Some are sad, some are funny, and some, downright excruciating: highlights from the 2017 General Election campaign

7 Jun 2017


It’s been six weeks since the dissolution of Parliament and since then we’ve seen politicians crisscrossing the nation trying to convince the electorate to vote for their vision for Britain’s political future.


In the mid-1960s, Harold Wilson said ‘a week is a long time in politics’ and six weeks feels like an aeon. Backbench has attempted to do the impossible and pick out the highlights from this year’s general election campaign.


19th of April: is homosexuality a sin Tim?


 At the start of the General Election, the British people wanted to know one thing: did the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron think gay relationships were sinful. In an interview two years ago Farron was asked whether he could reconcile homosexuality to his Christian faith to which he replied, “we are all sinners”. This evasive answer sparked controversy for the Lib Dems, with Farron repeatedly denying that he was homophobic and highlighting his participation in LGBT campaigns throughout his political career. The matter seemed to have been put to rest until only last week when Farron refused to answer a caller’s question on LBC radio, over his views on gay relationships arguing: “my personal faith is my personal faith”. Along with Lord Lucan, Farron’s personal views on homosexuality are amongst the biggest mysteries in British political history.


24th of April: Nuttall hides from the media

  In 2015 UKIP enjoyed 12 per cent of the vote, but following the E.U referendum, the party has struggled to stay relevant, haemorrhaging supporters and donors particularly to the Conservatives. UKIP’s leader, Paul Nuttall has been the target of much derision for his inability to tell the truth and during a party conference decided to barricade himself in a room after journalists asked whether he was going to stand as an MP in the upcoming election. After ten minutes Nuttall realised the press were too tenacious and went out to state that that was a decision for the national executive. Some revelation.


2nd of May: Diane Abbott and her police figures

It’s safe to say that the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott has become one of the stars of this election campaign. Her interview with LBC host Nick Ferrari made headlines after her she tried to guess how much her party’s promise for 10,000 new police officers would cost. Starting off at £300,000, a £30 annual salary for the new bobbies, she then quickly changed it to £80m, which still suggested that new police officers would be paid only £8,000 a year. As things went from bad to worse, Abbot even forgot how many police officers were actually going to be recruited, ranging from 2,000 to 250,000. Probably the most excruciating interview of the entire political year, it’s up there with the Michael Howard interview and that time John Prescott punched a member of the public.


7th of May: Is McDonnell a Commie?

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow Chancellor, has had a rough time trying to convince journalists, and himself, that he is not a Marxist. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, McDonnell claimed to take inspiration from Marx’s Das Kapital but refused to say whether he was a Marxist or not. Things went from bad to worse when Andrew Neil published video evidence of McDonnell admitting he was a Marxist. An admittedly red-faced moment for the man aspiring to be Britain’s first socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer.  


8th of May: Duncan-Smith absolutely sends it with Eminem rendition

Following Abbot’s car crash of an interview, Ian Duncan-Smith went on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to show he’s still with the times by spitting fat rhymes. Stating that the lyrics for Eminem’s song, Lose Yourself were particularly pertinent for Diane Abbot, the Smith was more than happy to oblige TV presenter, Piers Morgan, with a rendition. Maybe Duncan-Smith should check himself before he wrecks himself?


9th of May: The Mays grilled on the One Show

In an effort to convince the British public of her own humanity, Theresa May ran the gauntlet and faced the two most-feared political interviewers, Alex Jones and former Blue Peter presenter Matt Baker with her husband Philip. Philip was asked how hard it was to negotiate with his wife as well as what manly-jobs he did round the house, taking out the bins apparently. May was on the ropes with questions on her choice of shoes as well as why Banksy isn’t her ‘cup of tea’. Good show.


11th of May: Labour manifesto leaked

 Everyone loves a spoiler, so the British public were delighted when drafts of the Labour manifesto were leaked to the mainstream media. Purported as the most left-wing Labour manifesto since Michael Foot’s ‘suicide note’ in 1983, it included plans to scrap tuition fees and the re-nationalisation of the railways. Labour’s manifesto was published the following week and it is alleged that Tony Blair had to consume an entire packet of Xanax before reading it.


22nd of May: Theresa May U-turns on the ‘dementia tax’

A Conservative manifesto pledge for the elderly to contribute more to their social care was scrapped amid calls that it targeted those who required care in their homes. Four days after the publication of the Manifesto, Theresa May quickly backtracked and insisted that there would be a cap on total contributions. The fact that May crumbled at the first hint of opposition dispelled all the hard work that she, and her personal team, had put into creating her image as the next Iron Lady. Arguably, it was also a large contributor to Labour’s increase in the polls.


22nd of May and 3rd of June: The terror attack

The election campaign has also been marred by two human tragedies: the Manchester Bombing and the London Bridge Attack. An explosion at the Manchester Arena killed twenty-three people, including children at an Ariana Grande concert. Political campaigning was suspended for two days following the attack and the U.K.’s security level was raised to critical, with soldiers sent onto Britain’s streets. Last Saturday, a group of men armed with knives attacked people in Borough Market, killing eight and injuring a further forty-eight. Although there were calls for the election to be postponed, in the end, campaigning was suspended for one day.


28th of May: Peston resorts to self-harm following interview with Fallon

ITV journalist Robert Peston was seen banging his head on the table following a frustrating interview with Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon. According to Fallon, Corbyn had suggested in a speech that the Manchester terror attack was the result of British foreign policy in the Middle-East, something Peston strongly disputed. The interview quickly spiralled, both Peston and Fallon failed to agree on what exactly Jeremy Corbyn had meant and also what the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, had suggested in an article following the 7/7 bombings in 2005. As the credits rolled an exasperated Peston began hitting his head on a table, whilst an inert Fallon looked on.


29th of May: Corbyn and May savaged by Paxo

On the Spring Bank holiday, both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May were subjected to a tête-à-tête with the Incredible Hulk of the fourth estate, Jeremy Paxman. After leaving Newsnight in early 2016, Paxman was firing on all cylinders interpreting or abruptly cutting off, perhaps over-zealously, both leaders if they failed to give direct answers. Corbyn who was smiling nervously at the beginning of the interview was probed on his Republicanism as well as his criticism of the Falklands War back in 1982. For May, Paxman highlighted policy areas where she had been inconstant: her lacklustre support for Remain prior to the Referendum, her U-turn on social care, her retreat from a proposal to increase national insurance contributions for the self-employed and her promise for no General Election until 2020: fancy that!


6th of June: Abbott takes a break from the political frontline

 Having pulled out of an interview on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour because of ill-health, rumours abounded over whether Shadow Home Secretary had been pushed out after a number of gaffes during the Labour campaign. McDonnell and Corbyn were quick to re-affirm their confidence in Abbott’s ability and wish her a speedy recovery, but she fell victim to a hoax by an online prankster claiming to Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s communication director. In a series of emails, Abbott said, after being asked to add colour to her illness, that she didn’t want to tell ‘untruths’ about her health. With Lyn Brown taking over as Home Secretary in the interim, is this the end of Abbott?




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