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Fri July 19 2024

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Where are the JCBs this election?

4 Jul The 2024 general election campaign has been marked by a distinct absence of JCBs.

Anthony Bamford, as he then was, welcomed Margaret Thatcher to the JCB factory during the 1987 campaign
Anthony Bamford, as he then was, welcomed Margaret Thatcher to the JCB factory during the 1987 campaign

To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a British politician in want of high office, must be in want of a JCB photo opportunity.

Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson all paid homage to the British manufacturer of the iconic backhoe loader, usually posing inside the cab.

And although JCB and the Bamford family have been notable donors to the Conservative party, Labour politicians have also made the pilgrimage to JCB World Headquarters in Staffordshire to be photographed with yellow steel. Well, Tony Blair at least.

But in 2024… nothing.  We've had Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey driving a tractor out on a farm but not a digger to be seen.

Rishi Sunak visited Niftylift, the manufacturer of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), early in the campaign. He needed a lift, but didn’t get one.

But neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer has visited the JCB factory nor operated a JCB machine this entire election campaign. What’s going on?

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In the absence of an explanation from the people at JCB themselves, we can only speculate.

It cannot be that the contenders were not interested or didn't have the time. They both visited Staffordshire during the campaign, and Keir Starmer’s father was a toolmaker (did you know that?) so he surely has an affinity with construction machinery.

The only explanation is that either JCB has become a politically tainted brand since Lord Bamford campaigned so ardently and vigorously for Brexit – this election campaign has seen all parties (well, most) strive to avoid opening old wounds. Or perhaps JCB is finally done with politics since Lord Bamford retired from the House of Lords in April this year.

Surely not. There's all that hydrogen lobbying to be done.

Tory cabinet minister Grant Shapps test drove a hydrogen-fuelled JCB prototype in 2023 as a publicity stunt
Tory cabinet minister Grant Shapps test drove a hydrogen-fuelled JCB prototype in 2023 as a publicity stunt

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