It seemed a perfectly-timed stunt from Jens Stoltenberg. The Norwegian prime minister, lagging behind opposition parties ahead of parliamentary elections next month, pretended to be a taxi driver around Oslo, demonstrating his charm to ordinary voters. But then things started to go wrong. It transpired some of his passengers had been paid to make the journey while the whole thing had been dreamt up by Try Advertising, the governing Labour party’s ad agency. Worst of all, one of his passengers complained his bad driving had worsened her back problems. As Mr Stoltenberg said: “I think the country and Norwegian taxi passengers are best served if I am the prime minister and not a taxi driver.”
His driving skills look to be the least of his problems. It seems highly likely that Mr Stoltenberg will be kicked out as prime minister after eight years on September 9 and replaced by Erna Solberg, leader of the Conservative opposition and the most likely to be able to form a coalition from the eight or so parties expected to win seats. There is even a possibility that Labour could fail to come in first place for the first time in parliamentary elections since 1924.
And all this from a prime minister whose approval ratings after Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist attacks in 2011 hit 94 per cent, a level few if any prime ministers in the world have attained. Where did it all go wrong for Mr Stoltenberg and is there any hope left for him?