Rolling coverage of the day’s developments in the 2019 general election campaign
- Corbyn sets out 10 goals for Labour government
- Sturgeon says she wants new Scottish independence referendum in 2020
- Corbyn says billionaires ‘in very strong position to pay lot more in tax’
- Cairns says he is resigning but confident he will be cleared of wrongdoing
- Green party launch – Summary and analysis
That’s all from us this evening. Thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s a summary of the day’s events:
The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have finalised a plan to step aside for each other in 60 seats across England and Wales in the general election, Peter Walker and Heather Stewart write.
The alliance is intended to give a free run to one pro-remain party in each constituency.
We are delighted that an agreement has been reached. We would like to thank Unite to Remain for making this possible. This is a significant moment for all people who want to support remain candidates across the country. We look forward to sharing the detail of the seats tomorrow.
Labour’s outgoing deputy leader, Tom Watson, says his decision to step down and quit parliament was a “very personal” one.
Watson, who has represented West Bromwich East since 2001 and is one of Labour’s most recognisable figures, denied the move was the result of concerns over the direction of the party under Jeremy Corbyn, with whom he has often clashed.
I want every Labour supporter campaigning for the Labour team to make sure we can get a Labour government elected.
The former Derby North MP, Chris Williamson, has resigned his membership of the Labour party and announced he will stand as an independent in the general election. The party’s national executive committee ruled earlier today that they would not endorse him.
After almost 44 years of loyal service and commitment, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m resigning from the Labour Party.
I’ll be standing as an independent candidate for Derby North to fight for social justice, internationalism and socialist values. pic.twitter.com/rKmxpJrFSP
I am dismayed that Labour party officials have enabled and executed what I believe to be a witch hunt against hundreds of socialists loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and his transformative, socialist, anti-imperialist worldview.
Many of the victims of this witch hunt have been Jewish socialists, whose anti-Zionism is anathema to the apartheid apologists apparently influencing Labour foreign and domestic policy.
Harvey Proctor, the former Conservative MP who was falsely accused of being part of a VIP pedophile ring in Westminster, has said Watson has “done his constituents a great favour” by stepping down.
Proctor, who served in the Commons in the 1970s and 1980s, has now abandoned his plans to run against Watson in next month’s general election. He said:
By standing down, Tom Watson has done his constituents a great favour. The next parliament will be a healthier place without him. He will be unable to use public office in future to promote false accusers for personal and political ends.
Although this is not the end of it for Tom Watson, I feel vindicated. I can now confirm I will not be standing in the West Bromwich East constituency at the general election.
Daniel Janner, the son of Lord Janner – one of the victims of the VIP abuse probe sparked by Carl Beech – said Tom Watson’s position had become “untenable”. Janner has been a fierce critic of Watson, whom he has previously accused of applying “pressure on the police”.
Tom Watson whipped up the post-Savile hysteria which damaged falsely accused innocent prominent figures like my late father Lord Janner. His position had become untenable. He has stood down because he would have been defeated.
Returning to Labour, here’s a little reaction to the news the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, is standing down.
Thank you Tom for a lifetime of dedication to the Labour Party and just as importantly thank you for 25 years of friendship https://t.co/VT5VY4tH26
A giant loss to the Commons – but I know Tom has plenty more to give to politics, public life – and Labour, “the greatest force for social change this country has ever produced” https://t.co/6q3CyuJJ5e
Very sad news for the Labour Party, for Parliament and the country. https://t.co/GMBLNqL5CB
In his letter to Watson, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has said:
Few people have given as much to the Labour movement as you have and I know that many thousands of members and trade unionists that you have inspired and worked with over the years will be very sorry to see you go.
Thank you @tom_watson for your service to our party and your constituents. I know you’ll continue to take on the vested interests of the Murdoch empire, big sugar companies and the gambling industry. This is not the end of our work together. pic.twitter.com/MpYLVklHdr
Johnson has concluded his speech, thanking supporters and telling them: “I will see you at the barricades.”
The prime minister repeated the claim that Corbyn has done a deal with the SNP. We covered the provenance of that here.
