Politics

‘The General Election was defined by lies, slurs and personal attacks’

It was the general election few of us wanted but all of us knew had to happen.

Because Parliament was stuck in a rut, unable or unwilling to sort out the issue that had bogged down the country for three-and-a-half years: Brexit. Which was why all sides billed it as the most important election in a generation.

An election with so much riding on it that every party told voters not to make the mistake of voting for the other guy who would deliver either a Trumpian mini-me state (Boris Johnson), a Marxist nightmare (Jeremy Corbyn), a civil war through trashing democracy (Jo Swinson) or the break-up of the Union (Nicola Sturgeon).

Which is probably why the campaign was filled with fear, slurs, lies and personal attacks that left a bad taste in many a mouth.

On the Tory side we witnessed an epic show of contempt for the truth, and ignorance of the reality of life in modern Britain, as all argument was drowned out by the words Get Brexit Done. It was book-ended with two classic pieces of cold-hearted malice.


  • Boris Johnson pockets reporter's phone after being shown pic of boy on A&E floor

  • Boris Johnson hides in fridge to avoid questions as aide swears at GMB reporter

In the first week Jacob Rees-Mogg went on LBC radio to tell the relatives of the Grenfell blaze victims that their loved ones died due to a lack of “common sense”.

He was pulled from the Tory campaign and told to hide under his nanny’s skirts for a month or two. His fellow Old Etonian, Mr Johnson, displayed a similarly chilling lack of empathy when a reporter showed him a photo of sick four-year-old Jack lying on coats on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary. The Prime Minister grabbed the reporter’s phone, stuck it in his pocket and proceeded to talk over him.

That picture, from the front of the Daily Mirror – which Mr Corbyn brandished at a rally to show the cruelty of this Government – was one of three splashes from this paper that rocked the Tories on to the back foot.

We highlighted Johnson’s derision of the working-class people he was now trying to woo, by pointing out how he had written about them being “drunk, criminal and feckless.”


  • Disgraced Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg comes out of hiding to vote after Grenfell fiasco

The day after Jack’s story, we showed a nine-month-old baby lying on an A&E chair in Chester and told the PM: “Here’s another picture you won’t want to look at, Mr Johnson.”

Just as well there were no Mirror reporters on his battle bus – after Tory HQ banned us for daring to scrutinise their words and deeds.

Journalists became the story much more than in other elections.

The question the PM faced most was: “When will you do the interview with Andrew Neil?” He never did. Which led to accusations of BBC bias by Labour, who claimed Corbyn only agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding Johnson had signed up too.


It was not the only bias claim. Laura Kuenssberg came under fire (along with ITV’s Robert Peston) for tweeting a Tory HQ line that an adviser to the Health Secretary had been punched by a left-wing mob outside a Leeds hospital, when it had not happened.

BBC News also replaced a clip of Johnson incorrectly laying a wreath at the Cenotaph with one from two years earlier, and in the Question Time Leaders Special they edited out audience laughter when Johnson was asked how important it was to tell the truth. This was the key attack on Johnson: that he is a liar.

And he continued to lie throughout the campaign. About building 40 new hospitals when it was six, and recruiting 50,000 new nurses when it was 31,000. About a £3.6billion New Towns Fund which was £1.3billion, and child poverty falling under the Tories. About no Press following him into a hospital when they had, and giving up drinking when he hadn’t. About a delayed Brexit costing us £1billion a month and no checks on the Irish border if his deal goes through.

About Labour planning a Scottish independence referendum, scrapping MI5 and introducing the highest Corporation Tax rates in Europe if they won

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He even hid in a fridge so Piers Morgan couldn’t quiz him on his porkies.

That day the father of a man murdered at London Bridge accused him of using the terror attack for political gain. Dave Merritt, whose son Jack, 25, was stabbed to death, said: “Instead of seeing a tragedy, Boris Johnson saw an opportunity to score some points in the election.”

The third general election in four years was also dominated by Brexit and the effect Labour’s pledge of a second referendum would have on what used to be called its heartlands.

It was an election ringing with Dominic Cummings’ beloved three-word soundbites: “Get Brexit Done”, “Unleash Our Potential”, “Drift, dither, delay”.

Labour’s campaign was hampered by ex-MPs such as Ian Austin sticking the boot into Corbyn in the Tory press. It also did not help when Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth poured scorn on his own party’s chances of winning the election in a leaked conversation with a Tory pal, saying: “We f****d it up.” And problems with anti-Semitism failed to go away even before Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Corbyn was “unfit for high office” after allowing the “poison” to “take root in the Labour Party”.

It was an election in which Nigel Farage was so repulsed by the idea of Johnson taking credit for Brexit he stood hundreds of candidates against him.

Donald Trump was hidden from view as he came for a NATO summit, in case he spilled the beans on wanting to buy the NHS. Jo Swinson’s popularity plummeted, her austerity-enabling voting record coming back to bite her along with her duplicitous bid to win Remain voters by vowing to scrap Brexit.

Tory donors waded in with millions and the Royals did what they always seem to do when the Tories need a distraction, by sacrificing one of their own. This time Prince Andrew.

At least the mini-winter of discontent is over. Now let’s Get Christmas Done.

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