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Alun Cairns quits Cabinet at start of Tory election campaign launch

The Cabinet minister’s decision to quit was announced minutes before Boris Johnson was due to make a speech in Downing Street.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has resigned after being accused of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of an allegation that a Tory candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.

The Cabinet minister’s decision to quit – announced minutes before Boris Johnson was due to make a speech in Downing Street – will rock the Conservative Party as it officially launches its election campaign on Wednesday.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Cairns said: “You will be aware of allegations relating to the actions of a party employee and candidate for the Welsh Assembly elections in the Vale of Glamorgan.

“This is a very sensitive matter, and in light of continued speculation, I write to tender my resignation as Secretary of State for Wales.

“I will co-operate in full with the investigation under the Ministerial Code which will now take place and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrongdoing.”

Mr Cairns had claimed he was unaware of former staff member Ross England’s role in the collapsed trial until after the story broke last week.

But BBC Wales said it had obtained a leaked email sent to Mr Cairns which showed he had been made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.

Mr Cairns said he would continue to work to support Mr Johnson’s “vision and ambitions” for the country and that he was “grateful for the honour of serving in your Cabinet”.

The PM, in his reply, said he was “pleased to hear” that Mr Cairns would “co-operate fully” with the Cabinet Office process.

Labour called on Mr Cairns to apologise and stand down as an election candidate.

His resignation follows calls for another Cabinet minister – Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg – to quit over controversial remarks on the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Rees-Mogg faced widespread criticism, including from Grenfell survivors and Jeremy Corbyn, after he said people are safer if they “just ignore what you’re told and leave”.

Rapper Stormzy called on Mr Rees-Mogg to resign, calling him a “piece of shit”, after the Tory MP suggested that Grenfell victims should have used “common sense” and ignored fire service guidance not to leave the burning tower block.

The party has also faced questions about a Tory campaign video that critics claim had been “doctored”.

The challenges come on a day when Mr Johnson said Mr Corbyn had taken a stance that demonises billionaires with a “relish and a vindictiveness” not seen since Stalin’s attitude to landowners following the Russian revolution.

I don't pursue the kind of politics that thinks it's all a game, a parlour game, a debating society game Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Corbyn, speaking in his home town of Telford, said he would be a “very different” prime minister if his party wins the election.

“I was not born to rule. None of us in this room were born to rule. I don’t pursue the kind of politics that thinks it’s all a game, a parlour game, a debating society game.

“I want to seek power for our party in order to share that power out all across the country and with all those communities that would have contributed to this historic Labour election victory which we’re looking forward to on 12 December.”

Mr Johnson is expected to put Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the NHS and law and order at the centre of the Tories’ campaign.

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(PA Graphics)

He left Buckingham Palace at 10.37am after spending just over 25 minutes with the Queen at her official London residence.

In Downing Street, he is expected to say: “There is only one way to get Brexit done, and I am afraid the answer is to ask the people to change this blockading Parliament.

“It’s time to change the dismal pattern of the last three years and to get out of our rut.

“Let’s go with this Conservative government, get Brexit done, and unleash the potential of our great country – delivering on the public’s priorities of our NHS, crime and the cost of living.

“Meanwhile the alternative is clear – Jeremy Corbyn and his two favourite advisers, dither and delay, turning 2020 into the year of two miserable referendums – one on the EU and another on Scotland.

“And remember that a vote for any other minor party is effectively a vote for Corbyn and his catastrophic political and economic programme.”

Also on Wednesday morning, Ed Vaizey became the latest moderate Tory to announce he would not stand in the election, telling the PM he intended to specialise in the arts, creative industries and technology.

PA

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