And he said he didn’t know what Corbyn wanted to achieve in renegotiations with the EU. Writing for the Guardian in September, the Labour leader outlined what he wanted to see in his Brexit deal:
Labour’s leave deal would include a new UK-EU customs union, a close relationship with the single market, protections of the Good Friday agreement with no hard border, securing the permanent rights of three million EU nationals in the UK and one million UK nationals in Europe, guarantees of workers’ rights and environmental protections, and membership of key bodies to ensure joint cooperation in areas like climate change, counter-terrorism and medicines.
Johnson has said Corbyn wants “unlimited and uncontrolled immigration”.
Labour has expressed support for no such thing. At its conference, the party backed a policy that would protect the current principle of free movement rights enjoyed by EU citizens and extend them; though it’s not entirely clear to what extent. It’s also committed to closing all immigration detention centres and ending “no recourse to public funds” policies.
Tom Watson is quitting parliament and stepping down as Labour’s deputy leader, reopening the debate about the party’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn.
Watson, who is one of Labour’s best-known figures, has represented the constituency of West Bromwich East since 2001.
Johnson has also attacked the Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage:
Boris Johnson suggests that Nigel Farage is slagging off his deal because he relies on Brexit not happening – “like candle sellers on the dawn of the electric lightbulb”
And Johnson makes further claims about the number of police officers he plans to recruit. We covered that here.
Johnson claims “40 new hospitals [have been] green-lighted” as part of the Tories’ policies.
This claim is false. The government has announced six hospital upgrades. Dozens of other hospitals have received money to develop plans for upgrades – but not for the actual upgrades themselves. Full Fact have a good explainer here.
Boris Johnson is now up on the stage and he opens with a joke about Andy Street’s name.
He claims he “didn’t want an election”, saying he has no choice because parliament is “paralysed” and refuses to finish the Brexit process.
In addition, Patel claims a vote for Labour would mean two more referendums in 2020: One on Brexit and one on Scottish independence. This echoes Johnson’s claim earlier today that Labour had done a deal with the SNP (see: 12.55pm).
In fact, Labour is opposed to Scottish independence and has ruled out a referendum on it in 2020, committing instead to a second Brexit referendum. We set out earlier how dubious the two referendums claim is. In addition, Scottish Labour has explicitly ruled out a post-election pact with the SNP.
Tories going big on “coalition of chaos” between Corbyn, SNP, Lib Dems – but will that work with voters this time after they have experienced Brexit chaos under the Tories for last 3.5 years?
James Cleverly tees up Boris Johnson: “he’s a formidable campaigner, instinctively knows what the country wants.”
Next up is the home secretary, Priti Patel, who claims the Tories have delivered their promise on a huge NHS infrastructure investment. My colleague, Andy Sparrow, covered that earlier – suffice to say, it’s not all it seems (see 12.52pm).
She also claims the party is delivering on its pledge to put 20,000 more police officers on the streets.
The Tory mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is up on the stage to introduce the prime minister’s election launch speech.
You’ll be able to watch that and Boris Johnson’s address at the top of this page. If the video is not yet appearing for you, please refresh the page.
One protestor – 70-year-old Bridget Parsons of Birmingham Stand Up to Racism – says she was nearly pushed over by security who manhandled her and others away from the entrance to Boris Johnson campaign event pic.twitter.com/6PTCFPDqKW
She says she felt “shaken up” but turned up because she felt “very very angry” about Boris Johnson being prime minister
Correspondents in Birmingham are reporting that a small group of anti-racism and austerity demonstrators has appeared in the building where Johnson is due to deliver his general election campaign launch speech shortly:
Security pushing anti-Boris Johnson protestors out of campaign launch pic.twitter.com/NbbM83joWZ
They are from Stand Up To Racism by the looks of their placards. We’re on private property so they are being ushered out by security
BREAKING: Anti-austerity protestors have managed to get within metres of Boris Johnson’s rally in West Midlands. Currently being moved of the premises by security. pic.twitter.com/Pyj1RU7121
Tories campaign launch targeted by protesters who are currently being escorted away from the venue pic.twitter.com/HLEHnglrsm
Anti racism protestors being removed ahead of Boris Johnson campaign launch pic.twitter.com/aeIdrwSnfi
Pro-immigration protesters getting shoved away from the Boris Johnson rally in Birmingham’s NEC tonight: pic.twitter.com/34GZ6HY0Hl
Tory activists queuing for Boris Johnson’s first stump speech – many dressed in these giant free ‘More jobs’ and ‘More funding for schools’ t-shirts pic.twitter.com/novqYyhYaG
Lady Sylvia Hermon, who was until today Northern Ireland’s only unionist remainer MP, will not contest the general election. She has announced she will not be defending the North Down seat she took in 2001.
