The most awkward moments of the election campaign

From fridgegate and leaked ‘banter’ to staged doorstep chats

Jonathan Ashworth
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth says he looks like a ‘plonker’ following his blunder
(Image credit: BBC)

The general election campaign is almost at an end, with voters heading to the polls tomorrow to choose the next UK government.

Unfortunately for the politicians vying for power, voters’ memories of the campaign may be dominated by the moments that they would rather forget. Here are some of the headline-grabbing gaffes to hit the main political parties in recent weeks.

Fridgegate

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Boris Johnson and his team were visiting a dairy depot in Leeds early on Wednesday when Good Morning Britain reporter Jonathan Swain popped up and asked the prime minister - on camera - if he wanted to appear on the ITV show.

Footage of the incident shows one of Johnson’s aides mouthing “for fuck’s sake” as Swain approaches the group - triggering gasps from show presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid back in the studio.

Johnson then tells the reporter “I’ll be with you in a second”, before disappearing. “He’s gone into the fridge,” says Morgan.

Within minutes, #fridgegate was trending on twitter.

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With friends like these...

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth this week admitted looking like a “right plonker” after a Conservative “friend” recorded and leaked audio of a conversation that they had about Jeremy Corbyn.

During their chat, Ashworth says that he “can’t see it happening” when asked if Labour could win the election, and blames party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit.

Asked whether he thinks Corbyn would pose a risk in No. 10, Ashworth says: “I think the machine will pretty quickly move to safeguard security.”

Following the leak of the audio to right-wing blog Guido Fawkes, Ashworth told the BBC that he had just been “joshing around” and having “banter”, while Corbyn said he was “cool with Jon”.

Dodgy literature

Jo Swinson was taken to task by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge last month over the Lib Dem’s “reputation” for publishing misleading literature.

The party had tweeted an image of a bar chart for North East Somerset constituency that appeared to show a close “two-horse race” between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

But as Ridge pointed out, read the very small lettering at the bottom of the chart and it turns out the data was based on a small survey of people who had been asked: “Imagine that the result in your constituency was expected to be very close between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidate, and none of the other parties were competitive. In this scenario, which party would you vote for?”

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Interviewing the Lib Dem leader, Ridge argued that the campaign literature was “entirely misleading” and “embarrassing”.

Phone mugging

As the UK entered its final week of election campaigning, a picture showing a four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia sleeping on the floor of an overcrowded NHS hospital featured on the cover of the Daily Mirror.

An ITV reporter subsequently tried to show Johnson the photo on his phone during a filmed interview, but the PM initially refused to look at it, instead talking about investment in public services.

Off camera, Johnson then took the phone from the journalist and put it in his own pocket, before trying to continue with his campaign spiel.

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“You refuse to look at the photo, you’ve taken my phone and put it in your pocket prime minister,” responded journalist Joe Pike.

Footage of the encounter shows Johnson finally taking out the handset and looking at the photo, whic he describes as “terrible” before apologising “to the families and all those who have terrible experiences in the NHS”.

However, his apology was not enough to prevent an avalanche of criticism.

The candidate for where?

SNP candidate John Nicolson made an embarrassing election blunder when he got the name of his own constituency wrong during campaign hustings at the end of November.

Nicolson is trying to win Ochil and South Perthshire from Scottish Conservative Luke Graham but referred to the constituency as “East Dunbartonshire” - the area he used to represent before being ousted by the Lib Dem’s Swinson in 2017, reports HuffPost.

“Please trust me with your vote on 12 December. As you know, only the Scottish National Party can beat the Tories here in East Dunbartonshire,” Nicolson can be heard saying in footage of the incident - provoking cries and jeer from his audience.

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‘Surprise’ visit

Conservative candidate Lee Anderson was doing a walkaround in the marginal seat of Ashfield with Daily Mail journalist Michael Crick last month when he knocked on the door of a seemingly unsuspecting voter.

The man, identified only as Steve, said he recognised Anderson as the Tory candidate and told him: “I will be going with you. There is no way Labour will ever get my vote.”

It was only later that a Mail producer realised their team had video and audio footage of Anderson speaking to the “constituent” on the phone, arranging the door-knock and the comments.

Anderson says: “Make out you don’t know who I am - you know I’m the candidate but I’m not a friend, all right?”

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