Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Roger Winterbottom
Features Writer
12:00 AM 25th May 2024

Wet Wet Wet – Not The D:Ream Election Announcement Sunak Wanted

Shoulders hunched, it was a disconsolate figure that retreated from the cameras, broken by the malignant judgment of the hostile atmosphere. How could something that started out so confidently finish as such an abject mess? “Still, it could be worse,” thought Paula Vennells, after being eviscerated at the Post Office enquiry, “At least I’m not Rishi Sunak.”

Yes, it’s the announcement that Sunak has decided to call a general election and finally put a stop to the ongoing trauma of losing his party one by one in byelections and defections, which has felt like death by a thousand cuts. Cuts – that definitely says cuts. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a letter missing.

Sunak made the announcement while standing in a torrential downpour in the middle of Drowning Street. Er, Downing Street. At least we now know why his suits always appear to have shrunk.

“These uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action,” said the man incapable of planning to take an umbrella outside in a biblical rainstorm. Still, at least he hadn’t been part of a world-beating government that had fairly recently commissioned a multi-million pound media briefing room that was just a few yards away inside, eh? Oh.

But perhaps we’re being unfair: it’s just that Penny Mordaunt was unavailable to walk behind Sunak carrying the 17th-century Umbrella of State in her traditional role as Lord Adjutant of Inclement Conditions.

No, of course not - it’s far more likely that the recipients of a £200m contract to supply government umbrellas had provided ones that were unfit for purpose. It can’t be helped! They were commissioned at pace during a time of crisis (a forecast of rain). Who could have realised that a firm of pest controllers wouldn’t be able to manufacture umbrellas at short notice? Sure, the owner was best mates with Matt Hancock but that’s irrelevant! They got in the VIP lane totally fairly. Not that there was a VIP lane, obviously. And no, of course they haven’t got a new yacht from the profits. What? Oh, THAT yacht. Completely coincidental.

As Sunak set out his clear and bold plan – no, I can’t say I noticed one either – strains began to filter through of D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better. And yet, for Sunak, they didn’t. The music got louder and louder, while Sunak’s voice became more distracted and disjointed. And so Sunak’s big announcement will forever be associated with him standing in a tropical downpour while the song that heralded Labour’s 1997 landslide victory plays in the background. You have to hand it to the Tory PR team: they would have been desperate to produce the defining image of the general election, the one that everyone will remember, and they’ve only gone and done it already. Congratulations, guys, you’ve got your ‘bacon sandwich’ moment.

Then again, Boris Johnson had a couple of ‘moments’ himself, such as hiding in a fridge on one occasion; and filching a journalist’s mobile phone on another. People still looked at him and thought – yes, that’s the kind of guy we want as prime minister! And look how well that turned out. Maybe people will look at Sunak and think – yes, unnecessarily wearing a £5,000 handmade suit to stand in a deluge, that’s just the man we want looking after the nation’s finances!

Sunak was keen to remind us of his successes to demonstrate what a safe pair of hands he was. “I came to office above all to restore economic stability,” he said, strangely omitting to mention what had caused the economy to collapse so spectacularly. “We will prioritise family finances,” he added, neglecting to remind us why everyone with a mortgage was now thousands of pounds a year worse off.

Sunak was also keen to denigrate his main opponent, Keir Starmer. “He is assuming he can waltz into Downing Street and take the British public for granted,” said the man who waltzed into Downing Street unelected two years ago and has spent most of the time since doing his best to put off allowing the public to have any say in the matter.

Following Sunak’s announcement, an immaculately coiffured Starmer had the presence of mind to make his response from an indoor location. Nothing was going to rain on his pomade. Flanked by two union flags, it looked like Starmer had managed to sneak into the Downing Street briefing room. And based on how the campaigns are going so far, he might as well measure up for curtains and choose his wallpaper while he’s there.