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Rishi Sunak’s speech in the rain has become a strange obsession for political nerds

With weeks of confected outrage, bad acting, shouty campaigning and utter trivia facing us in the run-up to July 4, the general election can’t come soon enough for the beleaguered British voters.

Those of us who remember a time before social media have come to expect little more than the juvenile squabbling and tribal pettiness that now characterises political activism, although I’m not sure it was a great deal better before.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the election date in the rain outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the election date in the rain outside 10 Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A week into the campaign and many political commentators still seem strangely fixated on the ‘optics’ of Rishi Sunak’s election date announcement and the fact he got a bit wet in the rain, rather than doing it indoors or while dressed as a sailor on a rough crossing.

‘Optics’ mean nothing to people beyond the world of political nerd-dom but are a mild obsession among campaign strategists, public relations professionals and TV journalists with time to fill.

Many continue to reflect earnestly on the dramatic irony of an embattled Prime Minister beset by forces beyond his control (convinced they’re the only ones to come up with the line ‘Things Can Only Get Wetter’).

Everyone else just saw a bloke giving a speech in the rain, then moved on.

Sunak was in a no-win situation however he decided to deal with the Downing Street downpour: Retreat indoors and opponents would claim he was too afraid to face a bit of rain while ‘the British people have faced much worse after 14 years of Tory rule’, etc; take an umbrella and he’d be compared inevitably to former England football manager Steve McClaren, who was branded ‘the Wally with the Brolly’ when he chose to stay dry on the touchline as his team failed to qualify for Euro 2008.

Alarmingly, Sunak’s been silly enough to time the general election so that campaigning will coincide with this year’s European Championship. Party leaders and prospective MPs are going to be falling over themselves to convince voters they’re REALLY INTO FOOTBALL and follow England with such PASSION that they might even watch all of the second half if they reach the final.

Whatever the weather, you can bet Gareth Southgate won’t go near an umbrella either.

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