Sunak's comms team screws up again

23 May 2024 | 3 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

Today’s front pages are dominated by the Prime Minister’s announcement that the General Election will take place on 4th July. He did so as the rain soaked him to the skin on the steps of Number 10. This is a detail of epic proportions and implications, and here is why.

Fake and inauthentic… and not for the first time

Yesterday provided us with another example of the Prime Minster and his comms teams lacking authenticity. Only last month, Mr Sunak donned a pair of Adidas Samba pumps whilst wearing suit trousers and a white shirt during an interview at Number 10.

It was a move that outraged fashionistas and the media alike. That is because he was seen as trying too hard to come across as relatable by attempting to present himself as “young and hip,” as The Telegraph’s suggested. See more on this story here.

Source credit: Instagram/@elent_finance

His appearance outside 10 Downing Street feels like another inauthentic attempt to portray a toughened, hardened Prime Minister who is prepared to weather the storm and “fight for our nation’s future” to deliver the outcomes the country so desperately seeks – low inflation, growing economy etc.

But it has failed. In fact, the opposite impression has been formed.

Attempted misdirection is a brand killer (when it fails, and how it failed in this case)

Leaders are supposed to instil confidence. Theirs is a role that involves the anticipation of potential risks and the deployment of tactics to stave them off.

But by willingly standing in the pouring rain and allowing himself to look more like a drowned rat than an heroic general leading his troops out of the hell we’ve had to endure these past few years, Rishi Sunak gave us the impression of someone who is incapable of even protecting himself from the elements when the risk was so clear to see.

So, what makes this Prime Minister and Tory Party think they can safeguard the country from… well, anything?

Reputational damage limitations?

The decision to bring the election forward to 4th July was a good one in my view. To avoid an embarrassing and seemingly inevitable landslide defeat and make the switch across to the Opposition benches as inflation is falling means the loss will be less humiliating and, one could argue, less damaging to the Conservatives over the long term.

But as Chris Mason, the BBC’s Political Editor, said on BBC News:

“Either the opinion polls are broadly right and the party of government will change, or they are wrong and it will be one of the biggest upsets in recent years.”

Yesterday’s clearly orchestrated PR stunt to portray Mr Sunak as something he evidently is not, was poorly judged. It is proof positive, if needed, that the Tory comms team have not a clue about how one’s actions and words can and will likely to be received and interpreted by their audience i.e. you and me. And the front pages of today’s newspapers support this.

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