Serving as an MP is a tremendous privilege and I remain profoundly grateful to all those who placed their trust and confidence in me in the last five general elections.
It has undoubtedly been the greatest honour of my life to serve the people of North Down as their member of parliament since 2001 and, so, it is with enormous sadness that I have decided not to contest the next general election in December.
There is some new YouGov polling out tonight, showing the Conservatives down two points since over the weekend. But a movement of this kind is within the margin of error, the Tory lead is still 11 points anyway and, as everyone knows, in 2017 opinion polls turned out to be a very unreliable guide to the final result. Here are the figures anyway.
Latest Westminster voting intention (5-6 Nov)
In an interview with Sky News Jeremy Corbyn has refused to confirm John McDonnell’s claim that, if Labour loses the election, both of them will have to stand down. McDonnell said this in an interview for GQ with Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor. But when asked if McDonnell was right to say Corbyn would stand down as party leader in the event of a Labour defeat, Corbyn refused to answer. He told Sky News:
John McDonnell got enticed into areas of discussion that I’m not prepared to get enticed into.
Yesterday my colleagues Aamna Mohdin and Ben Quinn published a Guardian story about how the Lib Dems have been accused of misleading voters after a number of candidates published leaflets featuring data from an obscure company, Flavible, that is not a member of the British Polling Council to suggest they are ahead of other parties in various constituencies.
As many have seen, campaign material has been distributed by the Liberal Democrats, tweets have been shared by individual candidates and local parties. Most have correctly labelled this data. However, a few have either themselves misinterpreted the data or intentionally mislabelled the data for political advantage.
A statement on the misuse of Flavible data. https://t.co/dcuTAlMU3L
Here is the latest Guardian Politics Weekly podcast. Heather Stewart is joined by Katy Balls, Anoosh Chakelian, and Jon Mellon of the British Election Study to discuss how everyone’s general election campaigns have gone so far. Plus, Peter Walker reports from the Brexit party’s official launch.
In his Telegraph article this morning Boris Johnson suggests that Jeremy Corbyn would persecute billionaires in the way that Stalin purged the kulaks. (See 9.06am.) Later, in his speech outside Downing Street, Johnson said the Conservatives “don’t sneer” at people who set up businesses, but “cheer for them, and do what we can to help”.
At the Q&A after his speech earlier today Jeremy Corbyn was asked by my colleague Kate Proctor if it was true that he despised billionaires. He did not answer initially (they take questions in groups of fours at Labour events now), but later, after he had finished taking questions from journalists and when he was taking questions from activists, Corbyn remembered that he had forgotten the question, and he provided an answer. This is what he said:
My personal view on billionaires is that they’ve obviously got a great deal of money, and therefore they’re in a very strong position to pay a lot more in tax. And I think it would be a really good idea if they do.
So our tax plans will affect the richest 5% of our society, we will be chasing down tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax havens, because at the end of the day if you are doing some, what you believe to be, very clever wheeze which somehow or other is avoiding the levels of taxation that you should be paying – go further away, what happens then? You’ve got an underfunded school, an underfunded hospital, underfunded public services as a whole. It’s a moral obligation to pay your taxes, [so] that the others might get the services they need.
Scottish Labour’s campaign launch in Glasgow has just wrapped up, with Richard Leonard telling the audience that Scotland had the choice whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn was in Downing Street for Christmas, and warning voters that voting SNP was not a short cut to a Labour government.
He categorically ruled out any post-election deal with the SNP, rejecting i Nicola Sturgeon’s suggestions that she would be open to a confidence and supply-style arrangement similar to that reached between the DUP and the Tories in 2017, with a second independence referendum as her price for support.
