Raining on Rishi’s parade

The rain radar showed the heaviest falls were over the Whitehall area of London late on Wednesday afternoon, just as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walked out of Number 10 and announced an election on July 4.

As one commentator pointed out, how can the country trust him to turn things around when he doesn’t even check the weather forecast?

Amid all the newspaper front pages on Thursday morning and their coverage of the announcement and the drenched Mr Sunak, two headlines stood out: The Daily Mirror’s "Drown & Out" and City A.M.’s "Drowning Street".

The almost shiny patina the prime minister’s suit jacket took on after several minutes of downpour was distraction enough when it came to listening to his message, without the added feature of larger raindrops dripping on to his head and shoulders and glistening in the glare of the lights.

Further entertainment and diversion if ever it were needed came from the booming of D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better from beyond the Downing St gates. The song was adopted by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair ahead of his landslide win in 1997.

Try as they might to, err, drown out the song, the media team in Number 10 could not turn up Mr Sunak’s microphone high enough.

Larry the Downing St cat, who has watched up close the rise and fall of no less than five Conservative Party prime ministers, was busy elsewhere, presumably somewhere dry and warm.

Even if the Tories had been trying to plan the most inauspicious election announcement possible, it is unlikely they could have come up with this scenario.

But, it has to be said, the saturated statement went down a bomb on social media, with impersonators being filmed having showers at home while making grand pronouncements. Don’t they say any publicity is good publicity?

In this case, the answer would have to be "no".

Mr Sunak’s farcical performance this week really puts the tin hat on an exceptionally tawdry last five years of Tory rule, since Boris Johnson toppled Theresa May in July 2019.

A saturated British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, delivers a speech calling for a general election...
A saturated British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, delivers a speech calling for a general election, outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, May 22, 2024. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Conservatives have limped along in power for 14 years. They barely won the May 2010 election with David Cameron as leader, and needed to form a coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

The June 2017 election led to another hung parliament.

Since the last election in December 2019, the Tory government has become less and less popular around the United Kingdom as it thrashed about in its increasing desperation to stay on the Treasury benches.

The shambling, lying Mr Johnson eventually came a cropper, giving way to 45 days of utter chaos under the feckless Liz Truss, who mortifyingly became the country’s shortest-serving prime minister. Mr Sunak took over in October 2022 and, despite being somewhat awkward and insipid, has at least managed to keep some degree of unity within his decomposing government.

This of course is the moment Labour and its leader Sir Keir Starmer have been awaiting for years. There is little doubt Labour will form the next government, particularly given the scale of its monumental success in the recent local council elections.

Almost as soon as the election date was announced, Labour supporters and members across the UK were out door-knocking to secure more votes. As pundits are saying, it will be Sir Keir’s election to lose.

The ill-advised swamping of Mr Sunak, when an umbrella would have done the trick and made it look like it was just another wet afternoon in London, will go down as one of the biggest, most laughable and potentially destructive political moments of the century.

New Zealand had one before the 2005 election, when then National Party leader Don Brash chose to "walk the plank" between the wharf and a boat.

Then there was the hysterical sight of Donald Trump’s team and supporters holding a media conference after the 2020 election in the carpark of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping garden centre, a booking mix-up instead of the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.

The British headline writers will already be thinking about the Conservatives’ likely loss in July. "Washout for Tories" or "Wet and Forget" will be appropriate.