With Parliament dissolved, election season has officially begun. Parties will be working hard to finish manifestos and soon we will know every candidate standing in the election. While most parties will have just started their election campaign – printing their leaflets, preparing their canvassers, making some memes – the Tories got right to it early doors in what can only be called "the rockiest election start of all time".
So far, it’s been a bit... How would you put it? A shit show? A car crash? None of these stock phrases quite seem to cover it.
Evidence of a party so rotten that even the most horrible, disrespectful comments don’t warrant an MP stepping down? On Wednesday they even managed to reach the point where a candidate not actually appearing on a TV interview counted was a comparatively good public appearance.
There are, of course, some heroes in the election: Ali Milani, the 25-year-old British Iranian running in Uxbridge to unseat Boris Johnson. If he succeeds, we might see the first sitting PM to lose their seat. A thrill, I can assure you. Otherwise, the bar has been set so low for the beginning of this election that it’s hard to pick the winner of this truly odious game of political limbo. Here are the worst ones running, in descending order. Though in many ways, they’re all as awful as each other.
5. NICK CONRAD
Nick Conrad comes last in this list because last night he has stood down, but let's take a look anyway. Until last night, the former BBC presenter was to stand in the safe Conservative seat of Broadland. In 2014, he said that, “I think women need to be more aware of a man's sexual desire. That when you're in that position that you are about to engage in sexual activity, there's a huge amount of energy in the male body, there's a huge amount of will and intent, and it's very difficult for many men to say no.”
"Women also have to understand that when a man's given certain signals he'll wish to act upon them and if you don't wish to give out the wrong signals it's best, probably, to keep your knickers on and not get into bed with him.” A twat, indeed, but not enough to stop him running in a general election.
Conrad apologised for the comments he made, and stood down on Thursday.
4. ANDREW BRIDGEN
Andrew Bridgen, the MP for north west Leicestershire, makes the cut simply by performing an act of doubling down so stupid and badly judged it was almost funny. After Jacob Rees-Mogg was criticised for insulting Grenfell victims for not having “common sense”, Bridgen didn't waste a moment in getting in on the act.
In the light of such a controversy, most normal people would take a moment to think, Huh, probably not good to imply dead people are stupid. Not our Andrew, no. He did not take a moment to step back, have a nice tea, and wonder if 72 dead people, who are – crucially – dead, should be insulted. How the cogs in his brain must have whirred as he weighed up who convey his respect to: the victims of an unimaginable tragedy or an Etonian millionaire.
In the end Bridgen went with his gut and suggested that the MP would have survived the fire because he would have made “a better decision” than the fire brigades as he is “clever”. Bridgen later apologised "unreservedly", making that the second Tory backtrack after Rees-Mogg. Not a good start to the Conservative campaign, but definitely an eye-opening one.
3. FRANCESCA O’BRIEN
The Conservative Party candidate for the Welsh constituency of Gower said in a Facebook post that people on the reality show Benefits Street needed “putting down.” It seems a little harsh to criticise a Tory candidate for honestly promoting party policy, but the remarks did cause a little stir. So much so that she was forced to acknowledge that her “use of language was unacceptable”, saying that she made her poor-killing comments "off the cuff".
The remarks were not controversial enough for O'Brien to step down, and so the lucky voters of Gower have the opportunity to cast their ballot for her in this marginal seat.
2. ALUN CAIRNS
Right, here we go. Really getting into it now. The former secretary of state for Wales stepped down this week after claims that he knew that his former aid had a role in the "sabotage" of a rape trial.
In a rape trial involving his friend James Hackett, Ross England – an aide who worked with Cairns – told a court that he had slept with the complainant, despite the victim's sexual history being inadmissible, thus sabotaging the trial.
As the BBC reports, Judge Stephen John Hopkins QC said: "Why did you say that? Are you completely stupid? You have managed single-handed, and I have no doubt it was deliberate on your part, to sabotage this trial… Get out of my court."
Hackett was found guilty at a retrial. Cairns has denied any knowledge of the sabotage. He was sent an email about the case over a year ago, but insists that he only heard about it last week.
While the furore was enough for him to step down as the Welsh secretary, he denies any wrongdoing and remains a candidate in this election. He will still be standing as a Conservative candidate in Vale of Glamorgan.
1. JACOB REES-MOGG
Where to begin with a man like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Against stiff competition, the man must be one of the most ghastly characters in British politics. In 2017 during an interview with Good Morning Britain, he emphasised his beliefs that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape. In the same year, he said that he found food banks “rather uplifting”. Rather than damage his political career, Rees-Mogg later found himself in the cabinet for the first time, acting as Leader of the House of Commons under Boris Johnson.
But perhaps his untouchable persona is cracking? This week, Rees-Mogg finally managed to cross some sort of acceptibility threshold, when he implied the Grenfell victims should have had more “common sense,” and ignored the fire brigade’s advice. He would have known better, of course. It didn’t seem to matter than years of Tory austerity has meant an underfunded fire brigade, or that cuts to health and safety legislation meant oversight on a building that residents frequently flagged as unsafe.
Despite calls for the MP to step down, including one from Stormzy, Rees-Mogg will still be standing in this election. Btw please don't forget to register to vote!