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Boris Johnson had a disastrous day on the campaign trail which supporters fear could cost him the election

Thomas Colson , Business Insider US
 Dec 10, 2019, 04:01 PM

Boris Johnson
  • A disastrous campaign day for the Conservatives has given Labour its last best hope of closing the gap in the polls before the general election on Thursday.
  • Johnson was heavily criticised for initially refusing to look at a photo of a four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia who was forced to sleep on the floor of a hospital due to a lack of bed space.
  • A clip of the incident went viral on Monday, triggering a series of missteps by Johnson.
  • An opinion poll published before Monday's gaffes showed Labour gaining one point to 36% on the Conservatives, unchanged on 42%.
  • If this poll were repeated on Thursday, the Conservatives would risk failing to win a majority in the UK parliament.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

LONDON - Boris Johnson's tightly-controlled election campaign went spectacularly wrong on Monday giving the opposition Labour party hope that they can still prevent him from winning the landslide majority some forecasters predict.

Johnson's troubles were sparked by a bizarre interview with ITV News in which he snatched their reporter's phone away rather than look at a photo of a sick 4-year-old boy forced to lie on a hospital floor.

The clip, which immediately went massively viral online, shows the reporter Joe Pike calmly telling him: "you've taken my phone and put it into your pocket Prime Minister," after which Johnson sheepishly was forced to return it and apologise to the family of the boy.

To his detractors, the incident confirmed the impression among some that Johnson lacks empathy with the public and understanding of how his government's spending cuts have affected public services.

Johnson's day got increasingly worse as he visited a fish market in Grimsby, where he was booed, a firm in Sunderland, where a young employee heckled him about Conservative disinformation tactics, before being criticised for taking a plane to reach nearby Sunderland.

If that wasn't all bad enough, the party dispatched then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to the hospital in Leeds where the photo of Jack had been taken.

Following his visit, which had been met by protesters, Johnson's spinners told journalists - who quickly published the claims on Twitter - that Hancock's adviser had been punched by a Labour activist. Video footage subsequently revealed this to be untrue.

All in all, it was a disastrous day for Johnson's campaign, which was played out in full on the evening news bulletins.

The prime minister, who had largely succeeded in not repeating the mistakes of Theresa May's calamitous 2017 campaign, appeared to have fallen at the final hurdle, giving his opponents hope that he may still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Labour will attempt to keep the pressure up on Johnson today. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth was sent out to broadcasters this morning to push their message home.

The party is keen to talk about pressures on the NHS after nine years of a Conservative government, and knows that gaining even a few percentage points in the polls could be enough to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority. Every day in which the focus is on the NHS and not Brexit is a win for Labour and a loss for the Conservatives.

With just two days to go until voters head to the polls, it may all be too little too late for Johnson's opponents, however.

An opinion poll published on Monday showed Labour trailing the Conservatives by six points, while other polls have put the Conservatives' lead between 8% and 16%.

However, with Britain's leading pollster John Curtice suggesting that the election could end in a hung parliament if the Conservatives' lead falls anywhere below 6 or 7 points, there is still time for Johnson to fall short.

And with 48 hours to go until voters head to the polls, the election is still far from decided.

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