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Common sense, a JCB and a punch that never happened - Key moments of the UK election campaign

There were tough times for both the Tories and the Labour Party, but there was one clear winner at the end.

IT WAS A victory for the Tories in Thursday’s general election, with Brexit now likely to happen within the next month.

Although they came out with a majority in the end, it was not always plain sailing for the Conservative Party during the election campaign. 

On the first day of the campaign, in fact, there was a controversy involving senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg .

He was forced to apologise over comments about London’s 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 72 lives. The MP suggested some of the victims could have survived if they had followed “common sense”, ignored fire brigade advice to stay put and fled to safety.

Rees-Mogg has not been seen on the national stage since.

Anti-Semitism warning 

There were tough times too for the Labour Party. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis made an unprecedented political intervention to warn that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations within his party made him “unfit for high office”.

Mirvis said “a new poison” had taken hold of the party, which had been “sanctioned from the very top” and left British Jews justifiably “gripped by anxiety” before the 12 December poll.

London Bridge terror attack

The campaign was rocked on 29 November when convicted terrorist Usman Khan knifed two members of the public to death before being shot dead by police on London Bridge.

The incident immediately became politicised as Khan had already served time for terror offences, before being released early.

Johnson said he thought it was “wrong” that Khan had been set free early, sparking criticism from the father of one of the victims, who helped run a prisoner rehabilitation programme.

David Merritt said the prime minister was using his son Jack’s death to promote “vile propaganda”, accusing him of trying to “make political gain from people’s death in a terror incident”.

‘Deemed untrustworthy’

The prime minister also came in for criticism after refusing an interview with the BBC’s chief political interrogator Andrew Neil.

Guardian News / YouTube

The veteran broadcaster subjected all the other leaders to a grilling, giving Corbyn a particularly uncomfortable time, but Johnson ducked out, leading to accusations of cowardice.

Neil scolded the prime minister in a much-watched monologue, saying he would like to ask him “why at so many times in his career, in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy”.

Johnson said he had done over 100 interviews in the campaign and felt the format was “tired”, further fuelling his party’s feud with the BBC, which it accuses of anti-Brexit bias.

‘Boy on floor’ 

With Johnson riding high in the polls with just days to go before the vote, and seemingly set for victory, his campaign was blindsided by a mother’s picture of her ill son sleeping on a hospital floor due to a lack of beds.

The prime minister invited further criticism when he took a reporter’s mobile phone and put it in his pocket as the journalist tried to show him the picture.

The story spiralled further out of control when the Conservatives accused a Labour activist of punching an advisor to health minister Matt Hancock during a visit to the hospital.

But video footage later revealed that the activist had accidentally struck the advisor, who was looking the other way, as he jabbed his finger at Hancock’s car.

Get Brexit Done

And then there was Johnson’s creative photo opportunity in which he climbed into a JCB and smashed through a wall that had the word ‘gridlock’ printed across it. 

Speaking yesterday, the prime minister pledged to heal the divisions of Brexit. He said he had an “overwhelming mandate” to take Britain out of the EU by the end of January.

But at the same time he sought to reach out to Remainers, insisting his “One Nation” government would never ignore their feelings of “warmth and sympathy” towards the other nations of Europe.

“Now is the moment, precisely as we leave the EU, to let those natural feelings find renewed expression in building a new partnership,” he said.

“I frankly urge everyone on either side of what are, after three and a half years, increasingly arid argument, I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin.”

- AFP 2019 with reporting from PA and Michelle Hennessy.

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