This entry was posted on
Wednesday, April 6th, 2005 at
9:44 am and is filed
under UK General Election 2005.
We started – as planned – at The Dome.
No we didn’t. We expected Blair (and the press) to be at Buckingham Palace at 10am, so we made an unannounced start there. The only problem was Blair shifted this time to 11am, by which time we were at The Dome and not expecting to see any journalists given certain priorities. So we missed the press at Buck House and they were all too busy to come and see us at The Dome.
No matter. We’d made an educated guess as to what the announcement date would be and planned to make our first outing on the day the election was announced or the day after. And it turns out we were spot on.Anyway, let’s get back to The Plan…About The TruckWe took the precaution of making our message very clear on the front and back of the van (Labour In. Blair Out.) but this campaign had three purposes:1) Reach potential supporters2) Get press attention3) Play on (and gauge) the level to which people have been flummoxed by Blair’s spin and propaganda over the last few years.Basically, we wanted to come driving down the street and confront people with a contemporary Orwellian campaign tool. So the sides of the truck were adorned with giant (48-sheet) versions of the core Backing Blair poster (Mr Personality styled a’la Big Brother and the slogan; NO ALTERNATIVE) and – to build on this and get people’s attention in busy streets/lives, we further enhanced the truck with a soundtrack, fed into two external speakers (provided as standard kit by the good people at Posters On Wheels).Here’s a copy of the script. The first three announcements were repeated a few times in the main loop. Each announcement was preceded by a good old-fashioned fanfare, and those that were most effective have been highlighted thusly*:-*A vote for Tony Blair protects you from the terrorist threat. Make sure your neighbours are aware of the dangers of a Conservative government.*The terrorists want to kill you. We love you! Please don’t vote for terrorists.*The internets are full of pornography! Stay away from the internets! Place your trust instead in the many fine media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch.Eat more sausages. Sausages are an inexpensive source of protein.*George W. Bush is your friend! 51% of Americans prefer George W. Bush to cheese on toast.*Attention! Your attention, please! Our forces in Iraq have won a glorious victory by bringing democratic elections to that country with minimal civilian casualties. I am authorised to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the conflict in Iraq within measurable distance of its end.From this day on, all bubble wrap will be filled with Helium in order to make parcels lighter and therefore cheaper to transport. This is yet another bold initiative from Labour – the forward-thinking party!It is legal for a male to urinate in public, as long it is on the rear wheel of his motor vehicle and his right hand is on the vehicle. Skateboards do not count as vehicles.Look under more mattresses! 60% of the British population hide contraband under their mattresses!Anti-terror laws allow us to detain individuals for crimes that may be committed in the future. If you hear, see or imagine anything that may be linked to terrorist activity tomorrow, please call our terrorist hotline yesterday.Stop wasting money on charity! By playing the National Lottery, your money goes to worthy causes and you stand a very good chance of winning a million pounds!-Also, between loops of announcements, we played one of three songs:Things Can Only Get Better – D-ReamUnbelievable – EMFImperial March (from Star Wars) – Skweeg (you can check out a copy of this excellent interpretation here.We ended up skipping to certain tracks (be they announcements or music) depending on where we were. In streets where traffic was moving quickly, we often switched to music. When traffic was slow enough for people to catch them, we used the announcements.’Things’ was the most effective song, but the Imperial March also turned a lot of heads with its promise of a great menace to come.Reactions to the TruckThe Masses:I’ve decided against calling them the unwashed masses, because it’s now clear just how much they will allow to wash right over them. A disturbing number of people – when confronted with a presidential-style campaign ‘for’ Tony Blair declaring that a vote for Blair would protect them from the terrorist threat – accepted this as part of life and filed it under background noise. You may want to have a good, long think about that.The Outraged:More cause for concern. These were people who accepted this as real and shouted abuse at us/Blair. This should also be of concern to the Labour Party. If London is any indication, Blair is more unpopular than their polls may lead them to believe. Comments included:”Blair sucks!””Fuck Blair!””I hope you can live with yourselves!”One chap who came up to the truck and confronted us with “Blair is guilty of genocide!” was very happy to find out what we were really doing.The Blankers:They saw us. They were aware of us. But they were obviously determined not to let us know about it, so they absorbed what they could via peripheral vision. One guy doing this ended up walking sideways in an effort to look casual.The Confused:There were two clear types here; those who saw the van and tilted their head to one side like a puppy-dog and those who silently mouthed the words (‘Labour In. Blair Out.’ etc.) as they tried to decode the message and/or its purpose.The Bright Sparks:Some of these people began as The Confused, but a refreshing number of people got it straight away (the number of people who did so increased when we played ‘Things’). Those that took some time to graduate from one to the