In his speech outside Downing Street Boris Johnson repeated his claim that a vote for Labour would amount to a vote for two referendums in 2020. “Imagine waking up on Friday 13 December and finding [Jeremy] Corbyn at the head of his technicolour yawn of a coalition and they would spend the whole of 2020 having two referendums,” Johnson said.
This has always been a dubious claim because, although Labour is committed to holding a Brexit referendum next year, it has said it would not approve a Scottish independence referendum next year – even though it would not object to holding one later in the parliament. It is also, in practice, hard to imagine Scotland holding two referendums within the space of only a few months. The last Scottish independence referendum took place almost two years after it was agreed between London and Edinburgh.
It is my intention to have a referendum next year.
On this question of will Westminster allow it or not, we are at the start of an election campaign – this is an opportunity for the people in Scotland to have their say and make their views known.
Ofcom may investigate Kay Burley’s “empty chairing” of James Cleverly (see 9.56am), PA Media reports. The media watchdog has received numerous complaints about the Sky News presenter’s actions. Complaints are understood by the news agency to relate to Burley’s claims and the empty chair gesture. A spokeswoman for Ofcom said: “We are assessing these against our broadcasting rules before deciding whether or not to investigate.”
Labour’s governing body has decided that the party will not endorse Chris Williamson, Stephen Hepburn and Roger Godsiff as candidates in the election, the Press Association reports. The PA story goes on:
The national executive committee (NEC) ruled that the three former Labour MPs would not be able to stand as candidates for Jeremy Corbyn’s party in the December poll.
Instead, the party will select other candidates to stand in their former constituencies.
Jeremy Corbyn has said that, following his resignation from cabinet, Alun Cairns should also stand down as a Tory election candidate. Corbyn told journalists:
Obviously, legally [Cairns] can stand as a candidate but does he have a moral right to stand as a candidate?
If he’s stepping down as a minister because of his involvement then I would have thought the very least the Conservative party can do is not put him up as a candidate in the next election.
Cairns intention to stay on as a candidate seems pretty bold given what has emerged …that plan may not last
This is from Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader.
Just approved the design for 27 million leaflets to go out in the campaign.
We will be giving this country the facts on Boris’ EU treaty, Labour’s Brexit betrayal and providing a real clean break option for the voters.
On the BBC’s World at One Stephen Crabb, the former Conservative Welsh secretary, said that the story about how a former Tory aide in Wales had sabotaged a rape trial had caused considerable damage to the party in Wales. Crabb said the Tory response reflected badly on the Welsh party. He said:
A number of us who are fighting very, very tight marginal seats in Wales have felt increasingly anxious about the story – not just from a PR point of view, the story not going away – but the perception that the party itself isn’t addressing the issue in the correct way.
The nature of the story demands a far better response from the party … It shines a light on the party in Wales. It’s problematic we don’t have a woman in a senior position in Wales, we’ve never had a female Welsh conservative member of parliament and I think that reflects poorly on us in 2019.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has launched its election manifesto, which is built around three priorities – an education system that is “accessible, funded and life-long”, an end to Brexit and “a healthy society for the good of everyone”, with affordable housing and action to tackle the climate crisis.
With the student vote expected to play a significant role in a number of constituencies, the NUS has been working hard on campuses to ensure that as many students as possible are registered to vote, despite the awkward end-of-term election date.
Investment is falling, in our education, in our health, in our businesses. Crises are growing; climate change, social care, and more. Our society is failing, and students across the UK have told us, loud and clear, that this isn’t the future they want.
The views of young people have been ignored for too long, so we’re calling on all parties to listen and commit to the action needed to create a future in which everyone can thrive.
Commenting on Alun Cairns’ resignation, the shadow Brexit secretary, and former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer, said:
[Cairns] is right to resign but he has got to face an investigation. This is a very, very serious issue. It goes well beyond a ministerial investigation. Resigning was right to do but it is not enough on its own.
The Green party campaign launch took place in Bristol, where the local party believes it has a good chance of ousting Labour’s Bristol West incumbent Thangam Debbonaire, in the 79% remain-voting constituency.
Bristol also has a high student population, an acute affordable housing problem and at least 10,000 Extinction Rebellion members, according to local estimates. It has just become the first British city to ban diesel vehicles from parts of the centre.
This needs to be the climate election – climate change is knocking on our door. We have been Labour and Tory forever and it doesn’t change. You can vote Labour but sooner or later you get another Tory government.
