A Review of the 2022 Conservative Party Leadership Election Videos

They’re at it again, and I’ve reviewed their efforts.

Rishi Sunak

Rating – 4/10

First out of the gate was Rishi Sunak, with an extremely polished video miraculously pulled together in the 48 hours between him resigning as Chancellor and announcing his candidacy for PM.

Rishi’s video opens with a shot from what appears to be an underground bunker hostage situation. We have an ominously black background, harsh light creating dramatic shadows across his face, and a nervous individual who seems not to have recently slept.

This shot appears to have been lit with a desklamp on top of a crate

The classics are classic for good reason, and Rishi goes straight off the bat with the hardworking immigrant family story. However, Given that Rishi was serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer while this video was produced, Rishi naturally didn’t have the time to check the details of the way in which his family story would be told through animated versions of their photo albums, or indeed, whether the narrative would be centered in the correct country.

As someone who also grew up just outside Southampton, I can confirm there is no sign anywhere near the city resembling the image appearing at 0:14. This is, in fact, an American-style sign pointing to Southampton in New York State.

A sight you will never see on the M3

Given that Rishi was not so long ago lambasted in the media for retaining a US Green Card while serving as a UK cabinet minister, this might be seen as something of a faux pas. Nevertheless, given that Southampton hasn’t had a lot to feel proud of since the launch of the Titanic (just Craig David, and until a couple of years ago, Matt LeTissier) we’ll overlook that one.

Yet, in another minor affront to Southampton, at 20 seconds we have a regraded shot of the far more attractive neighbouring city of Winchester, but nothing noticeable from the city where Rishi is actually from. At 26 seconds, the voice-over tells us “One of those children was my mother, aged 15” and we see a picture of Rishi’s mother already with a husband and three children.

This lady appears much older.

The rest of the video is really just a montage of stock footage and clips from media appearances in the past, interspersed with increasingly desperate pleas from Rishi in his bunker. No actual photos of Southampton make an appearance, which while disappointing, is understandable.

Curiously, almost nothing of substance is actually said in the video. Platitudes about hope, challenges, values, and unity are all there, supported by an increasingly frantic contrapuntal piano and string pad which only serves to make Rishi seem unhinged.

We then, strangely, just have a series of shots of Rishi elbowing random members of the public, all shot on a gimbal – presumably to give the feeling of dynamism and energy. At the end of the video, Rishi says something about how despite talking about himself for two and a half minutes, it’s actually not about him, but about everyone else… and then ominously fades into the darkness.

What’s strange about this video is that despite meticulous planning the time and effort that clearly went into it, it’s not particularly good. Slick, polished, but soulless.

Rishi actually gave an editor a whole bunch of old family photos, which is quite a bold move that shows a willingness to be open, yet, this feels at odds with the script and the polish of the video, which feel very manufactured and superficial.

Liz Truss

Rating – 3/10

Liz has paid some money for about 50 stock drone shots of prominent UK landmarks, and not a penny of that £75 has been wasted, as they all make an appearance in the first ten seconds of her video.

We then move to the main A-CAM shot, which shows Liz in a suburban back garden, presumably her own. In an attempt to make Liz seem like a rotary washing line, this footage has been captured on a gimbal, with the camera operator slow walking around Liz, while she adjusts her position to suit.

Presumably, the videographer thought this movement would add some professionalism and visual interest, but she seems so focused on seamlessly shuffling around that she has forgotten to read the lines with any sort of emotion at all.

As with Rishi’s video, and possibly ripped directly from it given that Liz’s launch was three days later, we have a series of images strung together with some old film grain and negative dirt effects.

Then again, as with Rishi’s video, we have a montage of Liz from media appearances and her ministerial career to date, although in this case, almost every shot is of Liz in a different boardroom or corridor.

To conclude, we go back to the rotary washing line, where she promises to fix the problems of the Northern Ireland protocol with all the gusto and pizzazz of an exhausted koala.

Finally, we are presented with the conclusive punchline and call-to-action. Unfortunately, it’s for a small haulage firm in the west midlands.

Trusted (Get it?) to Deliver

Liz’s video has all the hallmarks of a situation where she saw Rishi’s and said to an agency, with very little notice, “I want one of those as well.”

It’s almost a carbon copy, but remarkably, somehow worse. The script concentrates on all things Liz would want to do if she held high office, supported by imagery of her not actually managing to achieve those things while in high office.

Suella Braverman

Rating – 5/10

Suella was the first to announce her leadership ambitions but didn’t get a video out of the door until four days later. Her video opens with the core to-camera talking head shot, and in my view, it’s compositionally much better than Rishi or Liz’s.

Here we have clean lighting, a nice blurred background and good framing on the talent. There is one very strange glaring error though, which is that the video doesn’t appear to have actually been graded at all. The entire thing, and especially the first shot has a grey, washed-out look to it. It’s very dull and almost as if it was shot in a flat colour profile, but the video team (presumably deliberately) didn’t bother to spend 5 minutes applying a simple grade before exporting.

Here is how it looks before and after I apply a stock LUT colour grade, which took less than a minute (bear in mind I am working with an MP4 ripped from Twitter, so the quality is low).

Without a grade
With a grade

Suella starts by stating the purpose of the video (running for leader), which is probably smart, because it’s unlikely anyone is going to watch much more.