other did so simply by processing the information and coming to a successful conclusion, others were helped along by the announcements. The area with the most Bright Sparks (which is no surprise given that the daytime residents are typically familiar with marketing and messaging) was the advertising district in Soho.The Route9:50am – I met up with the truck at Victoria station and had a quick chat with my very knowledgeable and friendly driver about initial reactions as he drove into London. He does this kind of thing all the time, but was struck by the frequency (and varying nature) of reactions.10:00am – We did a quick run past Buckingham Palace, but there was no-one of consequence there, so we headed of for the first official stop at Greenwich.UPDATE – There were press photographers there after all. We didn’t see them… but they saw us! (See screengrab above or click here. Cheers to Daily Mail Watch for the heads-up.)11:00am – The Dome. As Murky points out here (while posting that he just missed us), the place is a godforsaken wasteland. The only human being we came across was a security guard who wanted to know if we were coming back. Perhaps he was lonely.12:00am – Canary Wharf. We’d done a drive-by of the Cutty Sark and environs before approaching Canary Wharf. We did a drive-by of News International in case we decided to delve deeper later, and then made our approach to the privately-owned Canary Wharf Tower complex. Guido was smart enough to place himself on this approach and he waved us down so he could ride with us for a short bit. So, armed with a carefully packaged press release we wanted to deliver to the Torygraph and (now) a passenger that we needed to drop off at the tube station, we made our way to the front gate. It was pretty clear by this stage that a lap or two was out of the question, so we planned on getting in, delivering the package and getting out. The guards at the gate seemed happy enough about this, so we got through without incident.However… we only got about 200 yards before we were waved down by a wandering rent-a-cop. He was very unhappy when he saw the truck, and even less happy when he saw the video camera on my lap. I sense he would have been even more upset had he known that it was rolling the whole time he was there giving us a bollocking about taking pictures. (Oops!)Guido – clever and sensitive chap that he is – chose this moment to get out of the truck and start taking pictures of the rent-a-cop telling us not to take pictures. The rent-a-cop pretty much lost it at this stage, and started taking down the vehicle’s details as he informed us that the truck he didn’t want there was going to stay there until the police arrived.It took me a long time to get his attention at this point, as he was quite intent on giving us a burger with the works. But I did get his attention, and attempted to use logic.1) The truck wasn’t supposed to be inside the complex, but we hadn’t sneaked through a fence – we had passed through the gate. Therefore his issue was with the people on the gate who let us in.2) They let us in because we had a passenger to drop off and a package to deliver. If we gave the package to the passenger so he could deliver it, we could be on our way immediately.At this stage he almost lost it again, as he looked over to see that our passenger had now wandered off across the road to take yet more pictures… but in the end logic won and were allowed to be on our merry way – but not before being informed that “an official report would be filed”…1:00pm – The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus. Refreshed and enthused as we were by this early bout of argy-bargy, we decided against visiting News International, and headed for these busy areas of London for a few slow laps.The tourists were easy to spot – they were the ones taking pictures of us. At one stage we passed an open-topped tour bus and one chap stood up and turned around to take our picture. Then another passenger did the same thing. And another and another. They were all very lucky the bus didn’t start off suddenly, or they would’ve been in a right pickle.Anyway, around and around and around we went to prompt many looks of concern, confusion and joy. The news of the election announcement had reached most people by this stage, so the timing was great. Apprehension was met with a grim ‘reality’ time and again…2:00pm – Westminster. Many, many, many laps. We went around the square, down past Abingdon Green and back around again and again and again. I jumped out to get plenty of photos and video footage, and met up with A Chap Who Wishes To Remain Nameless who turned up to do the same thing. He took this rather fine photo of the truck and the statue of Winston Churchill:He also took this great picture of a bus in front of Downing St. Um, and our van behind it. (I was busy getting video footage of this encounter at the time.)We passed by in the background of a lot of ‘to camera’ pieces and definitely got shot by two professional photographers (I’ve checked this morning’s papers, but no joy yet).We also did a quick side-trip in order to drive down Old Queen Street and past Labour HQ. We waved. No-one waved back.The rest of the afternoon was spent following suggestions from the driver (who – as I said – does this kind of thing all the time). The best passes took place at around 5:15pm in and around Cannon Street and London Bridge.At around 6pm, we stopped by Westminster again and Tom Watson quite sportingly agreed to have his picture taken with the truck.From there, we were off to Waterloo for the 3rd London meeting of Backing Blair. And that’s about it.I’ll do what I can to get video footage online in the next few days.Cheers all.UPDATE – Some video footage not taken by me is available in the interim via this post at Backing Blair.