Ever since Boris Johnson got his foot in the door of Number 10, he has been *itching* for a general election. Indeed, the PM has been ready and raring to get rid of the “zombie parliament” haunting the halls of Westminster (Sajd Javid’s words, not ours) since almost day one of his premiership.
And Jeremy Corbyn has been been “champing at the bit” for a second tilt at No.10 since he came close in 2017.
But both men might be a *bit* disappointed with how the first week of their election campaigns have turned out so far.
First up, the Conservative Party. From a cabinet minister criticising Grenfell Tower victims to a high-profile resignation on day one of the official campaign, it has exactly not gone to plan.
Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Comments About Grenfell Tower Victims
Outside of SW1, Jacob Rees-Mogg is probably one of the best-known Tory politicians. So his comments suggesting that the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire – which killed 72 people – lacked “common sense” were not only seen as hugely offensive, but as a major blow to the campaign.
In an interview with LBC, the leader of the House of Commons said more people would survived the tragedy in June 2017 if they had chosen to “ignore” the London Fire Brigade’s advice to “stay put”.
“I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building,” Rees–Mogg said on Monday. “It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”
He has since apologised for the comments, saying he “would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time” – but it has done little to stem the outpouring of anger.
A number of high-profile people have called for his resignation – including Labour’s David Lammy and grime star Stormzy, who branded Rees-Mogg “an actual piece of shit”.
The whole thing was made even worse when Conservative candidate Andrew Bridgen suggested the minister would have survived the Grenfell fire because he is “very clever”. (Bridgen was then forced to release his own apology.)
James Cleverly Getting ‘Empty-Chaired’ By Kay Burley
Everyone knows that Sky presenter Kay Burley is a formidable – and indefatigable – journalist.
So when Tory Party chairman James Cleverly failed to turn up for an interview on Wednesday, absolutely no-one was surprised when she refused to let him off-the-hook. But her take-down was *brutal*.
Appearing on screen next to an empty chair, Burley told her audience: “I’ve got an empty chair here. It was supposed by filled by the chairman of the Conservative Party.
“Where is he? He’s probably 15 feet away from where I’m standing just at the moment.”
Refusing to pull any punches, she went out to read a list of questions she wanted to ask Cleverly – many of which were about various Tory blunders over the past few days.
“I know that Number 10 Downing Street watch our show,” she continued. “I know that the spin doctors at Number 10 Downing Street assured me via text that when politicians were doing the rounds in the morning, they would be doing this programme.
“And yet we have an empty chair.” Ouch.
But despite Cleverly’s thorough telling-off from Burley on-air, the Conservative candidate for Braintree has insisted that he was doing a radio interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer at the same time. “I’m good at multi-tasking but cannot be in two studios at the same time,” he tweeted.
A Cabinet Resignation On Day One Of The Election Campaign
On Wednesday, Welsh secretary Alun Cairns resigned after being accused of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of an allegation that a Tory candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.
A leaked email to the cabinet minister by his special advisor suggested he knew ex-staff member Ross England was involved in the collapse of rape proceedings in 2018.
England was said by judge Stephen Hopkins to have “single-handedly” and “deliberately” sabotaged the trial of his friend, James Hackett, after referring to the victim’s sexual history, it emerged last week. Hackett was convicted after a retrial in 2018.
England has since been suspended from the Conservative Party and withdrawn as a candidate for a Welsh Assembly seat, but the controversy over how he came to be selected continues.
In his resignation letter to Johnson, Cairns confirmed that he is facing an investigation into whether he breached the ministerial code.
However, he said he was “confident I will be cleared of any breach of wrongdoing”.
Tory Party Picks Candidate Who Thinks Women Should Keep Their ‘Knickers On’ To Avoid Rape
The candidates a party chooses to stand in a general election are important – they are the people the party wants representing them on the doorstep, at the polls and in Westminster.
So it looked pretty awful for the Conservative Party when it was revealed this week that they had chosen to stand former BBC presenter Nick Conrad – who once said women should keep their “knickers on” to avoid rape – in the Broadland constotuency in Norfolk.
In a 2014 radio conversation about footballer Ched Evans, Conrad suggested women were “partially responsible” for sexual assault.
Evans was originally convicted of a rape charge in May 2011. But the conviction was quashed and overturned at a retrial in 2016.
Conrad had said: “I think women need to be more aware of a man’s sexual desire.
“When you’re in that position that you are about to engage in sexual activity there’s a huge amount of energy in the male body.
“There’s a huge amount of will and intent and it’s very difficult for many men to say no when they are whipped up into a bit of a storm.”
He went on to say that if “a woman says no” it was “absolutely abhorrent” for a man to persist.
But Conrad added: “If you tease, if you jump into bed naked with a man, if you give him all the signals and then he acts upon them, then you are partially responsible.
“What I’m trying to say is that women also have to understand that when a man’s given certain signals, he’ll wish to act upon them and if you don’t wish to give out the wrong signals, it’s best probably to keep your knickers on and not get into bed with him.”
