Priti Patel has been most noticeable throughout the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic by not really being noticeable at all. And her appearance on Sky News‘s Ridge programme on Sunday 28 June just summed up why.
In a wide-ranging interview, Sophy Ridge probed the home secretary on various issues. Patel’s responses to most questions were less than satisfactory. Take the current furore over housing secretary Robert Jenrick and the ‘cash for favours’ scandal with ex-Daily Express owner Richard Desmond. When Ridge asked Patel whether she could “guarantee” that Boris Johnson “hasn’t had any conversations” with Desmond, Patel’s response was to repeat the PM’s insistence that:
the matter is closed.
But the Jenrick “matter” is far from closed. PoliticsHome reported that he overruled senior civil servants who told him to block Desmond’s application. Labour has reported Jenrick to the parliamentary watchdog. And the Guardian reported that he had a meeting with a billionaire mining magnate in an official ministerial capacity – who turns out to be a “family friend”. But never mind. “The matter is closed” according to Patel.
What we’ve seen with… mass gatherings and protests is unacceptable.
Here’s where Patel started to fall apart. Because Ridge also asked her about the easing of lockdown restrictions and the scenes of those “mass gatherings” at places like Bournemouth beach.
We do like to be beside the seaside
The Sky News presenter said:
We’ve all seen pictures in the last week or so of people gathering in large groups, on beaches, in parks, celebrating Liverpool winning the Premier League. Are some people acting irresponsibly?
Patel immediately changed her tune. She said:
I think it’s important that the public realise that this virus has not disappeared at all. I’ve said this many times… We’re living with the virus, we are still in a health emergency and a health pandemic. Now, of course as we unlock and reopen society we’re doing that with very clear measures and parameters around social distancing, but also hygiene measures as well.
Ridge interrupted and asked again:
Are people acting irresponsibly when you can see them on beaches and so on when they’re not observing social distancing?
People need to follow the guidance that we have put in place
But Ridge wasn’t having it. Again, she asked:
Are they irresponsible if they don’t?
The home secretary again deflected, saying:
The public need to think about other people as well, in terms of spreading the virus.
So which is it? Because Patel either thinks that “mass gatherings” are “unacceptable” or, given she wouldn’t answer, that these incidents are not “irresponsible”.
But here’s the problem with Patel.
In this instance, it’s clearly only certain “mass gatherings” which are “unacceptable”. Like the parties seen in Brixton and Notting Hill. Or the Black Lives Matter protests. Whereas people causing a major incident at Bournemouth beach need to “think about” what they’ve done. This sums up Patel as a politician completely. Because also on Ridge, she said that Labour’s attitude towards her was “racist”, because she didn’t fit “their stereotypical view of what an ethnic minority woman should stand for”.
Patel’s whole attitude reeks of classism. Poor people, many of them Black, having parties or protesting systemic racism under her government? It’s “unacceptable”. She’s also willing to put into place rules that immigrants must speak English. And also bring in tighter restrictions which, as the Guardian noted, would have meant her parents would have never been able to move to the UK. Yet Patel says you can go to the beach as long as you “think about” what you’ve done. Probably because the people who she wants ‘thinking about’ their actions are, by and large, not Black, or poor, or from council estates.
Spineless and cynical
But Ridge wasn’t done with Patel. When she’d finished reeling her in hook, line and sinker, the Sky News presenter hung her out to dry. After letting her ramble, she asked Patel:
when people have seen the prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings taking liberties with the guidance, isn’t it inevitable that they’ll think ‘why should I follow this to the letter?’
“Of course it’s not” said Patel. When Ridge asked again if she thought Cummings’ actions had ‘impacted’ the public attitude to lockdown, Patel said:
Quite frankly Sophy… no, because that issue has been and gone
One rule for Jenrick, Cummings, and herself (and beach-goers) – and one for every other poor person who Patel would happily throw under the bus and make sure another one came along to run them over again. Spineless and hypocritical. Just like the majority of Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
Featured image via Sky News – YouTube
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