Kick up the Tabloids

Although it’s only February, there is little doubt that the runners are already in their blocks and on their marks, waiting for the starting pistol to be fired in this year’s race to reach 10 Downing Street.

In fact, election fever started to heat up last month, when we were barely into January.  Even though nobody knows when the general election will take place, there is no doubt that the gloves are off in the 2024 campaign. Or, in Rishi Sunak’s case, the jacket is off.

Any time the Prime Minister does one of his cringingly awkward meet-the-people events, he always appears in his shirt sleeves. I assume this is meant to convey some hidden meaning like “I’m rolling my sleeves up and ready for business” or “the jacket’s off, come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”.

In reality, it just makes him look stupid.  He started the year by doing a question-and-answer session in some place like Accrington. These events are obviously stage-managed and totally unspontaneous, open only to the party faithful and not the genuine public. This becomes crystal clear when nobody asks obvious questions like “Where’s your coat?  Are you barmy or what?  It’s January, you daft muppet!” Of course the genuine public can often ask totally random questions like “Are you for real? You look much bigger on the telly.”

Entering the fray on the same day, Keir Starmer demanded an immediate election and accused Sunak of “squatting in Downing Street”. This is almost certainly true. Let’s face it, regardless of wealth or social status, we all have to go at least once a day. And most of us prefer to do it at home. Also, he’s the Prime Minister. The guy must be allowed to take a toilet break. It’s not as if he works for Sports Direct.

However, I’m not sure why Starmer thought the PM’s bowel movements were in any way relevant. I’m sure the great British public have much more pressing issues they would like put to the vote when the time arrives.

There is little doubt, nonetheless, that the lavatory in Downing Street has been a pretty busy place since the Prime Minister made his five pledges to the nation a year ago.  Virtually all of those promises have been flushed down the pan over the last twelve months. Apart from his vow to Stop The Boats, which is currently causing a very unpleasant blockage just below the u-bend. Indeed, the smell is now so bad, it’s spreading throughout the Conservative Party. Even Dinorod would struggle to sort this job out.

Although Sunak has only been an MP since 2015, you’d think he’d realise that the Tories have been in power for nearly fourteen years. Perhaps he is hoping that enough people won’t have noticed, because he is still painting himself as the candidate for Change.  “Change into your jacket, mate” someone should suggest to him at his next “public” appearance.

The PM says a Labour government would take us “back to Square One”. Quite what he meant by “Square One” is unclear. But if he meant 2010, I’m sure most people would leap at the chance to go back there. Remember Square One?  That’s the place where nobody had to go to the food bank. Actually, I think Labour should adopt it as their campaign slogan. “Vote Labour – Taking Britain Back To Square One”. Who wouldn’t vote for that ?

Anyway, when the campaign eventually starts in earnest, expect the whole pantomime aspect to meeting the people to be ramped up further, and embarrassment levels to drop below zero. Party leaders will take to the streets to engage in a series of inane photo opportunities. In 2019, we saw Boris Johnson driving a forklift truck through a wall, dressing up as a milkman, and pretending to hide in a fridge. Oh no, I remember now. He really did hide in a fridge to escape a TV crew. The actual Prime Minister hid in an actual fridge. Over four years later, that sentence looks no less surreal than it did at the time.

I guess Sunak will go to the country when he thinks he has the best chance of winning.  The trouble with that plan is that his best chance of winning was eighteen months ago.  Maybe it’s the Prime Minister who wants to go back to Square One. Or perhaps he’s thinking of hiding in a fridge. If so, he really ought to wear a jacket.

Vladimir McTavish is a stand-up comedian.