As Johnson finishes, and heads back into No 10, Sky’s Adam Boulton, who is presenting Sky News from Downing Street, shouts at him to ask if people can trust him. But he does not get a reply.
Johnson says: if he comes back with a majority, he will get parliament working “for you”.
Parliament would come back in December, so it could get Brexit done in January.
Johnson says the choice is “come with us”, a government that believes in a dynamic economy, or go with Labour, the only alternative.
Labour would ban Ofsted.
Johnson says his deal delivers everything he wanted from Brexit.
He says if parliament had its way, the UK would not even leave on 31 January.
Boris Johnson is speaking outside No 10.
He says he has just been to see the Queen, and she has agreed to dissolve parliament.
Speaking following an election visit to a factory in Watford, the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, said:
It’s right that [Alun Cairns has] resigned. The allegations that were made are incredibly serious and I think there are real questions to be asked about why it’s taken him so long to come to this conclusion, and why he said the things he did before. I imagine as time goes on we’ll find out the answers to some of those questions.
From ITV’s Paul Brand
Alun Cairns is the longest serving cabinet member (in the same role). The idea that this will just be a minor blip in Wales downplays the chaos it causes to the Tory campaign there. He was due to lead the Welsh Conservatives’ campaign. #GE2019
From the broadcaster Michael Crick
Four of the last seven people to serve as Secretary of State for Wales have resigned over scandals – Ron Davies, Peter Hain (though he came back), Stephen Crabb & Alun Cairns
And this is from Liz Saville Roberts, who has been leader of Plaid Cymru at Westminster.
I hope that Alun Cairns’ resignation as secretary of state proves to be some solace to the woman at the centre of this case, who still has received no apology from the Conservative party.
Mr Cairns’ conduct proved unquestionably that he is not fit to hold ministerial office. You simply cannot be complicit in the attempted cover-up of sabotaging a rape trial and hope to get away with it.
The Welsh Conservatives have put out this statement about Alun Cairns’ resignation from Paul Davies, leader of the Conservative group in the Welsh assembly:
I am sorry to see Alun resign today as the secretary of state for Wales. However, under the circumstances this was the right decision for him. Alun has rightly stated that he will cooperate fully with any investigations.
I would like to thank Alun for his service to Wales as our secretary of state where he brought an end to the Severn Bridge tolls which will leave a lasting legacy on the Welsh economy.
This is from Christina Rees, the shadow Welsh secretary, on Alun Cairns’ resignation.
My statement on the resignation of Alun Cairns as Welsh Secretary. He should do the right thing and step down as a candidate at this General Election. pic.twitter.com/pqHneBwMlW
John Bercow, who stood down as Commons Speaker last week, has been speaking at the Foreign Press Association this morning.
He has described Brexit as the “biggest mistake” by the UK since the war, and said that the Brexit crisis will not be resolved any time soon.
BREAKING. John Bercow arrives at a meeting with the Foreign press in London for his first remarks after his retirement as HOC speaker. I’ll be tweeting everything from now on.
BREAKING. Will #Brexit affect the international position of the UK?
Bercow: “I don’t think it helps the UK. #Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war. I respect PM Johnson but #Brexit doesn’t help us. It’s better to be part of the [EU] power bloc”@FPALondon
Bercow announces that a book by him will be out in the first quarter of 2020 [not 2021 as I previously tweeted] @FPALondon
Here is Alun Cairns’ resignation letter.
Here is the exchange of letters between Boris Johnson and Alun Cairns.
These are from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
Alun Cairns expected to resign in next few minutes
Cabinet minister quitting just before PM to make his big statement launching election campaign
Boris Johnson has posted this video of himself on Twitter discussing why he is holding an election ahead of his meeting with the Queen this morning.
We will have a General Election on December 12th. It’s now up to you, the great British public, to make your voice heard.
How do we know for certain that the election campaign is under way? Because I’m on a battle bus – the Lib Dem bus, which has a huge picture of the party leader on the side and the slogan “Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems”. It’s all quite presidential.
As an aside, this is a Chinese-made electric bus, one of two the party has in service. The electric one, for obvious reasons, does the briefer trips.
