How to lose an election

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
14 June, 2024

Political strategists are obsessed with the art of winning elections. However, they sometimes overlook the equally impressive skill of losing them spectacularly. Enter Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is currently putting on a masterclass in electoral self-sabotage. 
Sunak’s first stroke of genius was to get off to a monumentally bad start. His announcement of a July election in the pouring rain outside 10 Downing Street was a consummate display of ineptitude. As the rain lashed the lectern and soaked through his slim-fitting suit, Sunak struggled to maintain his composure, his notes turning to mush in his hands. His campaign was washed up (and washed out) before it even began. 
Sunak didn’t rest on his laurels after this initial triumph. During a visit to a brewery in South Wales, he asked the staff if they were looking forward to making extra money from the upcoming Euro football championship. He had somehow managed to be unaware that Wales had failed to qualify – excellent self-destructive behaviour! 
Perhaps Sunak's pièce de résistance in his symphony of electoral blunders was his decision to leave the D-Day commemorations early, to film a pre-recorded TV interview. Channelling Churchill, Sunak might as well have declared, "You fight on the beaches, I shall leave the commemoration.” 
With three weeks to go until the election, there are countless other ways Sunak can further torpedo his prospects. He could propose a tax on tea and biscuits. Or appoint Prince Andrew as the honorary chairman of Pizza Express. He might even want to consider banning Match of the Day. After all, he was deprived of Sky TV as a child. 
Then there are countless opportunities for photo-op disasters – a staple of any campaign serious about getting annihilated. Imagine Sunak attempting to pet the King’s corgis and getting bitten. Or better yet, he could take inspiration from Boris Johnson's "Love Actually" parody. In Sunak’s version, he could hold up cue cards at voters' doors reading, "Actually, it's not you, it's me." 
The possibilities are endless for a leader as hellbent on electoral catastrophe as Sunak. His campaign has already succeeded in alienating voters and generally making a complete hash of things. With weeks left in hand, who knows how low he can go?  

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