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General Election ’19 Tories rocked by controversies as election campaign begins

Tory MPs Alun Cairns, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrew Bridgen and candidate Francesca O’Brien have set the party on a disastrous course

THE first day of Boris Johnson’s general election campaign today was rocked by controversies and a Cabinet resignation before the morning was over.

The PM visited Buckingham Palace where the Queen agreed to dissolve Parliament ahead of the December 12 general election.

But Mr Johnson’s subsequent speech outside Downing Street was delayed by Alun Cairns’s resignation as Welsh Secretary.

Mr Cairns stepped down over claims that he lied about knowing that his former aide Ross England was involved in the “sabotage” of a rape trial.

He had claimed he only became aware of Mr England’s role when the story broke last week.

But BBC Wales discovered that he was emailed about it in August 2018, four months before Mr England was chosen as the Tory candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr Cairns intends to stand in the general election despite stepping down from the Cabinet. In his resignation letter to Mr Johnson, he said he was “confident” that an investigation will clear him of “any breach or wrongdoing.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly was grilled over Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg’s suggestion that Grenfell residents lacked “common sense” for following the London Fire Brigade’s “stay-put” order.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen tried to excuse Mr Rees-Mogg on Tuesday night by saying: “Jacob is not from that background [Grenfell Tower]. He is very, very well educated.”

Mr Cleverly said Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments caused a “huge amount of hurt and distress.”

The Tory chairman also excused derogatory remarks made by Francesca O’Brien, suggesting that she would not be axed as a Conservative parliamentary candidate for Gower.

Ms O’Brien posted on social media in 2014 that people on reality TV show Benefits Street needed “putting down.”

She also “liked” a comment from a friend which talked about taking “batts [sic] to the street” for “twat a tramp Tuesday.”

Mr Cleverly said: “People often tweet in haste and regret what they have done afterwards.”

He was also taken to task over a Tory campaign video, for which footage was doctored to make Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer appear unable to answer a question during a TV interview on party policy.

And Sky News presenter Kay Burley “empty-chaired” Mr Cleverly live on air after he had refused to do an interview with her.

She told viewers: “Where is he? He’s probably 15 feet away from where I’m standing just at the moment.

“I’ve been in to see him during the break, he said he wasn’t due to come and talk to us today although they had said that they would talk to us.”

Ms Burley said she wanted to ask him about Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments and Mr Johnson’s claim that Jeremy Corbyn demonises billionaires with “a relish” not seen since Stalin.

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