Q: Do you think renegotiating a Brexit deal with the EU will be undermined by five of your shadow cabinet saying they will vote remain?
Corbyn says his policy has always been to bring people together. He says people who voted leave and people who voted remain are likely to face the same problems, for example on housing. They have the same interests.
Corbyn is now taking questions.
Q: You say leaders must allow others to play their part. But aren’t your poll ratings so bad you are part of the problem?
Big Labour NEC meeting today at which they will probably decide future of Roger Godsiff and Chris Williamson as candidates, and maybe Keith Vaz as well. In reality, many MPs are being elected right now in secret meetings of Labour & Conservative bigwigs,
not by voters on 12 Dec
Corbyn is now on his peroration.
I’ve spent much of my life travelling around the country and the world listening to people.
That’s how you learn about the world as people actually experience it – their struggles and their hopes, their dreams and their frustrations.
And Corbyn turns to the controversy about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about Grenfell Tower.
Actually there is one more thing you need to know. They shamefully seem to think the victims of the Grenfell fire died because they didn’t have the common sense to save themselves.
I’ll tell you what’s common sense:
Corbyn refers to yesterday’s Guardian story about what pledges Tory candidates have been allowed to sign.
And isn’t it telling that Conservative candidates in this election have been told by Tory HQ that they’re not allowed to pledge to tackle the climate emergency?
They’re not allowed to pledge not to privatise our NHS.
Corbyn says he wants to lead a Labour government judged by whether it has made a difference to people’s lives. And he sets out 10 benchmarks for success.
Here’s how you’ll be able to judge the success of the next Labour government:
Judge us on whether in-work poverty still exists in five years’ time.
Judge us on whether people are still sleeping rough after five years of a Labour government.
Corbyn says being an MP is not meant to be a glamorous job.
He says his view of leadership is different from the conventional one. That has led to him being criticised in the papers, he says.
You know my view of leadership is different from the one people are used to. Yes, I believe leaders should have clear principles that people can trust, and the strength and commitment not to be driven off course.
You have to stand for something. But leaders must also trust others to play their part.
Corbyn says real politics, for him, is not about shouting abuse in parliament. He does not do personal attacks, he says.
He says he is interested in bringing about real change.
Corbyn says he started campaigning in Telford for a better society. And he has never stopped, he says.
The Labour party is united, and determined to win this election, he says.
Jeremy Corbyn has just started delivering a speech in Telford.
There is a live feed at the top of the page.
The Facebook live feed from the Green party launch has gone back to the beginning. But a colleague is at the event, and so I will be posting more from it soon.
We’re ready for #GE2019 ️
This picture shows (left to right) Sian Berry, Carla Denyer and Amelia Womack.
Sian Berry, the party’s co-leader, is speaking at the launch now. She says this election is about far more than Brexit.
This must be the climate election. The future won’t get another chance.
Back at the Green party launch Amelia Womack, the party’s deputy leader, has just finished speaking. She said voters should accept no imitations. The Greens were the only party truly serious about tackling the climate emergency, she argued.
According to the Press Association, Boris Johnson spent just over 25 minutes with the Queen at Buckingham Palace this morning.
Carla Denyer, the Green party candidate in Bristol West, is speaking at the launch now.
She says ordinary people all over the country are demanding climate action.
The Green party election launch has just started.
There is a (rather shaky) live feed on the Green party’s Facebook page.
Boris Johnson’s audience with the Queen is over. He is now heading back to No 10.
He is due to give a speech outside Downing Street at 1pm.
Yesterday afternoon, long after Jacob Rees-Mogg had apologised for his comment about the Grenfell Tower victims lacking the sense to ignore the advice to stay put, the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (a Brexiter, and hence a natural ally of Rees-Mogg’s) went on the PM programme and in part defended what the cabinet minister had said. Bridgen suggested that Rees-Mogg may indeed have been cleverer than the Grenfell Tower victims.
This morning Bridgen himself has apologised for what he said.
I realise that what I said was wrong and caused a great deal of distress and offence. It was not my intention to do so, and I do not want to add in any way to the pain that this tragic event has caused. I apologise unreservedly.
Boris Johnson has tweeted this.
