Harriet Harman's pink bus tour gets off to a bumpy start

Harriet Harman

Labour women have boarded their pink bus on the first day of a tour to woo female voters, despite mockery from David Cameron and Nick Clegg as well as reservations from some on their own side.

Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, said the activists did not care about critics who said it was patronising and pointed out that it did not have big eyelashes on the front. “It’s not about a colour; it’s about something, it’s about our democracy. It’s a small bus but big issues,” she told Sky News.

Harman said it had already attracted the attention of women who wanted to talk about issues ranging from child care to domestic violence. The bus is due to visit 70 constituencies so that activists can talk to some of the nine million women who do not vote.

On a visit to an Asda supermarket in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Harman and her team were heckled by a man who demanded to know why the party did not have a blue bus to talk to men. He was wearing a T-shirt that read, “This Is What A Victim Of Feminism Looks Like”.

It emerged that there had been “doctrinal discussions” about whether a man would be allowed to drive the bus full of women. One of the drivers hired to take the Labour women round the country is a man supplied by the union Unite, although a woman was behind the wheel for the first day of the tour.

As the tour began, the party’s political rivals claimed the van was a condescending gimmick. Speaking at rime minister’s questions, Cameron said it was evidence that the Labour party “can’t talk to women because they’ve got a pink bus touring the country”.

Clegg, the deputy prime minister, told the Western Morning News: “It’s just a tiny bit condescending because it’s bright and pink therefore women relate to it more. It’s a bit like saying that political parties should drive around in macho red sports cars and blokes across the country will suddenly listen to them.”

Mark Ferguson, editor of the LabourList website, also expressed concerns, tweeting that he had thought it was a wind-up when someone first told him about it two weeks ago. He claimed it was an “unnecessary own goal”.

Dr Rosie Campbell, a politics academic from Birkbeck University, told the Huffington Post she could only hope it was an accident given worries about the “pinkification of girlhood”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason and Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 11th February 2015 18.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010