Twixes And Tetchiness: What A Day On The Campaign Trail With Rishi Sunak Is Really Like

HuffPost UK joined the prime minister for a few hours as he tries to grab any Conservative votes he can.
Sunak reacts as he visits the Sizewell B nuclear power facility, wearing a hard hat.
Sunak reacts as he visits the Sizewell B nuclear power facility, wearing a hard hat.
LEON NEAL via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak is sitting in the back seat of a car, staring at a line of waiting journalists, who stare impatiently back.

He can’t get out of the vehicle until a camera crew turns up to film him walking into one of the buildings at Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk.

Welcome to another day on the Tory general election campaign, a venture which seems more doomed with every passing day.

HuffPost UK bagged a much-sought-after seat on the prime minister’s battle bus, which is criss-crossing the country in an increasingly-forlorn search for Conservative voters.

After a gaffe-filled month and evermore gloomy polls, Sunak seemed even more awkward than usual, determined not to give the travelling press pack the juicy news story they craved.

And who can blame him? It’s been downhill ever since he called the snap election while standing in the pouring rain outside No.10.

Earlier in the day, Sunak had endured an hour-long grilling from disgruntled callers to Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show on LBC.

One called him a “pound shop Nigel Farage” over his obsession with culture war issues, while another bluntly told the PM: “You’re lying through your teeth.”

Seemingly still bruised from the experience, tight-lipped Sunak did not give off the air of a man who truly believes he will be back in Downing Street on July 5.

In the nuclear power station’s Turbine Hall, Sunak wandered around wearing a hard hat, ear protectors and a long blue workman’s coat before being driven to another building.

Sunak hugging Therese Coffey at Sizewell
Sunak hugging Therese Coffey at Sizewell
LEON NEAL via Getty Images

Waiting to greet him was former deputy prime minister and the Tory candidate for Suffolk West, Therese Coffey.

She gave Sunak a bear hug and the pair exchanged niceties before meeting a few Sizewell apprentices.

“What’s an example of something that might go wrong?” he asked, with no apparent awareness that everything possible has already gone wrong for him during the election campaign.

Sunak fiddling with buttons at Sizewell (when encouraged by an engineer)
Sunak fiddling with buttons at Sizewell (when encouraged by an engineer)
LEON NEAL via Getty Images

After a quick interview with broadcasters, Sunak sat down for the media “huddle”, where journalists are allowed to ask one question each.

The notoriously sweet-toothed Sunak looked a little wired as he munched on a Twix.

Asked about Boris Johnson’s less-than-wholehearted contribution to the Tory campaign, the PM insisted he was “grateful” for the support of the man whose job he eventually took.

“I know it will make a difference,” he said unconvincingly, before adding: “And it’s his birthday today, so happy birthday.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Sizewell in Suffolk, speaking to journalists while enjoying a twix.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Sizewell in Suffolk, speaking to journalists while enjoying a twix.
James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images

Pressed about the possibility of a “Covid amnesty” for everyone who was fined during lockdown – including himself – Sunak side-stepped the question, claiming the pandemic had been “a very different time for our country”.

He somehow managed to squeeze in a jab at Labour though, when discussing concerns about Russia’s strengthened alliance with North Korea.

He said: “If Keir Starmer is elected, one of the first thing he will do is head off to a Nato summit, having cut defence spending from the planned increases that I’ve announced.”

Sunak on his tour of Sizewell
Sunak on his tour of Sizewell
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Sunak was then asked by HuffPost UK about the former Tory donor and billionaire James Caudwell, who called Sunak “an absolute dud” and is now backing Labour.

“I said this morning that my focus is on the election, I’m pretty confident not a single person is going to talk to me about that,” the prime minister replied with a small scoff. “What they are going to talk to me about is their own financial security.”

It is worth remembering that the Conservatives have overseen a cost of living crisis, inflation reaching a 40-year-high and have taken the tax burden to a 70-year-high.

He was then pressed over whether tax cuts were actually a good thing, seeing as public services like the NHS and schools are struggling so much.

Sunak said: “After a difficult few years, when people have had to deal with high inflation bills going up, people want to keep more of their hard-earned money.

“I’ve not met a single person on this campaign trail who has said ‘sign up me up for higher tax rises’.”

After a terse 10 minutes, the PM marched out again and the journalists were ushered back onto the battle bus.

There was no exchange with any members of the public – unsurprising, considering the grilling he keeps getting whenever he talks to any voters – and certainly no lingering for any small talk.

Asked what he was doing for the rest of the day, the PM’s team insisted “there is no down-time for him” as the election campaign continues.

But after July 4, he most likely won’t have to worry about Downing Street – and if some polls are to be believed, he may not even have a seat in parliament to worry about either.


What's Hot