Norway’s prime minister isn’t the first political candidate to spend a day working a blue-collar job as way of appealing to ordinary voters — we recall Mitt Romney putting in shifts as a garbage collector, Fenway Park sausage vendor, and hay baler when he ran for governor in 2002 — but Jens Stoltenberg may be the first candidate to do the work first and only afterward angle for publicity.
Stoltenberg, whose Norwegian Labor Party faces a tough challenge in next month’s general election, spent a recent Friday as a taxi driver ferrying passengers around Oslo. Dressed in a cabbie’s uniform, badge and all, he didn’t identify himself to his passengers unless they recognized him. Which, judging from the hidden-camera video he subsequently posted on his popular Facebook page, most of them pretty quickly did. (Passenger: “When I see you from behind, you look a lot like Stoltenberg.” Driver: “You think I look like Stoltenberg?”)
One or two riders commented on Stoltenberg’s shaky driving skills — he said he hadn’t driven a car in eight years — but generally the conversation then turned to politics. The PM claims that was the whole idea. “If there’s one place people say what they think, it’s in a taxi,” he says. The gimmick was dreamed up by Stoltenberg’s campaign advertising team, who, it was later revealed, planted a few actors among the taxi riders; but should Stoltenberg win reelection, this tactic is bound to be replicated elsewhere. Don’t be surprised one of these days if you find yourself behind a cabbie who resembles Chris Christie.