Without a word of warning, Theresa May reset the electoral clock. With just 50 days until alarm bells ring, the country’s lawmakers need to make a swift transition into campaign mode.
Whilst the party script has been set from above, the race is now on for MPs to prepare for their regression from parliamentarian to candidate. Politics may be one relentless campaign, but an election is different.
Jennifer Powell – former adviser to Sajid Javid MP – has an insider’s guide to the frantic work now underway in the offices of Westminster.
Credit Jamie Perriam
First reaction: Dismay:
It’s not just the public who are suffering from electoral overload. The countdown to the election is also a countdown to one of three possibilities for MPs: promotion, demotion or eviction.
To endure this three years on the trot (including the EU Referendum) requires money, manpower and mental agility / a hint of madness.
It also involves copious amounts of rule-checking. Midnight on Friday will mark the beginning of ‘Purdah’ and an end to parliamentary privilege (namely bespoke civil service briefings).
Come May 3rd it gets worse. MPs must now wear two hats: continuing the day job whilst locked out of their Westminster office. The portcullis crest is banned. New paper supplies are needed.
Parliamentary emails are blocked, social media accounts lose the word ‘MP’, literature must be written and every poster, email and post-it note gains an imprint of caveats.
All of this needs to be done with a tiny taxpayer-funded team banned from campaigning, whilst scrambling to find someone to run an election campaign, find the money to do so, and secure the local party’s backing – let alone form a campaign plan.
Second reaction: Optimism
Yet an election also brings hope. Suddenly everyone has a shot. Succeed and you may get that first swing on the greasy pole. There is a coming together of the party: senior party members tour the regions and mingle with the masses.
You remember the polls are for you, there’s a thrill of the chase – pounding the streets for old fashioned debates with ‘the good burghers’ of Madeuptown. And of course, a host of photo opps to boost your self-assuring Twitter feed.
Third reaction: Realism
And then reality sets in: the long slog of 15 hour days attempting to convince the disengaged masses that they’re wrong all comes to boiling point in the local school hall.
Was it worth it? Yes, Prime Minister.
Sign-up to receive Hinterland, our regular Friday round-up of the week’s most interesting news and views.