Sun. Sep 24th, 2023
General election: Boris Johnson launches Conservative election campaign – as it happened | Politics
General election: Boris Johnson launches Conservative election campaign – as it happened | Politics

Key events

Closing summary

That’s all from us this evening. Thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s a summary of the day’s events:

  • The prime minister launched the Conservative party’s election campaign, saying he did not want the vote, but felt he had had not choice but to call it. Boris Johnson, whose trustworthiness has been questioned by some who have worked with him, gave a speech in Birmingham that was riddled with misleading and outright false claims. Johnson had earlier used No 10 as a backdrop for a speech in which he made several similar claims.
  • The debate about Labour’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn threatened to erupt again as the party’s deputy leader, with whom he has often clashed, announced he was stepping down. Tom Watson will leave his position within the party and will not seek reelection to the Commons. He said the decision was a “very personal” one. Read the full story on that in our splash:
  • The Welsh secretary resigned as he faced questions over what he knew about the alleged role of a former aide in the collapse of a rape trial. There have been calls for Boris Johnson to drop Alun Cairns as a Conservative party candidate as the issue threatened to overshadow the party’s election campaign launch.
  • The Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, apologised for comments about Grenfell Tower disaster survivors. Bridgen was seeking to defend his party colleague, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had suggested people who died in the tower lacked the “common sense” to ignore the advice of the fire brigade and leave.
  • Jeremy Corbyn said he would be a very different type of PM to Boris Johnson. The Labour leader set out 10 goals for the government he hopes to form as he delivered a campaign speech in Telford. Corbyn refused to confirm John McDonnell’s claim they would both have to stand down if Labour loses and said billionaires were in a “very strong position to pay lot more in tax”.
  • Three of the smaller opposition parties announced an electoral pact in some parts of the UK. The Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens finalised a plan to step aside for each other in 60 seats across England and Wales. Scottish Labour ruled out post-election pact with the SNP.
  • The Green party launched its campaign in Bristol, where it has significant support. The local party believes it has a good chance of ousting Labour’s Bristol West incumbent, Thangam Debbonaire, in the 79% remain-voting constituency.
  • Brexit is the UK’s “biggest mistake” since the war, according to the recently retired Commons Speaker, John Bercow. He said the Brexit crisis will not be resolved any time soon.

Remain-backing opposition parties announce pact

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.

The agreement, which does not include Labour, covers 49 seats in England and 11 in Wales. It was made under the banner of a cross-party group called Unite to Remain, which has spent several months trying to broker the plan.

A so-called progressive alliance plan, also including Labour, was attempted before the 2017 election but arrangements were only made for a handful of seats – in part because of the difficulty of getting local parties to agree.

The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, has said:

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.

Decision to step down as MP was personal, not political, says Tom Watson – video

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.

— Chris Williamson #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) November 6, 2019

In the letter to Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, Williamson wrote:

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.

From Labour:

Thank you Tom for a lifetime of dedication to the Labour Party and just as importantly thank you for 25 years of friendship

— Gloria De Piero (@GloriaDePiero) November 6, 2019

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”

— Liam Byrne (@LiamByrneMP) November 6, 2019

And from the Conservatives:

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.

Here’s the full letter:

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.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 6, 2019

Johnson has concluded his speech, thanking supporters and telling them: “I will see you at the barricades.”

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, after speaking at the launch of the Conservative party’s campaign at NEC, in Birmingham.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, after speaking at the launch of the Conservative party’s campaign at NEC, in Birmingham. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

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:

And the party backed a motion at its conference that said:

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.

Here’s the full motion.

Labour’s deputy leader to step down

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart

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.

He has repeatedly clashed with Corbyn, including over the Labour leader’s Brexit stance and his handling of antisemitism, and the party’s conference in Brighton in September was overshadowed by a botched bid to abolish his post.

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”

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) November 6, 2019

And Johnson makes further claims about the number of police officers he plans to recruit. We covered that here.

The Conservative party launches its general election campaign in Birmingham
The Conservative party launches its general election campaign in Birmingham Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

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.


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