On Thursday, Conrad announced he would be standing down, saying: “Five years ago I made ill-judged comments during an on-air radio discussion for which I made a genuine and heartfelt apology.
“Last night I was honoured to be made the Conservative candidate for Broadland and had hoped to become the MP for a constituency which is close to my heart.”
A Business Minister Suggesting Jeremy Corbyn Might Shoot Rich People
As you can see, there have been some pretty mad moments this week. But the weirdest? Probably when Tory business minister Nadhim Zahawi said he wasn’t sure if Jeremy Corbyn would shoot rich people if he became prime minister. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Appearing on BBC’s The Andrew Neil Show on Wednesday, Zahawi – who is the Conservative candidate for Stratford-on-Avon – was asked about Johnson’s decision to compare the Labour leader’s “hatred” of the rich to Stalin’s treatment of Kulaks (more-affluent Russian peasants) in a piece in The Telegraph.
Neil asked Zahawi whether it was fair comparison, pointing out that Stalin had millions of Kulaks deported to Siberia, had hundreds of thousands of them shot and allowed millions more to starve to death.
“When you begin to demonise the wealth-creators, the entrepreneurs, it is – in my view – and incredibly dangerous road to go down,” Zahawi said.
“So is he going to have them shot?” Neil asked.
Zawahi hit back: “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him that question.”
The Tory minister later went on to admit the Labour leader wasn’t actually shooting anyone or letting them starve to death. But it’s probably safe to say Neil was speaking for all of us when he said: “This is getting absurd.”
Boris Johnson’s ‘Rambling’ Speech
Rounding the week off in suitable style, Johnson wrongly claimed his Brexit deal means “no checks” on goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in a “rambling” and “incoherent” speech on Thursday evening.
The prime minister also said free movement and single market access represent a “great deal” for the region.
The PM repeated the claims about the checks, contradicted by his own Brexit Secretary and the Home Office, his deal would mean “no checks” on good transported to the region from the rest of the UK.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner summed it up in a tweet, saying: “This is complete incoherent rambling nonsense from the PM.”
Labour will have been delighted at the Tory mistakes. But it is not as if everything has been going totally to plan for Corbyn’s campaign either.
Tom Watson quits
Tom Watson announced on Wednesday evening at 8pm he was stepping down as deputy leader of the Labour Party.
In a shock announcement, Watson said that he would not be seeking re-election as an MP in the forthcoming election. In a letter to Corbyn, he said that the time had come to “start a different kind of life”.
Corbyn probably will not be sad to see Watson go, given the rift between the pair. During their time together at the top of the party the two men clashed repeatedly, with Watson, a former ally of Gordon Brown, becoming a focus for the “moderate” opposition in the party to Corbyn.
His opposition to Corbyn angered allies of the Labour leader and on the eve of the Labour Party conference in September, they made an unsuccessful attempt to oust him by abolishing the post of deputy leader.
But the timing was not ideal and will not have led voters to believe the party was united in its fight against the Tories. In his reply to Watson, Corbyn said: “I hope the horseradish plants I gave you thrive.”
Ian Austin tells voters to back the Tories
On Thursday, one of the party’s former MPs urged voters to back Johnson over Corbyn at the election.
Ian Austin said the Labour leader was “not fit to lead” as he vowed to do “everything” he could to stop Corbyn entering Number 10.
Austin, who is not contesting the Dudley North seat he has held since 2005, told the Express & Star newspaper: “I must do everything I can to stop Jeremy Corbyn from getting into power.”
The long-time critic of Corbyn and a former adviser to Gordon Brown quit Labour in February in response to what he claimed was a “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”.
He said “decent patriotic Labour voters” should vote Tory to help Johnson get the majority he needs to stop Corbyn from entering Number 10, adding that the opposition leader was “too big a risk”.
Jewish Chronicle attacks Corbyn
The Jewish Chronicle newspaper published a stark front page urging voters not to back Labour because of Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism within the party.
The paper said the “near total inaction of Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership in dealing with anti-Semites in the party has both emboldened them and encouraged others” – accusing Corbyn and his allies of having “actively impeded action against the racists.”
Labour candidate posts gun image
Kate Osborne, a Unite official said to be favoured by digital campaigns chief Karie Murphy, has been imposed as candidate for the safe seat of Jarrow. Osborne came under fire on Friday after it emerged that in 2017 she posted an image of Theresa May at gunpoint.
Dan Carden, the shadow international development secretary, was forced to deny singing “Hey Jews” to The Beatles’ song Hey Jude on a coach trip. BuzzFeed News reported it had heard the singing during the trip back from the Cheltenham races in 2018.
“I have been categorical in my denial about allegations relating to a coach trip some 20 months ago,” Carden said. “I stand by my record as an anti-racist campaigner. I would never be part of any behaviour that undermines my commitment to fighting racism in all its forms.”