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Rough start for Tory campaign: A controversial video, a resignation and Grenfell outrage

The campaign will focus on ‘getting Brexit done’, but the party has some internal issues to sort out first.

Image: PA

THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY will launch its campaign today ahead of a 12 December general election – and it has not been a great start so far for leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Party chairman James Cleverly said Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg had “caused a huge amount of hurt and distress” with his comments on Grenfell Tower.

Rees-Mogg faced widespread criticism, including from Grenfell survivors and Jeremy Corbyn, after he said people are safer if they “just ignore what you’re told and leave”.

Rapper Stormzy called on Rees-Mogg to resign, calling him a “piece of s**t”, after the Tory MP suggested that Grenfell victims should have used “common sense” and ignored fire service guidance not to leave the burning tower block.

Rees-Mogg apologised for his remarks and said he intended to say he would also have listened to the LFB advice.

Cleverly told the BBC no-one could “credibly” know what decisions those “trapped” in the tower faced that evening.

‘Unacceptable’

The Tory chairman also said remarks by prospective Gower MP Francesca O’Brien were “unacceptable” but suggested she would not be axed as Tory candidate.

O’Brien posted on social media that people featured in reality TV show Benefits Street needed “putting down”.

Source: Facebook

Cleverly said: “This is a comment that the candidate themselves recognised was unacceptable.

“People often tweet in haste and regret what they have done afterwards.”

Cleverly also faced questions about a Tory campaign video that critics claim had been “doctored”.

The film depicts Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer struggling to answer a question on TV about his party’s position on leaving the European Union, despite him answering it “perfectly adequately”, according to the BBC’s Nick Robinson.

Cleverly told the BBC that Tory social media feeds had posted the interview in full and then followed it up with a “light-hearted” video on Labour’s Brexit position.

“What we also did, and this is not unique to us, is we did a light-hearted satirical video, obviously so with a comedy soundtrack, highlighting the Labour Party’s chaotic position on Brexit,” he said.

Asked whether his party had “posted a lie” online, he replied: “I disagree with your assessment of it.”

A resignation

Elsewhere, the shadow secretary of state for Wales, Christina Rees, accused Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of an allegation that a Conservative candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.

Cairns has now resigned, though he said he was unaware of former staff member Ross England’s role in the collapsed trial until after the story broke last week.

He has told the Prime Minister that he is sure an investigation into his conduct will clear him, but he does not want any more speculation and this is why he has stepped down. 

BBC Wales said it had obtained a leaked email sent to Cairns which showed he had been made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.

Vindictiveness

The challenges faced by the Tories come on a day when Johnson said Corbyn had taken a stance that demonises billionaires with a “relish and a vindictiveness” not seen since Stalin’s attitude to landowners following the Russian revolution.

Corbyn, speaking in his hometown Telford, said he would be a “very different” prime minister if his party wins the election.

“I was not born to rule. None of us in this room were born to rule. I don’t pursue the kind of politics that thinks it’s all a game, a parlour game, a debating society game.

I want to seek power for our party in order to share that power out all across the country and with all those communities that would have contributed to this historic Labour election victory which we’re looking forward to on 12 December.

Johnson is expected to put Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the NHS and law and order at the centre of the Tories’ campaign.

He left Buckingham Palace at 10.37am after spending just over 25 minutes with the Queen at her official London residence.

In Downing Street, he is expected to say: “There is only one way to get Brexit done, and I am afraid the answer is to ask the people to change this blockading Parliament.

“It’s time to change the dismal pattern of the last three years and to get out of our rut.

“Let’s go with this Conservative government, get Brexit done, and unleash the potential of our great country – delivering on the public’s priorities of our NHS, crime and the cost of living.”

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