Notebook

July 31, 2013 5:20 pm

Memo: next steps on the ‘#RacistVan’

John McDermott suggests further uses for the UK government’s ‘white van’ advertising campaign
Home Office 'Go Home' van©PA

The Home Office van toured the streets of several London boroughs for a week in July

To: Prime Minister
From: Migration advisers
Re: Project Vanguard
cc: Theresa May
bcc: Lynton Crosby

You asked for a policy for White Van Man. We delivered. From Barking in the east to Hounslow in the west, an iron wagon has descended across the capital. The vehicles politely ask immigrants to text the UK Border Agency if they are here illegally. (If you look at the photograph in the annex to this memo, the phone number is to the right of the big white fist squeezing the handcuff.) The campaign has proved a huge success, trending on The Twitter as #RacistVan (we are told the # means “not”). It is amazing the last lot never thought of this.

Nick is upset. He thinks it won’t work. Something about turkeys not voting for Christmas. We try to tell him that turkeys can’t text. He doesn’t listen. His loss. The polls say that most people like vans. Now, we should also warn you: apparently the phrase “go home” has a deeper meaning for some people. We will try to find out more about this and circle back to you. In the meantime, our conclusion is clear: you are the most popular peddler of van-based summer content since Mr Whippy.

It is time to expand. Home Office wants a van in every community, or a community in every van – they are still working on it. But the four-wheeler should not be limited to migration policy. Let’s think massive. Government is full of areas that could benefit from some van magic. We have had a brainshake and come up with three Big Ideas you could float when back from hols.

. . .

Trident transport While we can all be grateful for Britain’s Andy Murray, the tennis player is not a fair exchange for a nuclear missile system, despite what Alex Salmond says. If the Scotch go independent, we will need to grab the submarines. Of course, the first minister claims he can’t move them lest they blow up two-thirds of the world’s known whisky supplies. But have we fully considered using our new vans to transport them south of the border?

For a start, the subs are already “Vanguard” class, which bodes well. Then there are what the nice chaps in the Treasury call “externalities”. If you think illegal immigrants are scared of a glossy poster travelling at 30mph, just imagine the reaction if the van rumbling around the North Circular could blow up Dagenham. We realise you may not want the bazookas that near the house. Fortunately, George’s father-in-law knows a few acres of desolate farmland in the northeast that he says would be perfect.

. . .

Freer schools As you know, Michael is keen to approve free schools as quickly as possible. (Last week the Department for Education approved a fish and chip shop in Hull only to discover it got the wrong address.) But there are not enough buildings that want to become schools. London has most of them. We could keep ignoring what happens outside of the capital. But let’s at least try to use our vans.

We should pilot granting all white van owners the right to set up a free school in the back of their vehicles. This would make school trips easier. And think how popular those yellow buses are in America. Here, the kids would never get off. There is also potential to use the vans for work experience in the jobs of the future, such as sophisticated advertising or delivering kit to Sports Direct. Michael is keen to use it as a chance to explain the importance of vans to the great sweep of British history.

. . .

Vince’s Vans When we helped Boris get his bikes, it proved a way of distracting his leadership efforts. Admittedly, it also further boosted his popularity as an avuncular man-lad. But it did keep him on the road. As you will have noticed, Vince Cable is a centrifugally gobby force at the centre of government. It is one thing yapping away at cabinet, quite another on the Beeb. We need to get him away from Whitehall, where there is too much truth lying around. Focus groups respond well to our idea of Vince’s Vans: a nationwide hire scheme for anyone that wants to have their say for a few hours using a massive mobile billboard. Think of it like one giant roaming tweet on an even bigger iPad. It will also be great for crowdsourcing manifesto ideas.

We are keen to meet on the above when you return from holiday. NB the guys in protocol have asked us to tell you to text them when you are ready to go home.

john.mcdermott@ft.com

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