Sunak’s Titanic, photobombs and upside down flags: The best general election gaffes so far

From standing below an exit sign to falling off a paddleboard, The Independent has put together the best blunders from the election campaign with more than a month still to go

Jabed Ahmed
Wednesday 19 June 2024 16:07 BST
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Rishi Sunak Labour attack ad backfires

The general election campaign is in full swing with party leaders travelling across the country announcing policies and speaking to voters.

Over last month, there has been no shortage of gaffes and blunders, particularly from prime minister Rishi Sunak.

From being soaked outside Number 10 as he called the snap election without an umbrella, to being asked if he was captaining a “sinking ship” when he visited Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, the PM’s campaign has been far from ideal.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has also had his fair share of blunders. He has been spotted falling off a paddleboard, riding a waterslide in a rubber ring and skidding down a hill on a bike – all as part of his campaign trail.

With 15 days until voters head to the polls, party communications teams will be hoping to avoid any more slip ups.

The Independent has put together the best gaffes and blunders from the election campaign below.

Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party

‘Things can only get wetter’: Sunak drenched as he announces election

Rishi Sunak drenched as he announces snap election

The campaign hadn’t even begun when the prime minister made his first mistake – swapping the £2.6 million Downing Street press briefing room for the Great British Outdoors.

Heavy rain poured down on the prime minister, who spoke from a lectern outside No 10 without an umbrella.

Labour’s 1997 theme Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream was blasted from a speaker, drowning out Mr Sunak’s attempts to boast of his inflation achievements.

Mr Sunak, wearing a suit with a light blue tie, became increasingly soaked during the speech.

A few days later, the PM admitted he “was a bit wet” during the announcement.

Own goal at Welsh brewery over national team’s Euros absence

Rishi Sunak asks Welsh voters if they are looking forward to Euros - despite team not qualifying

One day into the election trail, Mr Sunak asked staff at a brewery in Barry, South Wales,  if they were looking forward to this summer’s football, despite the national team not qualifiying for the Euros.

But one of the pub workers was quick to correct him on his mishap, following Wales’s play-off final defeat to Poland in March.

He interjected and said “Only if you support England!”, to which Mr Sunak awkwardly replied the hospitality industry was one the Conservatives supported.

Captain of a “sinking ship” at the Titanic Quarter

Rishi Sunak wears a life jacket during his visit to the Titanic Quarter
Rishi Sunak wears a life jacket during his visit to the Titanic Quarter (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

The prime minister faced another blunder when asked by a reporter whether he was captaining a "sinking ship" during a visit to Northern Ireland's Titanic Quarter.

The unfortunate question was asked when Mr Sunak visited Artemis Technologies, a local company which manufactures zero-emissions maritime technology with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris.

“Are you captaining a sinking ship going into this election?” the reporter asked.

To which an irked Sunak replied: “If you look at what’s happened over the past few weeks, you can see our plan is working.”

Mr Heaton-Harris, who was standing right next to the PM, could be seen struggling to contain his grin.

Questioned by a Tory councillor

(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

In one of the first Q&A events at a distribution centre in Derbyshire, the PM took questions from supposedly random workers.

Speaking to around 50 people, he was asked about his flagship plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He was told that the “biggest issue is going to be immigration over this election campaign” before he was asked whether “your Rwanda plan is going to see results and stop the small boats coming?”

Broadcasters showed Prime Minister thanking the man for his “important question.”

It later emerged the question had come from Conservative Leicestershire County councillor Ross Hills.

Sunak stands below an exit sign

(via REUTERS)

On a flight to a campaign event two days into the election campaign, Mr Sunak suffered an unfortunate blunder when he was snapped standing underneath an exit sign.

‘Blank page’ Labour attack backfires

Rishi Sunak Labour attack ad backfires

The Labour Party turned an attempt by Mr Sunak to mock them into a viral post that looks like he is endorsing them. 

The Tories’ latest post on TikTok shows the prime minister explaining “Labour’s policy for our country’s future” on a flipchart.

The short video sees him turn over the cover to show a blank page, before capping a pen in his hand, placing it down and walking off-camera.

But Labour’s social media team were quick to hit back at the video with an edited version that showed Sir Keir Starmer’s “first steps for change” on the flipchart.

The Labour Party post has now received over 2.4 million views on X and a further 308,000 on TikTok.

Union Jack flag flying upside down

Conservative party's first election broadcast

In the Conservative Party’s first election broadcast, the Union Jack depicted flying upside down.

The prime minister’s video pointed to uncertain times fuelled by “pandemic, war in Europe and the Middle East, a reckless dictator in Russia… China”.

“We face unprecedented challenges here at home because of global insecurity, but by sticking with the plan Rishi Sunak is steadying the ship and making progress,” a deep-voiced narrator says over footage of the PM working.

But, just minutes after the video was released, it was pointed out that perhaps the most striking part of the video is a shot of the UK’s flag upside down.

