And we’re off! The starting gun has been fired on the general election campaign — and, if the first few days are anything to go by, what a campaign it’ll be! Already, virtually nothing is going as expected, and barely anything is going to plan for the man who ‘has a plan,’ while the man who supposedly has ‘no plan’ sits back and watches the chaos unfold. This might go down in history as the funniest election campaign ever.

An Awkward Start

When you’re an embattled leader calling a seemingly unwinnable election, the last thing you want is for your announcement to be a shambles. We were made to wait until just after five o’clock in the afternoon. X (formerly Twitter) was blowing up with speculation — is Rishi resigning? Is Jeremy resigning? Is the election finally being called? Is Dave going to take over again? Meanwhile, I was trying to revise for my morning History exam. Staying focused on the economic policies of Sergei Witte when all you can think about is whether an election is finally going to be called, was a challenge.

But we got there. Just after 5 p.m. (after Downing Street presumably accepted the rain was there to stay), the lectern appeared with no government logo. This was it; the big moment. And then … Things Can Only Get Better started playing. The rain got worse. It was a perfect metaphor for the Sisyphean task facing the Prime Minister. The notes of his speech (presumably laminated and so rain-proof, were drowned in raindrops, while his voice was drowned out by the iconic New Labour anthem. At last, the sodden Sunak finished his speech, turned around, and headed for the safety and warmth of No. 10. A  Wordcloud of the speech returned ‘wet’ as the main result.

‘Change’ is Coming

Sensibly, Sir Keir Starmer chose to host his first speech of the campaign indoors, in front of a podium bearing one word: ‘Change.’ Presumably, this referred to Labour wishing to change the country and not to the Prime Minister, asking him to change out of his soaked clothes. Starmer’s speech was remarkably unremarkable. There were no new policies announced, but he did at least achieve the bare minimum of not getting drowned by our typical British summer weather or drowned out by a protester with a loudspeaker — although what you would play as an anti-Labour protest song is harder to determine.

So far, it’s not looking good for the Prime Minister. While the news that Nigel Farage will not be seeking election to Parliament is welcome (he has instead decided to focus on running a grassroots campaign for the American election, which is a little odd), as it potentially weakens the threat from Reform, Sunak’s first day of pitching himself to ordinary folk as the Man With A Plan (trademark pending) hasn’t gone to, well, plan. First, there was an interview on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme in which he admitted that flights to Rwanda would not take off before the election. Then came the revelation that two supposedly ordinary public members with questions for the PM during an appearance at a biscuit factory were, in fact, Conservative councillors. And then there was the conversation where he asked some Welsh voters whether they were looking forward to ‘all the football’ this summer. Alas, dear reader, Wales did not qualify for the Euros. It is genuinely fascinating how Sunak and Starmerm, two big football fans, fail to make their passion look authentic.

While all this was occupying the Prime Minister, Starmer spoke in Gillingham about his six ‘first steps’ (which could generously be called ‘a plan’) and riffed on the theme of ‘change,’ which seems to be Labour’s campaign slogan. The Tories instead have gone with: ‘clear plan; bold action; secure future.’

Questionable Tactics and Policies

Friday wasn’t any better, with the Prime Minister visiting the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. Given that neither the Conservatives nor Labour have candidates in Northern Ireland, you have to assume that CCHQ are actively trying to make this their ‘banter era.’ But a visit to the Titanic Quarter wasn’t enough. In a stroke of ill judgment, Sunak was also snapped with an exit sign glaring in the background, while on the plane. Surely, someone on his team could have said; ‘Actually, Rishi, maybe we should leave this photo out’?

The weekend saw a slight improvement. The announcement of a planned reintroduction of National Service seized control of the policy agenda, and gaffes were strictly prohibited at any campaign events. On Monday, however, an innocuous training session with the Chesham United youth teams brought with it a video of the Prime Minister struggling to slalom through some cones. Labour pounced, with a video comparing Sunak and Starmer’s footballing skills. Still, Sunak is no worse than Blair or Corbyn, and, unlike Johnson, at least got the sport right.

Following nearly a week of campaigning, we have a grand total of exactly one new policy announcement from the main parties — while the blooper reel is getting full. So, before we find out who will occupy 10 Downing Street and hold the keys to our future for the next five years, strap in for this five-week extravaganza!

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