Back seat driver: Norwegian PM uses undercover taxi stunt for election ruse

Back seat driver: Norwegian PM uses undercover taxi stunt for election ruse
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg spent an afternoon working undercover as a taxi driver, using it as a campaign strategy to find out “what people really think” ahead of the September 9 election - but his disguise didn’t do him any favors.

Mr. Stoltenberg said he wanted to hear what voters’ real concerns were, and that a taxi is one of the few places where people shared their true thoughts.

It’s important for me to hear what people really think. If there’s one place where people say what they think, it’s in a taxi,” he said in a video posted on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

The footage was released as part of his campaign for the September 9 election in which Stoltenberg’s ruling leftist coalition is currently likely to lose, lagging behind the opposition in opinion polls.

As part of his disguise, Stoltenberg wore dark sunglasses and an Oslo taxi driver uniform, complete with a badge. The stunt, which was carried out in June, involved the PM picking up unsuspecting passengers in a black Mercedes estate car.

Screenshot from YouTube user arbeiderpartiet

The entire event was filmed on hidden cameras, and a video of the stunt was published Sunday by daily newspaper VG, as well as on the PM’s Facebook page. The idea was created by an ad agency.

But it seems the disguise itself was a bit of flop, as most of the passengers realized fairly quickly who he really was.

One passenger said, “From this angle you really look like Stoltenberg.”

But the chat quickly turned to politics, even with those passengers who recognized the PM. One woman who recognized Stoltenberg complained about “bosses’ salaries,” saying that “they shouldn’t make millions like that.”

Stoltenberg engaged one passenger on education, saying: "The main point is to make sure good students have something to stretch for, and to give those who struggle extra help."

While the PM didn’t exactly get top marks for his disguise skills, he also didn’t excel at driving. At one point, he jolted the car when mistaking the brake pedal for the clutch. He then admitted to the shaken passenger that he hadn’t driven in eight years and that he has become accustomed to sitting in the back seat.

When asked by the Verdens Gang tabloid if he would become a taxi driver when he looses the elections, the PM replied, “I think that the country and Norwegian taxi passengers are better served if I were a prime minster and not a taxi driver.”