As Norway’s first major party leader debate got underway Monday night, plenty of references were made to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s taxi driver stunt on Friday afternoon. The photogenic premier got the publicity he sought after he donned an Oslo Taxi uniform and took over the wheel of a local cab with a camera mounted on the windshield.
His Labour Party’s subsequent video of surprised passengers’ reactions and their political opinions has since been viewed around the world, even without subtitles. Stoltenberg introduced the video clip showing on the party’s website (click on “Taxi Stoltenberg” to see it in full format) by saying that after his usual meeting with the king at the weekly Council of State on Fridays, he decided to tap public opinion by listening when people “really say what they mean,” in a taxi.
Some of his passengers dissolved into laughter after realizing Stoltenberg was their chauffeur, while one young man merely observed that “so, you’ve started driving a taxi now?” Stoltenberg’s sheer celebrity after eight years in office got their attention, but it didn’t take long before they started talking politics. One elderly passenger, unhappy about high executive salaries, said he was lucky because she had just been about to write him a letter.
Stoltenberg laughed off the kidding he got from program leaders on NRK’s debate program as well as his fellow party leaders, but he defended his stunt. He’s often said he loves an active election campaign, and that posing as a taxi driver was simply a new means of communicating with people. All of the passengers who wound up on the Labour Party’s video later gave approval for their clips to be used.