Let’ remember, for no reason in particular, when Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry had to apologise or resign for minor mistakes

Louis Staples
Sunday 24 May 2020 11:45
Celebrities

The controversy surrounding Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings’ movements during the lockdown period continues to grow.

After it emerged that Cummings had travelled 265 miles from London to Durham when the public were being urged to “stay home”, Downing Street pushed back and said that his actions were “within guidelines”. As backlash grew, Tory MPs put out messages of support and childcare concerns were cited as the primary reason behind Cummings’ trip.

Cummings hasn’t apologised and has said he has no intentions of resigning. Boris Johnson has said Cummings has his full support

They’re both also denying new reports which suggest Cummings returned to Durham for a second time during lockdown.

All in all, it’s an incredibly messy political scandal.

And there’s very real public health consequences too.

Will this impact how people decide to behave, given that it seems as though there’s one rule for government advisers and another for everybody else?

A YouGov poll has revealed that 52 per cent of people, including 40 per cent of Tories, think Cummings should resign. Earlier today Steve Baker became the first Tory MP to call for Johnson’s adviser to go.

But it still seems unlikely that Cummings is going to apologise for his alleged actions, let alone resign.

So this got us thinking about the times people had to resign or at least make a public apology for things that, right now, don’t seem very serious at all...

Let's take a trip down memory lane...

Diane Abbott’s “mojito-gate”

- 2019

While serving as Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott was spotted on the Overground drinking a can of M&S mojito on a Friday evening. It was Easter weekend and the sun was shining, so the desire for a cocktail was fairly understandable.

Abbott received a lot of support following her apology and we might all be able to laugh about this ridiculous controversy now. But at the time (in the very height of Brexit polarisation) the MP for Hackney had to publicly apologise after a photo of her drinking the can, which is prohibited under Transport for London rules, emerged online.

Eventually the incident became meme-fodder and actually resulted in a rise in sales for M&S, but it still seems pretty ridiculous that Abbott had to apologise for something so minor.

Are apologies immediately expected when some people mess up, but not others?

Emily Thornberry’s “white van” photo

- 2014

If Emily Thornberry could take back one thing since she’s entered politics, it’d probably be tweeting a photo of white vans and St George’s flags on her way to campaign in the Rochester by-election in 2014. Thornberry tweeted the picture with a fairly innocuous caption, but was condemned for being classist and snobby. The controversy also started a debate around classist preconceptions about Thornberry given she’s an MP from Islington, but she’s pretty much been smeared with the “snob” label ever since, despite the fact that she grew up on a council estate.

Following the backlash, she resigned from Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet.

It was clearly an unwise thing to tweet, but was it worse than travelling 265 miles during lockdown when you’ve got symptoms of a highly infectious virus? We’ll let you be the judge.

On social media, people have been pointing out that it seems unfair that Cummings hasn’t been made to resign or at least apologise for his alleged actions given how these women were treated.

Over the course of lockdown, people across the UK have made incredible sacrifices. And the government's guidelines were also enshrined in law in March.

Given we now know people have apologised and resigned for much lesser scandals, it begs the question:

Is it just some of us who are expected to follow the rules and face consequences if we don't?

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