Getting your picture taken in front of 10 Downing Street may be difficult, but it's not impossible for those who show a little creativity. DW's London correspondent Gerhard Elfers offers his advice to Britain's new PM.
When my father went to London for a week in the summer of 1972, he brought back some 8 mm film footage he shot. At home, we watched grainy scenes of Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, some of which were double exposures, which gave the whole thing an eerie quality. There was a ghostly scene, showing my father in front of the most famous door in the world, 10 Downing Street, looking into the middle distance with a feigned air of self-importance.
When I moved to London in 2003, I remembered that scene and asked him how he’d pulled it off. His answer was simple. Unlike today, Downing Street wasn’t fenced off at Whitehall back then, so he simply walked in and asked the policeman who guarded the door to film him. Different times. You need a special pass now to enter the street. Alternatively, you can become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a general election. Which is a bit of a hassle, but you can knock yourself out with selfies outside your own front door afterwards.
If you don’t have the stomach for that, you could also join a big parliamentary party, wait in the wings until the incumbent PM resigns after a rather stupid misjudgment, make a few tactical maneuvers, sit patiently while your competitors kill each other off, and just walk in. But make sure your party thinks you’re the one to “heal” it. No need for an election, you won’t even have to take a selfie, because the world press will be waiting to do that for you. Although you might end up in the rather inconvenient position of having to go against your better judgment and beliefs in leading your country through the most difficult period of self-inflicted harm it has seen since World War II. But there’s the added bonus of the odd photo with the Queen and the chance to launch nuclear weapons at your leisure, which might sound tempting to some.
My first PM was Tony Blair, but when I arrived in London, the shine had already worn off his premiership, because he had co-started a war on phony evidence. His successor, Gordon Brown, simply never shone. His supreme awkwardness made it possible for David Cameron to march into No. 10, albeit in an uncomfortable cabinet-flatshare with a coalition partner. Until Cameron won the next general elections outright, which nobody expected, and promptly kicked his country out of the European Union, which nobody expected.
Much has been written recently about the state of British politics, I’ll give you the gist: It’s a mess. It’s a mess because David Cameron, Boris Jonson and Michael Gove wanted to get that photo of themselves in front of that famous door. They were willing to accept a historical train-wreck of epic proportions for the advancement of their own careers. Well, here’s a top tip for my prime minister No. 4: before you trigger Brexit, start a war on phony evidence, or give the Trident-missiles a go, stand in a general election. It feels better to govern with a proper mandate. And in case you lose, go to Adam Street, London WC2 6AA, just off the Strand, near the Savoy Hotel. Find Number 10. You’ll be delighted to notice that the front door and entrance area are nearly identical to the one in Downing Street. Then, just take your selfie and walk away.
Gerhard Elfers has been in journalism for nearly 30 years, working, among for WTN, NBC News and German broadcasters ART and RTL, among others. Since 2008 he has been DW's business correspondent in London.