General Election show on the road as parties launch battle buses

Political parties have taken to the road this weekend as the General Election battle bus tours get underway.

Saturday morning started in West London, where Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner launched her 5,000-mile UK tour, with help from party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.

The trio was in Uxbridge, where voters went to the polls in July last year. Following the departure of former prime minister Boris Johnson, the Conservatives held on to the seat at a by-election by 495 votes.

Winner Steve Tuckwell will once again face Labour’s Danny Beales in the poll on Thursday July 4.

Labour’s bus is a brand-new, 73-reg Yutong coach – and it’s ultra low emission zone (Ulez) compliant, so did not incur a charge in Uxbridge. The word “Change” – the party’s General Election slogan – appears on the bright red bus more than 30 times.

“I’m reliably told it has got a fridge in the back of it, so check that Boris Johnson isn’t in there,” Sir Keir said at its launch. Mr Johnson hid in a fridge to avoid a TV interview in the run-up to the 2019 election.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves on the Labour battlebus in Uxbridge, London
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves on the Labour battle bus in Uxbridge, London (Lucy North/PA)

The Labour leader told supporters: “All week (Ms Rayner has) been showing me photographs of her bus and now I’ve come to see this fantastic bus.

“It’s rather like Tory defectors. You wait for ages and then three come along in a row.”

The party will use its bus to champion its “power up” agenda, which could become a successor to the Conservatives’ flagship “levelling up” thread if Labour is able to form a government next month.

Ms Reeves said “powering up” means “wherever you come from, whatever your start in life, you have the very best opportunities and potential, and powering up too so that our economy can fulfil its potential”.

As midday approached, Rishi Sunak launched his bus in Redcar on the Yorkshire coast – home turf for the Conservative Prime Minister who will contest the new Richmond and Northallerton seat, within 10 miles of the town.

Conservative incumbent Jacob Young will go up against former Labour MP Anna Turley in Redcar.

The Mercedes-Benz Tourismo features the party’s General Election slogan – “clear plan, bold action, secure future”.

Once the transport for Oxford United, before the football team’s promotion to the EFL Championship, the vehicle is also Ulez-compliant.

In his Teesside speech, Mr Sunak took aim at his Labour rivals.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launches his party’s battle bus in Redcar (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

The party leader said: “Just see what’s happened over this Diane Abbott situation. And it confirms what we know about him: it’s that he doesn’t stick by anything he says, just constantly changes his mind.

“And it’s clear that Angela Rayner is in charge of the Labour Party and not him.”

The Liberal Democrats’ yellow coach has been rolling on the roads throughout the first full week of General Election campaigning.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey unveiled Yellow Hammer 1 in Whittlesford, near Cambridge – a Van Hool emblazoned with the words “Liberal Democrats for a fair deal”.

Sir Ed Davey launches Yellow Hammer 1 (Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire)
Sir Ed Davey launches Yellow Hammer 1 (Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire)

Launching the tour last Sunday (May 26), he made reference to hospitals “with dangerous crumbling roofs” and “sewage pouring into” wards and promised to introduce a 10-year rolling repair programme for the NHS estate.

He told supporters: “I’m not putting a ceiling on our ambitions.”

Reform UK began its campaign tour on an open-top bus this week.

Honorary president Nigel Farage was aboard in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, on Saturday with candidate and former Conservative MP Lee Anderson.