I watched Sunak announce the election: Here’s how it went


Sometimes you get very, very lucky in life. You’re at the right place at the right time to witness something massive. Usually for me it’s being in the right place to find out my train has been delayed, but today was something slightly different. I was lucky enough to see the Prime Minister announce the most awaited election in my lifetime. Even more so than the last one!

I had just arrived back in the country from a holiday to Germany when I got a text from a friend warning me of election rumours. Rishi Sunak, our current Prime Minister (as of May ’24), would finally announce the election. Since the days of Johnson, and then the days of Truss, and then finally the days of Sunak, the British public have all desperately clamoured for a general election. There’s only so much of an unelected government we can all take, after all.

By the time I’d left Stansted it became clear that something serious was going to happen. I had a few hours between my train from the airport and the train home, and I was going to spend the day in central London anyway. So why not spend it with our beloved PM and some of his favourite people – the press, and Steve Bray.

The gates of 10 Downing Street
Image taken by Byron Lewis

I arrived in Westminster about an hour before it all kicked off. As I bolted out of the Westminster tube stop I was greeted by Remain pro-EU protestors camped outside the Abbey. I did wonder if they were here just by coincidence, or if they knew something was in the air. Still not entirely sure.

I made my way closer to Number 10, where I finally saw something I’ve seen many times, just not in real life: Mr. Remain himself, Steve Bray. For those not in the know, Bray has been largely individually organising mass anti-Brexit protests for years. He has faced political repression, police oppression and internet scalding but still defiantly goes on doing his thing. Even if you find it a bit annoying, you really should respect the effort.

Onlookers and protestors outside Downing Street, minutes before Sunak calls the general election.
Image taken by Byron Lewis

Kitted out with a megaphone and a speaker loud enough to break through Eurovision-grade anti-booing technology, he was blaring out some of the most fitting anti-Tory anthems. I was greeted to D-Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, followed by the Benny Hill theme. Every so often he’d punctuate the music with nice little bulletins reminding us of the chaos of the last fourteen years… “liars… corruption… cheaters… sex pests… Tories out”.

We were then met with a defiant rendition of Ode to Joy – the EU supranational anthem. Sort of my generation’s of the “La Marseillaise” scene in Casablanca. Despite having just come back from the EU, and visiting Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn nonetheless – I can’t say I really got this bit. Ode to Joy just reminds me of A Clockwork Orange; suffice to say, only the true #FBPE parts of the crowd sang the Ludwig Van classic. It’s no D-Ream after all.

Steve Bray was not the loudest man as it happens. That honour would go to someone who appeared to be with him, who could belt ‘Tories Out’ and ‘Vote the Bastards Out’ so loudly you’d presume he was a town crier in a past life.

The atmosphere was a fascinating one. Despite the rain, despite the drizzle, despite the clouds, there was a deep sense of optimism that radiated through the crowd. A merry band of ardent Remainers who were probably protesting anyway, interested onlookers, people in politics not connected enough to watch it anywhere good, and Z-list columnists like Byron Lewis.

Of course, the moment came when the lectern arrived. And this was when the police moved about two thirds of the crowd. Rather than annoy the people with guns, I moved back a bit and took admittedly a slightly better position. The rain incapacitated my phone so I couldn’t quite get a picture of the lectern, nor Rishi. But it was worth the wait. Bray cued another repeat of Things Can Only Get Better.

Then Rishi came out. The phone signal completely dropped as hundreds of people immediately streamed the latest HD footage from BBC News. He got soaked instantly, and like the ‘wet’ conservative he has been labelled, grovelingly announced an election. You couldn’t really hear his speech over D-Ream. The historical record will show Rishi’s brave stand, a tired old broken record of the same talking points, being beaten by a song from 1994 used a quarter of a century ago in electioneering – a literal old broken record.

I’m brought back again to the Benny Hill theme, a welcome and possibly the most fitting choice of music at the whole thing. Benny Hill, also from Southampton like Rishi and I, was a master of farce. Unintentionally so is the current government. Ideological conservatives balk at defending the Sunak ministry with any conviction. Career politicians have hedged their bets on him for a semblance of stability, but don’t like him. The last two years have been a melodrama in the party of power, and not a welcome one. Whatever the outcome of the election, we will end up with a government with a mandate from the British people once again.

Writing this on the train home, I just received a notification: rain stopping soon. It may have rained today, but there will be sun in the future.

A banner outside Westminster station that reads "Corrupt Tory Government; Liars, Cheats and Charlatans; Get Them Out Now".
Image taken by Byron Lewis.

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