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Election campaign day 31: Farage in the spotlight over Ukraine war comments

Here are the key moments from day 31 on the General Election campaign trail.

Nigel Farage has become mired in a row about his attitude towards the war in Ukraine, after suggesting in an interview that the West provoked the conflict.

Here are the key moments from day 31 on the General Election campaign trail:

– Putin the boot in

Reform UK leader Mr Farage is facing fallout for suggesting that “we provoked this war” in Ukraine during a BBC Panorama interview.

As the day began, Mr Farage was likened to a “pub bore” by Tory former defence secretary Ben Wallace over his claims that he predicted war in Ukraine, and his other remarks on the topic.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with representatives of the nighttime economy in central London
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a strong response to Mr Farage’s claims (Benjamin Cremel/PA)

But reprimand was more harsh from the political party leaders, with Mr Sunak describing the remarks as “completely wrong” and suggesting Mr Farage’s attitude was akin to appeasement of Vladimir Putin.

Sir Keir Starmer meanwhile called the remarks “disgraceful” and said anyone standing for Parliament should make clear Russia is the aggressor.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and the SNP’s John Swinney also weighed in to criticise the Reform chief’s remarks.

Mr Farage was on the campaign trail in Clacton on Saturday as the fallout unfolded.

– Quote of the day

Ben Wallace, Conservative former defence secretary: “I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says if ‘I was running the country’ and presents very simplistic answers to actually I am afraid in the 21st century, complex problems.”

– Rowling with the punches

While Sir Keir was dishing out criticism to one of his political rivals, a former Labour donor and well-known author had some for him.

JK Rowling wrote in the Times overnight that the Labour leader had “abandoned women” because of his past stance on gender self-identification.

The Harry Potter author said she would struggle to vote for the Labour leader, saying she had a “poor opinion” of his character.

Sir Keir pointed to Labour’s “long history” of “real progress” on women’s rights in response.

Sounding out new battles on this front in recent days has been Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, who this week told the Guardian she wants to eliminate the gender pay gap “once and for all”.

– War stories

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer’s row with his Labour competitor Fred Thomas as the two contest the Plymouth Moor View constituency was described as “sad and desperate” by Sir Keir.

Lord David Cameron with Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer at a D-Day event
Sir Keir Starmer said the veterans minister’s claims were sad and desperate (PA)

Mr Mercer has cast doubt on his opponent’s combat record when he served in the Royal Marines, describing it as “bloated”.

Labour has defended its man, with Mr Thomas claiming that much of his military service is not in the public domain due to its sensitive nature.

– Windrush memories

The Labour leader and his shadow foreign secretary David Lammy visited Brixton to mark 76 years since the HMT Empire Windrush arrived in England.

The ship brought people from the Caribbean who answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages.

During the visit, the Labour leader spoke of the need to expedite compensation for the victims of the Windrush scandal.

Elsewhere in the capital, Mr Sunak defended the Home Office’s record of awarding compensation to those hit by the scandal.

– Fresh out the Starmer

Sir Keir also faced questions from reporters about his attendance at Taylor Swift’s Wembley stadium gig on Friday night.

He named her song Change from the 2008 album Fearless as his favourite, because it shares a name with Labour’s manifesto.

– Nights’ roundtable

The Prime Minister’s visit of the day took him to a meeting with representatives of the night-time economy in London to hear their concerns ahead of the election.

The capital’s bars, restaurants and clubs have had a difficult few years following the pandemic, and their troubles featured heavily during the mayoral elections earlier this year.

– Fowl play

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey visited a chicken farm in East Sussex, where he handed out grain and was pecked by the farm birds as they surrounded him.

Despite facing the sharp end of their beaks, Sir Ed was heard to describe the event as the “best photo chicken op ever”.

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey during a visit to the Macs Farm in Ditchling, East Sussex
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey said the coop photoshoot was something of a coup (Anahita Hossein-Pour/PA)

He was promoting the Lib Dems’ messaging on sewage in the UK’s waterways, including its rare habitat chalk streams.

The Lib Dems plan to tackle pollution of chalk streams across the country, including a public consultation which could see rivers and lakes awarded a new Blue Flag status to protect them from sewage dumping.

– Social media moment of the day

Elsewhere in sewage news, the Labour Party turned to X, formerly Twitter, to criticise the Conservatives for allowing sewage dumping to continue and has said if people want “to end the Tory shit show”, they need to vote for “change”.

In a post to X, it wrote: “A vote for Labour on Thursday 4 July is a vote to clean up our waters and our politics.

“Change will only come if you vote for it.”

The post is accompanied by a video of waste coming out a sewer and entering a vast expanse of water, with the words: “It’s time to end the Tory shit show at the start,” followed by the words: “Change will only come if you vote for it.”

– What is happening tomorrow?

The Prime Minister will be campaigning in North Yorkshire without a media presence.

The Lib Dem’s deputy leader Daisy Cooper will be canvassing for votes in the Home Counties.

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