Sunak is a worse campaigner than Theresa May

by Kevin Meagher

Is Rishi Sunak’s general election campaign destined to be remembered as the worst, most calamitous, incompetent, shambolic, hilariously deficient, madcap, badly run and outright dingbat since…well, Theresa May’s in 2017?

In what remains an electoral paradox, she achieved the second highest-ever number of votes for a winning party, but still managed to slide backwards, frittering away the majority she inherited from David Cameron in 2015.

To be fair, she was just a terrible campaigner with a big, lumpy idea – social care reform – that frighted the middle-class.

In comparison, Sunak’s effort, on current form, will go down as a three-dimensional clusterfuck.

I can scarcely believe its only Day 5.

First, we had the wet rat election announcement in Downing Street, with the Prime Minister trying to ignore both the lousy weather and the unsubtle strains of New Labour’s pop anthem, ‘Things Can Only Get Better,’ as he delivered a clumsy, overlong speech.

Then we had the incident with his minders throwing a Sky News team out of his launch while they were still broadcasting.

Followed by the planted questions from Tory councillors at a factory visit in Derbyshire.

Bettered only by sitting Sunak, a teetotaller, sat squashed among a bunch of staff at a visit to a small brewery in Wales, earning maximum David Brent points for asking them if they were looking to forward to the Euros (which Wales have failed to quality for).

Finally, his trip to the Titanic Quarter in Belfast last Friday, where he jetted about in a green-powered boat, with one journo inevitably enquiring if he was the captain of a sinking ship.

A gift from metaphor elves.

And today we have his plan to bring back national service for 18-year-olds.

Or not quite.

It appears to be non-mandatory, mandatory scheme to force teenagers into the military – or not – for a whole year. Unless they want to stay at home and plant some bulbs in the local park. One weekend a month. Whatever.

Paid for by closing unspecified tax loopholes – and by scrapping the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – used to dole-out cash under the guise of ‘levelling-up.’

So, trash one policy – that at least has some cut-through with voters – to embark on a costly, unworkable, highly dubious gimmick.

Are the Tories running their focus groups during a mid-afternoon sesh in Wetherspoons?

Clearly, they are terrified of Reform, hence their campaign descending into farce at such an astonishingly early point.

The memes are already out there on social media.

The clip of Alan Partridge speaking into a Dictaphone as he rattles off crazy programme ideas. Monkey Tennis. Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. The Return of National Service.

Similarly, the Downfall spoof, with the obligatory scene of the Fuhrer in the bunker barking orders, has made a return. (‘Bring me Gove! He’s…gone’).

Three things will happen next.

First, another few days of PR howlers. Its abundantly clear that Sunak’s team are either trying to do him in or are laughably out of their depth.

Second, we are nearing that point when blind panic sets in (à la David Young grabbing Noman Tebbit by the lapels in the 1987 campaign). An intervention from whichever senior colleagues still remain is coming.

Third, the relaunch. (‘Just let Rishi be Rishi…’) By the end of the week?

Sunak is clearly an intelligent and energetic man.

Presumably he believed that the application of rational behaviour after the irrational tenure of his two immediate predecessors, would be enough to remedy Tory economic and policy mistakes.

He has clearly tried – and failed – eventually coming to appreciate that things are unlikely to improve, hence the early, unexpected election.

His default response is to work hard, hence seeing him pop up like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout as he hurtles around the country, hoping against hope to woo voters back into the Tory column.

But, whisper it: He’s a worse campaigner than Theresa May was in 2017. There is something super-earnest about Sunak, but he lacks likeability or the common touch.

I was reminded of an anecdote about Roy Jenkins – another intelligent man capable of immense political stupidity.

As Home Secretary he once visited a prison and was introduced to some young inmates. Unable to find something to talk about he enquired, ‘So, do you like it here?’

What’s the betting Tory campaign managers have the Prime Minister meeting young offenders this week?

Kevin Meagher is the associate editor of Labour Uncut

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