On my way to see Her Majesty the Queen pic.twitter.com/SRUowknlYI
The PM’s audience with the Queen is little more than a pointless photo opportunity.
In the past prime ministers who wanted to hold a general election had to ask the Queen to dissolve parliament, and so a trip to Buckingham Palace was always part of the election ritual.
Boris Johnson has just left Downing Street to drive to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the Queen.
Ed Vaizey, the Conservative former culture minister, has announced that he is standing down. He was one of the 21 Tories who had the whip removed in September after rebelling over Brexit, but he was also one of the 10 from that group who recently had the whip restored.
In an open letter to the PM, he says that he remains an “enthusiastic supporter” of Johnson and of Johnson’s “one-nation agenda”.
After much reflection I have decided not to stand at the next election. I will campaign hard for my successor & look forward to @BorisJohnson and @conservatives winning a great majority. Thanks to all in Wantage & Didcot who supported me over so many years #vexit pic.twitter.com/irVsn1G2a2
Broadcasters are often reluctant to “empty chair” politicians. They worry that it makes them look confrontational and partisan, in breach of their impartiality obligations – even though not highlighting a party’s refusal to answer legitimate questions could arguable be seen as conferring some sort of advantage.
So it was surprising – and refreshing, if you approve of these tactics – to see Sky’s Kay Burley pillory the Conservative chairman James Cleverly this morning, in his absence, for ducking out of her TV interview. Do watch it. It’s quite a moment, not least because Burley’s summary of all the awkward questions facing the Tories is hard to fault.
“And yet we have an empty chair”
Pretty devastating rundown of Tory blunders by @KayBurley while party chairman James Cleverly is 15ft away and refusing to come on air
Former Scottish secretary David Mundell believes Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about the Grenfell victims were “inappropriate” but insists it is “totally without foundation” to infer that they show Conservatives do not understand how the majority of people in the UK live their lives.
Interviewed on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Mundell said:
Most Conservative MPs are very well grounded, they come from a huge variety of backgrounds and the caricature that everybody is like Mr Rees-Mogg is wrong.
The Conservative chairman, James Cleverly, has been doing a round of interviews this morning. Here are the key points from his interview on the Today programme.
What we also did, and this is not unique to us, is we did a lighthearted satirical video, obviously so with a comedy soundtrack, highlighting the Labour party’s chaotic position on Brexit.
Tory chair @JamesCleverly denies that an edited video of Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer shared on the Conservatives’ social media feed is fake news. He says it was a “lighthearted, satirical video”#r4Today | https://t.co/2gJ35rEiQ3 | @bbcnickrobinson pic.twitter.com/e7ahoOKt05
Ultimately, the default setting has always been no deal. That is not what we want.
The prime minister has demonstrated, as have the EU, that, when you are focused and both trying to get a good outcome, it can be done.
This is a comment that the candidate themselves recognised was unacceptable. People often tweet in haste and regret what they have done afterwards.
I think there are always things that people do which they regret. They say foolish, sometimes insensitive things. We do take very seriously the language we use and sometimes we recognise that people make a mistake and, when they do so, if they recognise what they have done wrong and they apologise, I think that is taken into consideration. I think that’s a balanced approach.
Almost every general election in Britain in living memory has started with pundits predicting that the campaign is going to end up being the nastiest and dirtiest ever. In truth, those claims are probably often wrong, but it is going to be hard to pretend otherwise in 2019 when Boris Johnson is formally launching the Conservative general election campaign by comparing Jeremy Corbyn to Stalin. The prime minister has said so in an article (paywall) in the Daily Telegraph, a few hours before he goes to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the Queen. (She is a Telegraph reader, but quite what she makes of this diatribe is anyone’s guess.)
Here is the key quote from Johnson’s article, which the Telegraph has plastered all over its front page.
The tragedy of the modern Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn is that they detest the profit motive so viscerally – and would raise taxes so wantonly – that they would destroy the very basis of this country’s prosperity. They pretend that their hatred is directed only at certain billionaires – and they point their fingers at individuals with a relish and a vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks. In reality they would end up putting up taxes on everyone: on pensions, on businesses, on inheritance, on homes, on gardens.
The nonsense the super-rich will come out with to avoid paying a bit more tax… pic.twitter.com/FlUl29ksvz