The Latest: UK minister resigns amid probe over aide

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on route to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth II to formally start the general election in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec.12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
An effigy of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, during the annual bonfire night procession in the town of Lewes, Britain, Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019. The annual event traditionally includes high-profile political characters, with Britain's Brexit split with Europe being one of the main issues as the country goes to the polls in a General Election on Dec. 12. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks to leave 10 Downing Street on route to Buckingham Palace ahead of an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and the formal start of the General Election, in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
A pro-Brexit supporter demonstrates with anti-Brexit protesters behind him outside the Houses of Parliament on the final day of the lawmakers sitting before the start of the general election campaign in London, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage reacts during a public rally at a miner's social club in Nottingham, England, Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019. Britain's Brexit split with Europe is one of the main issues as the country goes to the polls in a General Election on Dec. 12. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on route to Buckingham Palace to see Queen Elizabeth II to formally start the general election in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec.12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, left, walks with the party's candidate for Finchley and Golders Green Luciana Berger as she arrives for a visit to a mental health enterprise in North London, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2019. Britain's three major national political parties wooed weary voters on Tuesday, all promising an end to Brexit wrangling if they win next month's national election — but offering starkly different visions of how to achieve that. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Pro-Brexit supporters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament on the final day of the lawmakers sitting before the start of the general election campaign in London, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
The sun sets behind the Hoses of Parliament on the final day of the house sitting before lawmakers start the general election campaign in London, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a meeting of the cabinet, inside number 10 Downing Street, in central London, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on route to Buckingham Palace ahead of an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and the formal start of the General Election, in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec.12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
A street cleaner clears autumn leaves from the front of 10 Downing Street, in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage during a public rally at a miner's social club in Nottingham, England, Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019. Britain's Brexit split with Europe is one of the main issues as the country goes to the polls in a General Election on Dec. 12. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
Britain's Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson visits a mental health enterprise in North London, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2019. Britain's three major national political parties wooed weary voters on Tuesday, all promising an end to Brexit wrangling if they win next month's national election — but offering starkly different visions of how to achieve that. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on route to Buckingham Palace ahead of an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and the formal start of the General Election, in London, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.(Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON — The Latest on Britain's Dec. 12 election campaign and its impending departure from the European Union (all times local):

12:40 p.m.

As Britain's election campaign officially kicks off, a British Cabinet minister has resigned over allegations concerning a former aide's role in a collapsed rape trial.

Alun Cairns says he is quitting as Welsh secretary because of "speculation" surrounding the "very sensitive matter," which is under investigation.

Cairns had denied knowing that Conservative Party staffer Ross England made claims about a victim's sexual history when he was a witness in the 2018 trial, causing the trial to collapse. But the BBC says it has a document showing Cairns was aware of it.

In a resignation letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Cairns said he would cooperate fully with an investigation "and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrong doing."

The news is an unwelcome distraction for Johnson, who on Wednesday is launching the Conservative Party's campaign for Britain's Dec. 12 election.

___

9 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared his main rival to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin on Wednesday as he prepared to officially launch the governing Conservative Party's campaign for the Dec. 12 election.

While unofficial campaigning has been gearing up for weeks, the five-week election campaign formally began when Parliament was dissolved Wednesday. Johnson went to Buckingham Palace to notify Queen Elizabeth II before kicking off the Conservative campaign with a speech in central England.

Election season got off to an ill-tempered start, as Johnson accused the main opposition Labour Party of planning to "raise taxes so wantonly" that it would destroy Britain's prosperity. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson accused the left-of center party of attacking the rich "with a relish and vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has labelled Johnson's economic plans "Thatcherism on steroids," in reference to the free-market, low-spending ideology of the late former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

___

Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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