Not since Madonna’s directorial debut has a film been so poorly received as Rishi Sunak’s latest contribution to this interminable Tory leadership campaign: his “Brexit delivery unit” campaign video.
As Liz Truss’s camp focuses on issuing press releases and then accusing the media of “misrepresenting” them (reading them accurately), the #Ready4Rishi campaign is putting out budget film after budget film. Let’s – from behind a cushion – take a look at some of his oeuvre so far.
I’m sorry to tell you that Sunak’s latest campaign video opens with a shot of a piece of A4 folded paper stuck to an office door, with “Brexit Delivery Department” written on it.
A headless adviser-actor – presumably headless because he was too embarrassed to be identified in shot – enters the room to a weird exaggerated sound effect of the door squeaking. He proceeds to dump on a desk more paper than the Amazon rainforest has trees – marked as “EU legislation” – whereupon Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony begins playing. If you’re thinking “hasn’t Ode to Joy, since 1985, literally been the official anthem of the European Union?” Yes.
The man in Sunak’s little film then begins to … shred the paper. He shreds it. I don’t know why this man thinks pretend-shredding pretend-documents would repeal laws but apparently that’s what is taking place. We know this because we are told this is what Sunak will do in his “first 100 days in office” (it’s always “in the first 100 days in office, isn’t it?).
The clip has a “KEEP BREXIT SAFE” strapline. Which … what? What is Brexit keeping us safe from? Steadily moving queues at Dover? Research grants for British universities? Visa-free travel? The ready availability of quality food products? Think I’d prefer to live dangerously, if that’s OK.
In what can only be described as an act of sadism, Sunak has taken to roping in his friends to appear in his campaign ads. This one opens with a lingering shot of an empty chair, before William Hague sits down as though he is about to appear on Mastermind. Hague then proceeds – for six minutes – to tell us how wonderful Sunak is, and that Sunak once “got up at 5am to milk cows”. OK, sure. But will it help with the fact my energy bills will be £400 a month come October?
The debut feature
The OG video, in which Sunak announced his candidacy, and one could almost hear the mouse-click of an adviser purchasing Adobe video software. Cheesy music, slow-mo interludes, and a flickering intro of childhood pictures which someone, as the website PoliticsJoe discovered, very cleverly put to the theme music from Succession.
Sunak appears in closeup, grinning maniacally – something which he has continued to do throughout the campaign – and says: “Let me tell you a story.” It could be someone about to read out the Wikipedia entry on Ted Bundy, or it could be your housemate gearing up to go into way too much detail about a four-minute trip to the corner shop. It does not improve as it goes on.
Just a regular, cool guy
Here we have Sunak in a pub cheering on the Lionesses and doing the weirdest clap since Nicole Kidman at the 2017 Oscars; dropping in the word “entrepreneurial” when he can; and talking to a woman in a wheelchair as though she can’t hear. Inexplicably, there are also a lot of people sitting around on bales of hay, and, of course, that logo of his, which looks as though it should be on the front of a box of washing powder.
The leaked footage
Unfortunately for Sunak, not all the viral videos of him have been of his own making. This footage discovered by the New Statesman shows Sunak addressing a crowd in Tunbridge Wells, speaking about the fact he changed funding formulas to move cash out of inner-city areas. “We inherited a bunch of formulas that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas, and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that.”
That’s nice. Kind of like someone boasting about slapping away the bowl from Oliver Twist’s hands. While there are many rural areas whose infrastructure is poor and needs addressing – transport, broadband access etc – bragging about removing help from deprived areas isn’t the best look, especially from a man keenly attempting to play down the notion that he is out of touch with normal folk. But then, it’s not as though 22% of the UK population lives in poverty. What’s that? Ah, I see. I doubt there’ll be any sepia-tinted videos about that specific issue, but I’ll update as and when.
Hannah Jane Parkinson is a Guardian columnist