Anne Sandager
3 weeks ago

“My boss told me to apply for a new job”: Reportage from the UK election announcement.

Impressions from London.
LONDON, UK - Apr 19, 2017. — Photo by palinchak
LONDON, UK - Apr 19, 2017. — Photo by palinchak

Early afternoon in the City of London. BBC reports that Cabinet ministers are clearing their schedules for the evening, and Foreign Secretary, David Cameron is turning his plane around to attend a cabinet meeting in the afternoon. 

I text a Conservative staff member, I know, “Is the election announcement happening today?”

An hour later I get confirmation that an announcement will indeed take place at the Prime Minister's residence on Downing Street 10 following the cabinet meeting scheduled for 4:15 PM. 

I pace down the streets of London. It is rainy and miserable. After making a quick stop at Buckingham Palace to see which journalists are lining up, I continue towards Downing Street.

Reporters are already getting checked by security when I arrive, while a couple dozen protesters have taken position outside the gates of Downing Street. Armed with speakers, banners, and top hats, most of them are yelling insults in the direction of the Prime Minister. 

Among the protesters, there is a sense that neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer are particularly welcome candidates for Britain’s next prime minister: 

According to YouGov, Rishi Sunak’s approval rating is at 20%, with leading Labour candidate, and election front-runner, Keir Starmer, only doing slightly better at 30% approval. 

“Hug these bar-stewards,” one protester yells. Police have seemingly told him to limit the use of profanities.

After an hour or so of waiting in the rain, police clear out the crowd completely.

Sunak has not yet stepped out from number 10, but it is clear that a July 4 election is imminent. So, I decide to leave the premises and jog to Parliament to get a better view of the announcement–on TV.

The Prime Minister opens his remarks by reflecting on the five years he has served in the government top as Chancellor and Prime Minister.

“The most challenging times since the Second World War,” he states. Sunak’s speech focuses on economic progress and lowering inflation rates, albeit parts are muffled by the sound of the speakers from the activists outside the Downing Street gates.

By the time the Prime Minister announces the general election, his blazer is soaked from the rain. A parliamentary staffer next to me notes that, “he couldn’t have chosen a worse backdrop.”

But inflation numbers came out today, so the election announcement could not wait.

I go to meet up with a few friends in the House of Lords Pub. I was expecting an empty establishment, but to my surprise the place is packed–and jolly! 

I sit down for a chat with a parliamentary assistant for a Conservative MP. He is drinking, cheerfully chatting with his colleagues.

“My boss told me today that I should start applying for other jobs,” he says. While the proximity of the election is a surprise for most people I talk to, there is a common stoic attitude, particularly among Conservative staff members. ‘‘Everyone is unemployed now,” several joke.

The Conservative Party is trailing 21% points behind Labour in the most recent election polls. New Conservative seats in Northern England, which were won by Boris Johnson in 2019, are projected to swing back to Labour in the upcoming election leaving many Conservative staff members unemployed.

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