Sunak photobombed by Lib Dems boat

Rishi Sunak photobombed by Lib Dems boat during election campaign stop

The prime minister was photobombed by Liberal Democrats campaigners on a boat as he spoke to rowers in Oxfordshire on Monday.

The prime minister was visiting a riverside rowing club as Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper and a group of activists rode past on the water holding orange diamond-shaped voting placards. Campaigners could be seen waving at the PM.

Of the stunt, a Lib Dem source told media: “This is just another small boat Rishi Sunak can’t deal with.”

Flock of sheep flee as Rishi Sunak and David Cameron try to feed them

Flock of sheep flee as Rishi Sunak and David Cameron try to feed them

A flock of sheep fled as Rishi Sunak and David Cameron tried to feed them during a campaign visit to Devon on 18 June.

The prime minister and Lord Cameron entered the sheep’s pen with buckets full of food for the animals.

“Come on,” Mr Sunak said as the flock ran to the other side of the pen.

“They don’t want to play ball,” a farmer accompanying Mr Sunak said.

Grant Shapps hangs up phone live on TV when asked about losing his seat

Defence secretary Grant Shapps hung up the phone during a live interview when he was asked about losing his seat in the upcoming general election.

YouGov survey suggested the defence secretary could be voted out of parliament along with many of his Conservative colleagues.

While presenting the polls’ results on Sky News on Monday deputy political editor Sam Coates spotted Shapps was calling him.

The camera kept rolling as Coates answered and said: “Hello Grant Shapps, you’re live on Sky News.

“I’m in the studio with Sophy Ridge. Have you seen you’re about to lose your seat, according to the Sky News-YouGov projection?”

There was a moment’s silence before the phone emitted a few beeps, meaning Shapps was no longer there.

Suella Braverman’s ‘cringey’ TikTok video

Suella Braverman uses TikTok trend to urge constituents to vote for her in election

The former home secretary was filmed doing a swaggering dance to the soundtrack of Fedde Le Grand and Ida Corr’s 2006 hit ‘Let Me Think About It’.

She launched the new account on the social media platform last week with a handful of videos as part of her general election campaign, and it has already received tens of thousands of views.

Keir Starmer and the Labour Party

Starmer draws laughter after mentioning toolmaking father... Again

Audience laugh at Keir Starmer as he mentions his dad was a toolmaker

Sir Keir Starmer was met with groans and laughs from the audience as he told Beth Rigby his father was a toolmaker during last week’s Sky News debate.

The Labour leader has repeatedly told voters about his childhood during the general election campaign.

When pressed on his current financial situation and if he would “personally” be happy to pay more tax, Sir Keir admitted he “earns a lot of money now”.

“But when I grew up, my dad was a toolmaker, he worked in a factory,” he added, drawing laughter with the repeated line.

Sir Keir freezes after being called ‘political robot’ during debate

During the same debate, the Labour leader was taken off guard when he was described as a “political robot” by a member of the audience.

“I admired how in touch you were with the public when you were a solicitor and director of public prosecutions for the CPS,” an audience member, from Yorkshire, began.

“But over the last year... You seem more like a political robot. How are you going to convince others like me to vote for you?”

The question drew laughter from others in the crowd and saw Sir Keir pause for a few seconds before responding.

Dawn Butler raps in campaign video to mark 21 days until general election

Dawn Butler raps in campaign video to mark 21 days until general election

Dawn Butler has released a video of herself rapping to mark the three-week countdown to the general election.

The Labour candidate, battling for the Brent East seat, shared a clip of herself singing over a remixed version of “21 Seconds” by So Solid Crew.

“We’ve got 21 days to go,” Ms Butler sings, before referencing Rishi Sunak’s D-Day blunder and labelling previous Tory prime ministers “corrupt”.

The clip has already been viewed more than500,000 times.

Ed Davey and the Liberal Democrats

Ed Davey falls off paddleboard as Lib Dems campaign in Lake District

Ed Davey falls into Lake Windermere

Sir Ed Davey took a dive into Lake Windermere while paddleboarding as he outlined his party’s plan to tackle the sewage crisis.

Local Lib Dem candidate Tim Farron joined his party leader at Low Wood Bay Watersports Centre where the pair had mixed success, being pictured taking multiple plunges.

During his visit to the Lake District, Sir Ed said local environmental experts should be represented on water companies’ boards to ensure sewage spills are taken seriously, as he accused Conservative ministers of “sitting on their hands”.

Rubber ring on waterslide

Ed Davey rides waterslide as Lib Dems continue election campaign

The Lib Dem leader slid down a waterslide riding a rubber ring as the party campaigned about children’s mental health on Thursday, 30 May.

He wore swimming shorts and a T-shirt to ride down the Ultimate Slip n Slide attraction near Frome, Somerset.

Defending the stunt, Sir Ed said: “Politicians need to take the concerns and interests of voters seriously but I’m not sure they need to take themselves seriously all the time and I’m quite happy to have some fun.”

Sir Ed’s Frome and East Somerset visit was to support the campaign of his party’s candidate Anna Sabine and highlight their pledge to improve mental health support for young people.

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