Cabinet resignation hits Johnson as UK election drive kicks off

Updated November 07, 2019

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued on Wednesday that voting for the Conservatives was the only way to end delays over Brexit, as he officially launched an election campaign already marred by gaffes and the resignation of a cabinet minister. — AP/File
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued on Wednesday that voting for the Conservatives was the only way to end delays over Brexit, as he officially launched an election campaign already marred by gaffes and the resignation of a cabinet minister. — AP/File

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued on Wednesday that voting for the Conservatives was the only way to end delays over Brexit, as he officially launched an election campaign already marred by gaffes and the resignation of a cabinet minister.

Speaking outside his 10 Downing St. office on the first official day of Britain’s five-week campaign, Johnson said the political impasse over Britain’s departure from the European Union made him want to “chew my own tie in frustration.” “I don’t want an early election, and no one much wants to have an election in December, but we have got to the stage where we have no choice,” he said.

Setting the stage for a people-versus-parliament campaign, Johnson said lawmakers were “refusing time and again to deliver Brexit and honor the result of the referendum.”

In fact, lawmakers approved Johnson’s EU divorce deal in principle last month, but asked for more time to scrutinise it. Johnson then withdrew the bill and pushed for an early election instead.

Johnson also slammed his main rival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, comparing him to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and erroneously claiming he had sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a nerve-agent attack on British territory.

All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs in the Dec 12 election, which is coming more than two years early. Some 46 million British voters are eligible to take part in the country’s first December vote in 96 years.

Johnson urged voters to deliver a Conservative majority so Britain could “put uncertainty behind us.” With that support, Johnson vowed he would get parliament to ratify his Brexit deal and the country would leave the EU as scheduled on Jan 31.

Brexit was supposed to happen on Oct 31, but with Britain’s politicians deadlocked, the bloc granted the UK a three-month delay.

While unofficial campaigning has been gearing up for weeks, the five-week election campaign formally began when parliament was dissolved on Wednesday. Johnson went to Buckingham Palace to notify Queen Elizabeth II of that and was to attend his first campaign rally later in central England.

The Conservative campaign has had with a rocky start. Just minutes before Johnson’s introductory comments on Wednesday, Cabinet Minister Alun Cairns resigned over allegations concerning a former aide’s role in a rape trial.

Cairns said he was quitting as Welsh secretary because of “speculation” surrounding the “very sensitive matter,” which is under investigation. He said he was confident he would be cleared of wrongdoing.

Cairns denies allegations that he knew his former staffer Ross England made claims about a victim’s sexual history when he was a witness in a 2018 rape trial something that is not allowed and caused the trial to collapse. The judge accused England of deliberately sabotaging the trial. Cairns later endorsed England as a candidate for the Welsh Assembly elections.

On Tuesday, another Conservative, outgoing House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, was forced to apologize for suggesting that the victims of a 2017 London apartment block inferno that killed 72 people lacked common sense for following fire department advice to wait in their apartments for help.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019