Labour’s best campaign gaffes

Guy Birchall

Topics Politics

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With the pollsters now predicting anything from a Tory landslide to a hung parliament, it’s unclear whether this General Election will spell the end of Labour or another death delayed. But, if nothing else, the Labour campaign has been a masterclass in political gaffes. Here’s a (by no means exhaustive) list of the most cringe-making moments.

Diane Abbott can’t count

The shadow home secretary made the gaffe of the campaign in a truly excruciating LBC interview. While being quizzed about Labour’s pledge to put 10,000 new bobbies on the beat, Abbott was unable to say how much this would cost. She initially gave a figure of £300,000 – meaning the new coppers would have to get by on an annual salary of £30. Realising her error, she corrected the figure to £80million – meaning a handsome annual salary of £8,000. Who knew law and order came so cheap?

Emily Thornberry on Australian imports

During an address at the Royal United Services Institute, the shadow foreign secretary claimed that the UK could not export food to Australia because it would ‘go off’. She has apparently never eaten a kiwi fruit.

Jezza flounders on Woman’s Hour

Jeremy Corbyn appeared on the Radio 4 programme to launch Labour’s plan to offer free childcare for two-year-olds. Quite reasonably, the BBC’s Emma Barnett asked him how much this would cost. Corbyn, who had apparently not expected this question, frantically jabbed at his iPad for the answer. Barnett eventually put him out of his misery and read out the party’s published figures.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Hair has become a recurring motif among Labourites this campaign. Last week, Diane Abbott dodged a question about her support for Irish republicanism by saying her hairstyle has changed, and so have her views. Earlier in the campaign, Emily Thornberry chastised those turning to the Tories without thinking it through: ‘It is not good enough for people to simply say “I like Theresa May’s hair” or “I like that shade of blue”.’

Corbyn can’t say we’re leaving

Though less a gaffe and more an example of all that is wrong with Labour, Corbyn’s failure to guarantee Brexit would be implemented in a tense BBC interview had to be the ultimate low point. Talking to Laura Kuenssberg, Corbyn was asked seven times if he’d ensure the UK left the EU, even if no deal was reached. But to no avail. If he can’t promise to follow through on the largest democratic mandate in British political history, one wonders what he means when he says Labour is ‘for the many, not the few’.

Guy Birchall is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics


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