We then, bizarrely, take an about-turn, and have Suella talking us through a bizarre regional military festival in her constituency for 30 seconds. Eventually, the purpose of this is revealed, and we move straight into the classic proud immigrant narrative Rishi has also leaned into. To be fair to Suella, she does a much better job of it than Rishi, because instead of laboriously going through the details of her family tree, she goes hard on the patriotism early doors, with a great deal of (what feels like) genuine passion.

The music is also very effective here. It’s clean and minimal major piano that slowly builds, and conveys the right kinds of positivity.

However, from here… things take a strange turn. With a tight camera shot, Suella bounces around slightly erratically, and runs through a list of all the jobs that make her well-suited to being PM including cleaner, bartender, and supermarket worker, but curiously, not Attorney General.

If Liz Truss appears to be half-asleep in her video, Suella Braverman appears to be halfway through a night on the powder with Michael Gove in hers.

Halfway through, we get an appearance of the obligatory stock drone shots of London, and then for some reason a major shopping street almost entirely bereft of customers while Suella regales us with her plans to get the economy back on track via cutting taxes.

The music then takes a sudden change, and we’re treated to a new stock backing track – a flute and guitar combo seemingly pulled from an obscure evangelical church one of the southern US states. This underpins a further rant about taxes for another 30-seconds, before a final twist for the few Suella superfans who haven’t yet abandoned hope and clicked away.

At 2 minutes thirty, we’re back with Suella in her constituency at the military festival and she’s politely tolerating some absolutely excruciatingly out-of-tune clarinets

Suella will save us from the burden of excessive regulation, but not the burden of children’s woodwind ensembles.

In the final act of this three-and-a-half-minute totem which remarkably manages to feel longer than 2001: A Space Odyssey, Suella is back talking to camera, with (blissfully) only the light piano accompaniment. She announces that only the British people themselves can turn Britain around, which, given the prominence of members of the Royal Navy throughout the rest of the video, feels less than reassuring.

Penny Mordaunt

Rating – 2/10

Penny commits to three minutes of stock drone shots of British landmarks accompanied by “I vow to thee my country”, also known as the theme from Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity by Gustav Holst, which is appropriate, as the only question you’re left asking at the culmination of this three minute epic is “What planet was she on?” This video appears to be exclusively designed to appeal to fans of tank documentaries.

Not only does Penny fail to appear in the video at all, the vast majority of it is voiced by someone doing a John Hurt impression. The message appears to be that character and integrity are the most important aspects voters should consider, and (perhaps accurately) that not appearing in the video to express any sort of opinion at all is the best demonstration of good character for a prospective Conservative Prime Minister.

Supporting the line “Conservatives do not have a monopoly on good people and good ideas” is a picture of the former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who was famously forced from office only three years ago on account of having bad ideas, followed up by a photo of former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who led his party to electoral oblivion in 2015.

Finally Portsmouth is shown in all her splendour (take note Rishi), and Penny’s voice finally appears to say that the leadership should be less about the leader and more about the ship. I assume this is supposed to be a reference to her prior career in the Royal Navy designed to reassure Tory MPs that she wants a return to cabinet government, but surely the better analogy there would have been the crew, rather than the ship itself.

While this video was undoubtedly very cheap and quick to produce, I fear Penny took inspiration from: “We may not count her armies, we may not see her King” a little too literally.

Nadhim Zahawi

Rating – 7/10

Nadhim has followed precisely the same model as Rishi and Suella for his video, but turned the music unnecessarily up to eleven. We’ve got stock footage of British landmarks, we’ve got pictures from his childhood, and prior media appearances. We’ve also inexplicably got a random shipping container.

The music is genuinely emotive, but it’s so loud in the mix at the end of the video that you can’t actually really hear what Nadhim is saying. His pitch, therefore, seems to be: pick me- you’ll get twinkly pianos and big violins.

In fairness to Nadhim, this is probably the best performance of the lot – and the video hits all the major points on values and experience. The main talking head shot isn’t flashy or lit very well, but it does an adequate job and has at least been graded, unlike Suella’s.

Tom Tugendhat

Rating – 1/10

There’s nothing wrong with going simple and doing a straight-to-camera monologue. However, you therefore do need to be able to at least talk fluently and with some discernable emotion, a challenge which sadly seemed to evade Tom in this instance.

Even though the background in Tom’s video is fairly tastefully blurred, we can tell it’s in a kitchen, because the sound of the voice recording is incredibly tinny and echoey, not helped by the choice to have no music whatsoever in the background.

Combined with Tom’s total lack of body movement throughout, the whole thing feels needlessly sinister. The consequence of this is that as an audience member you’d be forgiven for assuming Tom’s announcement of a Ten-year plan is likely to have some passing resemblance to two of Joseph Stalin’s infamous Five-year plans.

What can be said for Tom is that his video is at least only a minute long, which at only one minute too long, ensures it’s less bloated than all the others.

Kemi Badenoch

Rating – N/A

Kemi, sadly, didn’t have a video for her launch, and just went with a few op-ed articles instead. But it hasn’t seemed to do her much harm, as she appears to be a grass-roots favourite outperforming most expectations. Perhaps this offers a lesson to the other candidates!

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