Battle buses see parties take the general election show on the road

After a series of MPs dramatically crossed the floor to join Labour, Keir Starmer joked that the buses were like Tory defectors – ‘You wait for ages and then three come along in a row’

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Saturday 01 June 2024 18:42 BST
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Keir Starmer’s drive by on Boris Johnson as he launches battle bus: ‘He used to be about’

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Political leaders got the general election show on the road on Saturday on battle buses which will criss-cross Britain over the next month vying for votes.

In an attempt to hammer home its message, Labour unveiled a bright red vehicle emblazoned with the word "Change" more than 30 times.

And in a sign Keir Starmer’s team wants to plant its tanks firmly on Tory lawns, the bus was launched in Uxbridge, in London, Boris Johnson’s old electoral stomping ground.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner departs on the campaign bus
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner departs on the campaign bus (Lucy North/PA Wire)

There, Sir Keir joked about Conservative woes, including the time in the run-up to the 2019 election that the former prime minister hid in a fridge to avoid a TV interview.

Of Labour’s brand-new coach, which is ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) compliant, so did not incur a charge in Uxbridge, Sir Keir said: "I'm reliably told it has got a fridge in the back of it, so check that Boris Johnson isn't in there."

The Labour leader told supporters that his deputy Angela Rayner, who set off on a 5,000-mile tour of the UK shortly afterwards, had been telling him “all week” about the bus.

He joked: "It's rather like Tory defectors. You wait for ages and then three come along in a row."

A few hours later Rishi Sunak launched his bus in Redcar on the Yorkshire coast, not far from the new seat he will contest at the election – Richmond and Northallerton.

The Tory vehicle also featured the party’s General Election slogan – "clear plan, bold action, secure future".

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak holds a mug while speaking to journalists at Redcar racecourse
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak holds a mug while speaking to journalists at Redcar racecourse (POOL/AFP via Getty)

Also Ulez-compliant, in a former life the coach was transport for Oxford United, before the football team's promotion to the EFL Championship.

In his speech, Mr Sunak took aim at his Labour rivals, claiming that Ms Rayner was clearly “in charge” after a U-turn over Diane Abbott, who the party has now said can stand to be a Labour MP in this election.

Both parties are trailing, in bus miles at least, the Liberal Democrats, who have had a yellow coach on the road for much of the last week.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey unveiled the bus, with the words "Liberal Democrats for a fair deal", last weekend as he promised to repair the NHS.

After a week of attention-grabbing stunts, Sir Ed took this weekend off the campaign trail to care for his son, who has severe physical and learning disabilities.

Sir Ed tweeted: "This weekend I get to do the most joyful and important thing I do: being a dad."

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK also began its campaign tour on an open-top bus this week.

On Saturday, Mr Farage, the honorary president of the party, was in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, with Reform UK candidate and former Conservative MP Lee Anderson.

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