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Alun Cairns' resignation from government could damage the whole election campaign

Credit: PA Images

The loss of a cabinet minister on the same day as the Conservative party launches its General Election campaign threatens not only to derail that launch but could damage the whole campaign.

One reason for that is that Alun Cairns was due to lead that campaign in Wales and, while he hasn’t stepped down as a candidate, it’s difficult to see how he can be front and centre of party launches and events here in Wales from now on.

Another is that, although they publicly deny it, privately the party at a UK level is pinning its hopes for a General Election win on gains in Wales to offset potential losses in England. If the campaign falters in Wales, that could have a knock-on effect on the wider strategy.

Those factors are questions of strategy and politics, but the seriousness of what’s at the heart of this case - a rape trial which collapsed, a rape victim forced to endure a retrial and to witness an apparent cover-up - makes this about more than just strategy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (left) and Andrew Bridgen (right) have apologised for their comments on Grenfell Credit: PA Images

Coming as it does at the same time as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s apology over his Grenfell Tower comments, it’s a case which gives credence to those who claim the Conservatives are still ‘the nasty party’ (as Theresa May once warned) and their opponents will remind voters of that relentlessly.

It’s also unclear if Boris Johnson will appoint a new Welsh Secretary, or even if he’s allowed to during an election period.

Other parties which claim the Conservatives don’t care about Wales will be able to point to that fact as they hammer home their message.

There is now the question about whether or not Alun Cairns remains as a candidate in this election and there’s considerable pressure from some within the party for him to stand down from that position too.

One Welsh Tory says it could bring down the whole campaign in Wales and says that Mr Cairns should put ‘country and party before his own interests.’

But I understand that he intends to contest the Vale of Glamorgan in this General Election and has received encouragement from constituents and politicians alike.

I also understand that he believes that Number 10 is content that an investigation under the ministerial code is the serious and independent action which is needed. There had been some who had questioned whether or not any Conservative party investigation would be seen to be independent enough. Having civil servants doing the investigating ensures it is seen as robust and impartial.