day with David Steel, Liz Lynne, Chris and a local brass band. 

The only problem when whizzing along Lancashire lanes was that overhanging trees can be quite a hazard at high speed, and on more than one occasion the advice to ‘duck’ was roared by one, or other, of the team.

This did not compare to my first experience of an open topped vehicle, a flat bed van, with Nancy Seear, during the Mid-Staffordshire by-election.  I am sure this would no longer be allowed in public due to health and safety, but the sight of Nancy on the back of a lorry, bellowing over a public address is the nearest experience, that is possible, to getting to Boudica charging into battle.

However the 2005 election, in South East Cornwall, explains perfectly the hazards of open topped buses in election campaigning.

The election was going well in Cornwall, but the public lacked enthusiasm for our campaign, so we decided on a bit of high profile, ‘visibility’!

We did a grand tour of the constituency with a set route, and the ubiquitous brass band.  Having visited Torpoint we set off for Saltash.  Now those that know the area will tell you that the shortest route, without going into Devon, from one to the other can go through a village called St Germans, but knowing the size of the vehicle we had decided to take the long way round.

Thinking he knew better the candidate decided that a diversion, via the village, and a quick blast of the tannoy, was the perfect route.

Cornish lanes do not lend themselves to large vehicles, and unsurprising to the organisers a large ‘CLANG!’ rang out from the front of the vehicle as we drove through the village.

On inspection we discovered that the bus was jammed, via its tannoy horn, to a cottage wall and due to the way it had stopped the bus could not move either forward or back.

After a lengthy impromptu speech from the MP to vote for the Liberal Democrats, and several bursts from the brass band to cover up the swearing and heaving,  the bus was released from the cottage wall, but not after a lot of red faces and apologies from the candidate to both the cottage resident and party staff.

It was a great day!

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