Rishi Sunak’s first days on the campaign trail

Home UK News Rishi Sunak’s first days on the campaign trail
Rishi Sunak’s first days on the campaign trail

Elections are like nothing else in politics. They’re manic; politicians whizzing around the country, from town to town, city to city, trying to set the agenda and control the narrative.

Rishi Sunak will be photographed hundreds of times a day – some of them will be slightly less flattering, like the above one of him on the campaign plane on Friday afternoon. The exit door? Not where he wants to be heading.

The prime minister had one key advantage going into this campaign: he knew it was going to happen. That meant he could get on the front foot and out on the road right away.

In the past couple of days, I’ve been with the prime minister in Nottingham, Staffordshire, Belfast, Inverness and Barry.

Mr Sunak’s message has been that the economy has turned a corner – and that he has bold ideas for the country.

But as is often the case in political campaigns, things don’t always stick to the script.

He’s had to admit he won’t deliver on two key pledges before voters go to the polls – the Rwanda scheme and his plan to ban smoking for everyone born after 2009.

He’s had to deny snubbing the mother of one of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. She said Mr Sunak had promised to get a law ensuring better security at venues through before MPs break for the summer – and felt “let down”. He says he’s still committed to that (if he’s PM after 4 July).

And then there have been the campaign moments.

Local journalists in Northern Ireland noticed Mr Sunak had chosen the Titanic Quarter for his event in Belfast; one asked if he was in charge of a sinking ship.

There was a moment in Wales when he asked if people in a brewery were looking forward to the summer of football. Wales didn’t qualify for the Euros. Cue awkward silence.

We’ve also just left a college where a small but noisy protest turned up. Pro-Gaza demonstrators rushed the PM’s car and he had to be huckled into the building.

Oh – and there was the moment that kicked this frenzy off. The PM has shrugged off questions about why he decided to announce the general election in torrential rain. His team say he wanted to do it the “right way” – outside No 10.

But pictures of the soaked prime minister aren’t the best start to the biggest fight of his political life.

Some of these things might seem a bit trivial. The odd slip-up over the football isn’t the end of the world. But add them together, and they could be a problem.

Journalists chatted to Mr Sunak on the plane from Belfast to the Midlands earlier in the day. He was chipper; saying he was up for the fight of the campaign. I asked him directly if he’d win: “Damn right” was the answer.

But with the Conservatives behind in the polls, Mr Sunak knows how much work he has to do. He has a mountain to climb if he’s going to keep the keys to Downing Street. And so far – things haven’t gone totally according to plan.

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