It’s been less than two weeks since the United Kingdom’s parliament was dissolved to make way for a general election — but there have already been dozens of gaffes, controversies, and car-crash interviews.
As voters prepare to head to the polls on December 12, Business Insider has rounded up the most high-profile blunders and setbacks suffered by Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats, so far in the campaign.
1. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ‘unforgivable arrogance’ over Grenfell
The Conservative party’s election bid got off to the worst possible start start on November 5 when Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, caused widespread outrage for suggesting that victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster should have used “common sense” and ignored advice which told them to stay in the burning building.
“If you just ignore what you’re told and leave, you are so much safer,” Rees-Mogg, a prominent Brexiteer whose personal fortune is estimated at over £100 million, told LBC radio in an interview.
“And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do.”
The comments prompted instant and near-universal criticism, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell attacking Rees-Mogg’s “unforgivable arrogance.”
Rees-Mogg was forced to apologise, but the incident threatens to deter some wavering voters who are concerned about the party appearing out-of-touch.
2. Conservatives HQ doctors footage of Labour’s Keir Starmer
Only a day after Rees-Mogg was forced to apologise for his Grenfell comments, the Conservatives were accused of spreading “fake news” over a clip of Labour’s Keir Starmer which they posted to their social media channels. The clip falsely suggested that the Shadow Brexit Secretary was left speechless during an interview.
—Conservatives (@Conservatives) November 5, 2019
In the video, Starmer is asked a series of questions about Labour’s Brexit policy, the last of which appears to leave him lost for words. But in the original footage of the interview, Starmer answers the question immediately.
Conservative MP Johnny Mercer was one of the prominent politicians who criticised his own party’s video.
“It would appear this has inexplicably been doctored at the end,” he tweeted.
“I apologise and will remove it.”
The party refused to delete the video. Conservative chairman James Cleverly said it was “light-hearted and satirical.”
3. Labour’s Tom Watson stands down
A series of high-profile Conservative gaffes after parliament was dissolved was only stymied when Labour suffered their own series of very high-profile setbacks in the space of a day on November 6.
The first saw Labour’s Tom Watson announce that was resigning as the party’s deputy leader and would not be standing again as a candidate in his constituency of West Bromwich East.
The departure of one of Labour’s most high-profile moderates prompted fresh questions about the direction of the party under leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite Watson’s insistence he was standing down for “personal” reasons.
Watson had repeatedly clashed with the leader over issues including his Brexit stance and anti-Semitism.
4. Former Labour MPs tell voters to back Boris Johnson
Labour’s miserable week was compounded when two former Labour MPs urged voters to back Boris Johnson, saying Corbyn was “completely unfit” to run the country.
Ian Austin and John Woodcock, both longtime critics of Corbyn who sat as independents after quitting Labour, said he had not done enough to tackle antisemitism within the party’s ranks, and was a threat to national security.
“Voting for anybody other than Boris Johnson risks Corbyn getting into No 10 and I think that would be a disaster for Britain,” Austin said.
Many Westminster stories do not reach the electorate or affect the way many of them vote. But the joint attack on Corbyn may have some cut-through in traditional, Labour-held seats where voters are wary of Corbyn.
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The Liberal Democrats hand out ‘misleading’ leaflets
The Liberal Democrats have gained notoriety for bar charts which appear to inflate their own prospects of electoral success compared to other parties. It’s early in the election campaign, but they’ve lived up to that reputation so far.
The party has been accused of misleading voters in multiple constituencies across the country with its election literature. That includes leaflets sent out by the Liberal Democrats in Putney, south London, where campaign literature said “YouGov polling for Putney” put the party in level pegging with the Conservatives. But YouGov confirmed to Business Insider that they had not carried out any polling in the constituency.
Another leaflet sent out by the party last week quoted the Guardian newspaper as saying “Lib Dems winning and on the up after by-election victory (pictured above.) However, the quote is actually from party leader Jo Swinson herself.
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