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.
No, no, no. She did *not* say sorry. She said she was sorry *if* people *felt* there were failings. It’s the very o… https://t.co/iJh4vvtzk0— Christina Patterson (@Christina Patterson) 1586623890
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.
Priti awful. How will this help victims of domestic violence? How will this save lives? Are we going to see a poste… https://t.co/XLuXcTfSNP— Vix Lowthion 💚 (@Vix Lowthion 💚) 1586638230
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.
Priti Patel has come out of hiding to speak about Domestic violence (bullying/abuse in the home) will she have the… https://t.co/AJM2wXhJ5G— diane scott 🌹 (@diane scott 🌹) 1586619181
But perhaps the worst gaffe was when she was asked about coronavirus testing, and attempted to give the exact number, but failed miserably.
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.
Could you imagine The media reaction if a certain female Labour MP had said "three hundred thousand, thirty four, n… https://t.co/eC1Qo0jRUS— DaveofTheRovers (@DaveofTheRovers) 1586673079
Q: How do you write this number in word form: 334,974? Priti Patel: Three hundred thousand, and thirty four, nine… https://t.co/zo8Jv9jHoZ— Si (@Si) 1586673283
@TheMendozaWoman I trust that this will run and run with the same length of time and intensity as the trolling of D… https://t.co/K8C4NH9RXc— Stephen Miller (@Stephen Miller) 1586624442
I would expect those who lambasted Diane Abbott for her mathematics, saying that she must never be allowed near the… https://t.co/DYuKxV3HBi— Liam Holman 🏴🇬🇧🇪🇺 (@Liam Holman 🏴🇬🇧🇪🇺) 1586677992