Priti Patel quotes bizarre non-existent number when asked about coronavirus testing

Priti Patel quotes bizarre non-existent number when asked about coronavirus testing

After speculation about why Home Secretary Priti Patel has been so quiet throughout the coronavirus pandemic became a focal talking point last week, the government appears to have listened.

Yesterday Patel was rolled out to deliver the daily press briefing, which has been the responsibility of a number of senior cabinet members, but not the home secretary until that point.

It seems obvious now why. It did not go well.

Firstly there was the non-apology on PPE, in which she said is “sorry if people feel there have been failings” in the government’s supply of protective equipment to nurses and doctors, potentially leading to deaths. This reminded people of every celebrity apologising for something they don't want to take responsibility for. The "sorry if anyone was offended" route has never been a good look.

Then there was the announcement to tackle the increase in cases of intimate partner violence during lockdown, which was somewhat crassly given its own hashtag (#YouAreNotAlone – original) which serves no real discernible purpose other than to "reassure" people that services are still functioning.

But many noted that they are functioning at a lower capacity given Tory cuts to funding for women's refuges. While others pointed out the irony of Patel being the one in charge of the £2m initiative, given she is yet to properly address her own allegations of bullying.

But perhaps the worst gaffe was when she was asked about coronavirus testing, and attempted to give the exact number, but failed miserably.

She said:

Through the governments ongoing monitoring and testing programme, as of 9am today there have been: 300,000; 34; 974,000 tests carried out.

Obviously, that is not a number, and what she really meant appears to be 334,974. Perhaps she was trying to make it sound a bit more impressive that it is, considering the government has claimed its goal is to be conducting at least 100,000 per day.

Or maybe she just struggles with decimal points, which is fine, but maybe practice first? Especially if you know your address is going to be televised and millions of people are going to be relying on it for reassurance.

People were quick to point out the double standard in spokespeople for the left and the right, given the huge scrutiny Diane Abbott found herself under in 2017 when she similarly misspoke about the cost of extra policing on a radio interview, something of clearly less immediate consequence – especially considering Labour wasn't even in power.

Patel on the other hand, seemed to broadly get away with the gaffe, with the exception of Twitter of course, where #PritiAwful began trending.

Maybe it was better when they kept her hidden away...

The Conversation (0)