Here’s Penny Mordaunt’s absolutely most bizarre campaign video, culminating in the startling tagline: “Our leadership needs to care a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship.” Huh? That phrase, apparently translated via Google Translate by a voice in Mordaunt’s head into something approaching English, appears to be indicative of her status as a Royal Navy reservist.
But amazingly, there is nothing about this part of her resume in the actual film itself. It’s like hearing Jean-Luc Picard tout the top job by saying, “Our spacecraft has to be less about the star and more about the ship.” This is a nightmare of patriotic footage, all from the Houses of Parliament to Stonehenge shows, with a pleasant-sounding lad doing the voice-over on the need to regain our core values, all to the accompaniment of Holst’s I Vow to Thee, My Country – exactly like that, as many have pointed out maliciously, like them Emergency post-nuclear “Optimist” broadcast in Armando Iannucci’s 1990’s TV satire “The Day Today.”
With amazing audacity and without permission, Mordaunt used clips of the likes of Prof Susan Gilbert and Paralympian Jonnie Peacock and even Oscar Pistorius (did Mordaunt hear the news about this particular international treasure?). She’s now had to edit them out, but – shockingly – her shot of Jo Cox can still be seen, shown with a haughty, faux-modest remark about the Tories not having a ‘monopoly’ on decent values. It uses images of Churchill, Thatcher, Cameron/Clegg (together in their coalition bromance) and Theresa May, and even an embarrassed clip of Boris gag about “Let’s get breakfast done”.
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, we get to a still of Mordaunt, along with her robotic voice chanting her insane slogan. How very strange.
Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak gives us the slickest film that at least looks like some work went into it – work that may have even started before his actual resignation.
It’s a smooth montage of Sunak elbowing the public, occasionally wearing a Covid mask, attending meetings, pacing dynamically, all interspersed with the dictated drone/stock “British Things” footage and Sunak the autocue -Eyeball jiggles on camera exposes the need to make tough decisions to secure our future.
It begins by reusing a catchphrase of the late Max Bygraves: “Let me tell you a story…” And then there’s a heartwarming tale of his grandmother’s arrival in this country as a hardworking immigrant, then his pharmacist mother and NHS GP father. But unfortunately nothing about his experiences in Winchester, about his wife’s family and he unsportsmanlikely does not use the now legendary clip from his appearance in the BBC documentary Middle Classes – Their Rise and Sprawl from 2001, in which young Sunak says: “I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are working class…well, not working class.”
Sunak does not rely on low-tax rhetoric and finally asks: “Are we going to face this moment with honesty, seriousness and determination or are we telling comforting fairy tales?” His own approach seems to be a triangulation of this approach, a social realist Grimm Brothers, via the small child , who works hard to buy the beans to grow his wife’s Nondom Magic Money Tree.
We finally get his slogan: Ready for Rishi! The underlining makes it look more like Ready For Rish! A rhyming slang reminder of his big pandemic moment and the kind of things he might have yelled during the pandemic when he suddenly showed up at people’s restaurant tables with their garlic bread.
Rehman Chishti is the British-Pakistani Tory MP for Gillingham and Rainham and was appointed Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by Boris Johnson. Because of its sheer low-budget mayhem, his leadership campaign video has earned something of an art-house cult status.
It’s simply a three-minute clip he uploaded to his Facebook page without any graphics, speaking about his vision for the party and the future of the country, outdoors, in front of what appears to be a nettle bush and a dark, misty sky with the phone at an unflatteringly low angle while the wind in the microphone rumbles repulsively in the background. And maybe because Chishti hits the end-of-recording button too early, it actually cuts off before he’s finished speaking.
He enthuses: “Our great country is a great country because of its great people who believe in resilience, who believe in resourcefulness and who…” And that’s where it ends. What would Chishti say? Is there a director’s cut anywhere where he “… ends up being controlled by lizard-men on the planet Neptune, who must be appeased with regular human sacrifices, and I’m the only Tory contender for leadership who fully appreciates that.” “?
Otherwise, Chishti’s approach is almost unbearably boring as he incessantly uses his hands to tweet on his smartphone about unobtrusive things like mental health and gestures, as if performing a private form of sign language. This is the half-hearted video of someone expecting to withdraw their candidacy in order to support someone else.
This has to be the most fantastically boring and self-satisfied of the videos yet: Truss relies on the same kind of patriotic stock footage and drone footage that Mordaunt loves, but interspersed with her own on-camera bits (no generic voiceover) and her script is at times insufferable.
“We must deliver, deliver and deliver to the British people…” she says solemnly, a sentence three times more meaningless and cliche than: “We must deliver to the British people.”
As secretary of state, Truss can use many images of herself meeting key world leaders on the world stage, and so far she’s the only candidate to break out the U-word: “We need a prime minister with experience, who can do it from day one.” Touching stuff, but how exactly would Truss “ensure” Putin loses in Ukraine? Sounds like a very big increase in military spending – and how are we going to pay for it? Well, never mind.
Truss continues: ‘I’m tackling the impasse in Northern Ireland through the Protocol Act which will fix the problems of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement’ – although there are no clips of her shaking hands and smiling happily with Jeffrey Donaldson Michelle O’Neill . Disappointingly, she never rails against the influence of Michel Foucault, the French philosopher whom she has accused in the past of undermining educational values. Most unsportsmanlike, Truss fails to capitalize on the one thing that has caught the public eye: Jan Ravens’ impression of her for BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers. Their tagline is “Trusted To Deliver” when it should actually be “I KNOW!”