The Conservative Party’s general election campaign has already been a disaster of epic proportions. Whether it’s the slew of resignations in the party, or the offhand comments made by Jacob Rees-Mogg about the Grenfell victims: the shambles of recent weeks more closely resembles the script to an episode of The Thick of It than it does a billionaire-funded campaign led by expert spin-doctors. And, with Labour making solid gains in the polls, these blunders may well set the Tories on course to a defeat.
The debacle kicked off on 5th November with the comments made by Tory cabinet minister Jacob-Rees Mogg on the popular radio show LBC. When the discussion turned to the topic of the recent Grenfell fire inquiry, Rees-Mogg remarked that the victims of the blaze “lacked common sense” for following the ‘stay put’ advice given to them by the London Fire Brigade.
Of course, the leader of the Commons was in no rush to criticise the fact that the tower was covered in flammable cladding; nor to lament the cuts to the fire services that may have limited firefighters’ response – for doing so would draw attention to the failings of his own party.
Rees Mogg - says - Grenfell victims should have ignored the instructions of the emergency services.— Roger Gall #VoteLabour (@Shambles151) November 12, 2019
The current leader of his Party - says - flood victims should NOT ignore the instructions of the emergency services.
Hypocrites always find someone to blame - except themselves? pic.twitter.com/8cK9b4yqHd
These comments betrayed the sense of utter contempt that the Tory Party has for working people and migrants. And, as if Rees-Mogg’s remarks weren’t inflammatory enough, another high-ranking Tory, Andrew Bridgen, stepped in to defend Rees-Mogg, on the grounds that he is “cleverer” than the Grenfell residents!
Given that the Grenfell fire took place in the constituency of Kensington, in which the margin between Labour and the Tories in 2017 was only 30 votes, these comments will no doubt spur on working class voters to turnout and deliver a shattering blow against any hopes of a Conservative victory.
Resignations and deselections
Shortly after came the resignation of the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, over his knowledge of the sabotage of a rape trial. His former aide, Ross England, had deliberately collapsed a rape trial in 2018. Despite knowing this, Cairns nonetheless endorsed him as a "friend and colleague" with whom "it will be a pleasure to campaign", when England was selected as a candidate for the Welsh Assembly.
Moreover, Cairns denied knowing about his friend’s wrongdoing, despite an email surfacing showing that Cairn’s was made aware of it last year! The old adage of never trusting a Tory continues to ring true.
Then came the news of the deselection of a slew of Tory candidates. Antony Calvert was forced to step down after social media posts emerged of him denying the severity of food bank usage, as well as dismissing women’s issues as “irrelevant”. Charlie Elphicke, the Dover MP since 2010, has stepped down over allegations of sexual assault from three different women. And finally, Nick Conrad quit the race following criticism over comments made about how “woman should keep their knickers on” to avoid being sexually assaulted.
The debacle continued with the deputy chair of Stourbridge Conservative Association resigning over Islamophobia in the candidate selection process. Kyle Pedley said he was “aghast” at the fact that a Muslim candidate was asked questions like “are you really a Muslim?” and “do you pray five times a day?”. Furthermore, the panel in charge of the selection process openly questioned whether they really “needed an Asian”.
This only adds to the gargantuan pile of incidents of Islamophobia in the party, reinforcing their reputation as a rabble of rabid, xenophobic reactionaries.
As in 2017, the illusion of the Tories being the ‘strong and stable’ party has certainly been shattered by the barrage of media blunders in recent weeks. A day after Rees-Mogg’s Grenfell comments, the chair of the Conservative Party, James Cleverly, failed to turn up for an interview he had arranged to do on Kay Burley’s breakfast show on Sky News.
Understandably irritated by the no-show, the host continually pointed out the absence of her guest, with the camera zooming in on the empty chair next to her. According to Burley, her guest was actually in the studio, but refused to go on air as he hadn’t arranged to speak on the show. Given the Tories’ impeccable track record for telling fibs, one would be forgiven for doubting this paper-thin excuse.
The Tories have also been hounded over one of their targeted ads on social media. The video in question featured a doctored video of the Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, during an interview on Good Morning Britain. The footage was heavily edited to show Starmer apparently stumped at a question on the Labour Party’s Brexit policy. It was even criticised as “misleading and unfair” by the show’s co-host Piers Morgan – hardly a man known for espousing progressive views.
Boris Johnson either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth. Probably both. pic.twitter.com/fvqh7PWPjS— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 8, 2019
The Tories yielding to this Dominic Cummings style of politics – where fake news is seen as an acceptable option in their fight against Labour – should come as no surprise. The Tory Party, and the capitalist class whom they represent, are clearly terrified of the very real prospect of an insurgent Labour campaign, and are prepared to resort to any measure in their effort to fool the public.
The true irony of this incident is the fact that the Tories themselves are in utter disarray when it comes to Brexit. Despite attempting to portray this election as being solely about the issue of Brexit - in which only the Tories can be trusted to “get Brexit done” - the Tories show no signs of coming to an agreement over how they should exit the EU.
This was rather comically demonstrated in a video that recently went viral, in which Boris Johnson drunkenly contradicted the position of his own Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on the issue of trade with the North of Ireland. While Barclay maintains that there will be customs checks on exports from the North to Great Britain, in the video, Boris – with the eloquence of a drunken uncle at a wedding party – asserts the exact opposite!
Smoke and mirrors
The culmination of the early weeks of the Tories’ disastrous campaign was captured very appropriately by how empty the launch event in Birmingham was. Official press photos depicted a packed-out hall of supporters surrounding Johnson. But leaked photos from the event showed that the hall was in fact more than half-empty. And the assembled crowd that did show up consisted mostly of handpicked Tory activists and staffers.
Boris Johnson launches election campaign at Conservative party rally in Birmingham. pic.twitter.com/CwN9uuvl8Z— Tim Ross (@TimRoss_1) November 6, 2019
The deceptive press photos of the event are remarkably Trump-esque, and are no doubt an attempt to hide the lack of enthusiasm from the base of the Conservatives in this upcoming election.
We can win!
This shambolic state of affairs stands in sharp contrast to the electric atmosphere at Labour campaigning events and rallies up and down the country. Corbyn has managed to pack out venues from Newcastle to Battersea on the campaign trail.
Grassroots activists are clearly in high spirits, enthused by the movement’s fighting tone, the programme of radical policies, and the tangible prospect of victory.
Instead of empty slogans like “Get Brexit Done” and “Release Britain’s Potential”, Labour has been emphasising bold policy proposals: from the recent pledge of free broadband, to Angela Rayner’s announcement of massively expanding childcare services. The Corbyn movement is on a war-footing, while the Tories barely have a leg to stand on.
The wheels are falling off the Conservative campaign, as it becomes clear to everyone that they have nothing to offer ordinary people. And with Labour going from strength to strength, we have everything to play for in this election.
With only weeks to go until election day, we must maintain our momentum and drive forward to deliver Johnson and the Tories a mortal blow. All out for a Corbyn victory!