Is this why Rishi Sunak did not take the perfectly sensible precaution of an umbrella for shambolic Downing Street election announcement? - Aidan Smith

What happened? What was said just behind the door of No 10, just before Rishi Sunak bounded up to the lectern? In these momentous times, the nation needs to know.

Did he grab an umbrella only for an aide to stop him? “No, Prime Minister, it’ll make you look weak. You can’t be man-of-action with your rolled-up shirtsleeves nearly all of the time and then when there’s a spot of rain, dive for cover.”

Did he decide himself to go without protection? It wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if he’d checked the weather forecast, checked the opinion polls and concluded: “21 points behind? Ach, stuff it.”

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Or at the last minute did Sunak, or someone, muster their entire knowledge of “footie” to remember the sorry case of Steve McClaren, “The Wally with the Brolly”?

Rishi Sunak takes a soaking as he calls the election.Rishi Sunak takes a soaking as he calls the election.
Rishi Sunak takes a soaking as he calls the election.

In 2007, as his team battled Croatia on a sodden November night, England manager Steve McClaren watched from the Wembley touchline, umbrella hoisted. Now, in most other circumstances, his actions would not have drawn comment. “What a sensible chap,” remarked my mother-in-law as the game raged on TV. But this was football. Its practitioners are supposed to be macho. Managers are expected to suffer with their teams and they cannot metaphorically “kick every ball” if they’re holding a brolly. Because England lost McClaren not only drew comment, but ridicule as well.

Never again would we see an umbrella at a football match. In downpours the players will get wet, the fans, too, and so managers will stand in the rain, just taking it. Some may favour sportswear which appears waterproof but even now, many will remain in their suits, come hell, high water or relegation.

These are acts of swaggering toughness. “Look at me, see the water running down my nose, my lapels, I don’t care. And by the way these are expensive lapels. I’ll just throw away the suit after the game and buy another.”

Now, I’m guessing that Sunak’s suits cost even more than the top managers’ designer threads. His many fashion faux-pas would suggest this. And it was undeniably impressive how the water remained on the surface of the jacket, surely proof of its quality. Every journalist who’s ever waited in the rain for a verdict or outcome, soaked right through in their far more modestly-priced attire, will have cursed him for that.

Was braving the elements the right thing to do? Every journo covering the announcement who wrote of “Drowning Street” and “Things can only get wetter” would doubtless agree. Just a pity the protestor who blasted out the D:Ream song that became Tony Blair’s anthem wasn’t able to mix the track with Rhianna’s “Umbrella”.

Sunak may have reasoned that a flunky holding an umbrella-ella-ella would be distracting. He may also have reasoned: “Cripes, the Sunday Times Rishi List - er, Rich List - has confirmed I’m wealthier than the King. People will just think I’ve got a servant for absolutely everything.”

One of Keir Starmer’s snappier soundbites at PMQs was aimed at Boris Johnson as Tory cabinet resignations mounted: “The sinking ship is fleeing the rat.” Surely the Labour leader’s speechwriters will have already come up with a gag about Sunak resembling a drowned rat, irrespective of the suit’s ability to repel much of the deluge.



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