Tory campaign launch hit by ‘doctored’ video claim, Grenfell storm and Corbyn ‘Stalin’ jibe

6 November 2019, 10:01 | Updated: 6 November 2019, 12:27

By Megan White

The Conservative Party election campaign began with a difficult 24 hours involving a string of high-profile blunders from senior figures.

The party's official manifesto launch takes place later today, but the Tories have already suffered a series of humiliating incidents.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly attempted to defend a Tory campaign video that critics said had been "doctored".

The film depicts Labour's Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, struggling to answer a question on television about his party's position on leaving the European Union despite him answering it "perfectly adequately."

He contradicted himself in two interviews, with Good Morning Britain and the BBC, before being “empty-chaired” in an interview with Sky News’ Kay Burley.

When quizzed on why the video had been tampered with, Mr Cleverly refused to apologise or even accept it was misleading.

He told GMB: I'll tell you why we clipped that video, it's because in the whole of that exchange, Sir Keir Starmer, who is the shadow Brexit secretary, was unable to credibly explain Labour's Brexit position.

“We edited the video, just like you edit stuff on your programme, just like everybody else, because we needed to shorten the video.”

But he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Wednesday that the video was “satirical and humorous.”

Mr Cleverly said: "The video you are referring to was a satirical, humorous video. I think the comedy soundtrack that we overlaid on that video made it very clear it was satirical.

"Earlier on that morning, we posted a full version of the interview, so people can see unedited the complete illogicality of Labour's position on Brexit.

"Later on that morning, we also posted an edited satirical version."

But Nick told him: "Your press office said 'Believe it or not, this car crash interview really did take place'. But it didn't the way you portrayed it, because you edited it.

"When my listeners see the Conservative Press Office say 'Believe it or not, this car crash interview really did take place'... well it didn't. You doctored it. It's fake news.

"If I was to take this interview now and ask you a question and then I just put in total silence and a bit of Benny Hill music, you'd be totally relaxed would you? No, I put it to you that you wouldn't."

Mr Cleverly insisted: "If I was unable to answer the question like Keir Starmer was unable to answer the question put to him and you were highlighting the fact, then I think that's legit."

He had agreed to appear on Sky News’ Breakfast with Kay Burley on Wednesday morning, but she was left speaking to an empty chair.

Ms Burley said in a tweet that Mr Cleverly had "ducked us on the media round but then said yes to my team when we tracked him down."

But Mr Cleverly was doing an interview with TalkRadio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer when Sky cut to the empty chair.

He responded that he is “good at multitasking but cannot be in two studios at the same time.”

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns also resigned amid claims he knew about a former aide’s role in the ‘sabotage’ of a rape trial.

Mr Cairns was accused of "brazenly lying" about his knowledge of an allegation that former staff member Ross England had a role in a trial which collapsed.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Boris Johnson compared Jeremy Corbyn to Joseph Stalin, saying the Labour leader shared Stalin's "hatred" of wealth creators.

Mr Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph said Mr Corbyn had taken a stance that demonises billionaires with a "relish and a vindictiveness" not seen since Stalin's attitude to landowners following the Russian revolution.

The party was also embroiled in controversy after Jacob Rees-Mogg told LBC on Monday that the victims should have used "common sense" and ignored fire service guidance to remain in the burning tower block.

He later “profoundly apologised for the remarks.

But Andrew Bridgen waded into the row on Tuesday, defending Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments and claiming his colleague would have made a "better decision" than the authority figures who were giving the victims advice on the night of the tragedy.

Speaking to Radio 4 on Tuesday, Mr Bridgen said: "Jacob is a good friend of mine and he is an extremely intelligent and compassionate human being and his comments regarding Grenfell were uncharacteristically clumsy.

"But I think we have to put them into the context of Jacob."

When presenter Evan Davis asked if he believed Mr Rees-Mogg meant to say 'he would not have stayed put', Mr Bridgen said: "That's what he meant to say."

Mr Davis said: "That is exactly what people object to, which is, he is in effect saying 'I wouldn't have died because I would be cleverer than the people who took the fire brigade's advice'."

Mr Bridgen said: "But we want very clever people running the country, don't we Evan. That is a by-product of what Jacob is, and that's why he is in a position of authority.

"What he is actually saying is, he would have made a better decision than the authority figures who gave that advice."

Andrew Gwynne, Labour's national campaign co-ordinator, said Mr Bridgen's comments were "contemptible" and that he should be removed as a parliamentary candidate.

The Conservative Party have been contacted for a comment.

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