How to not say sorry when you’re the British Home Secretary

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Whoever is training politicians in the UK and around the world is well earning their crust. Everyone remember now that simple and unedifying message. It goes: never apologise; it shows culpability or otherwise weakness.

And so it was that the British Home Secretary Priti Patel, a politician with a history that’s seen her get thrown out of a top post, but then be readmitted in PM Boris Johnson’s cabinet took the podium for the UK’s covid-19 briefing.

If New York governor Cuomo ‘s daily briefings inspire, Britain’s Patel draws anticipatory involuntary wrenches and nail biting.

It’s only a matter of time before another gaffe finds itself front page news. Is this the best Britain has for one of the highest posts in cabinet? Yes you’re allowed to ask. The first was an inflation in figures that was mumbo jumbo. Ms Patel’s elementary grasp of figures would suggest don’t let her near a GCSE math paper.

She opened the briefing with the most gushing eulogy for NHS workers who are saving lives. I’ll save you the quote. A couple of days earlier she put in train an immigration system which would bar from Britain the very people who are keeping it going. Patel doesn’t see irony and if she did, she probably wouldn’t give a Castlemaine ****

Today‘s’ lesson was in heartlessness. Never apologise. Never surrender.

Asked by a network reporter from Channel 4 News, Inigo Gilmore, (she mangled his name) whether she would apologise to NHS staff who’d told the broadcaster they lacked proper PPE, the minister leapt at the chance.

The lyrics from Naughty boy come to mind. Nothing. Here’s the link to the song if you’re struggling to place it.

I’m covering my ears like a kid
When your words mean nothing, I go la la la
I’m turning up the volume when you speak
’Cause if my heart can’t stop it,
I find a way to block it, I go
La la, la la la la la na na na na na
La la na na, la la la la la na na na na na,
I find a way to block it, I go
La la na na, la la la la la na na na na na
La la na na, la la la la la na na na na na

The reporter pressed again.

More La la, la la la la la na na na na na

Then again.

This time she’d thought through how to oblige the reporter, but conform to the no surrender doctrine.

Will you apologise, Inigo asked, to the NHS staff?

“I’m sorry they feel that way”, was her reply. Smug. There, nailed it. That’s how you perform AAA at a presser, she might likely tell the trainer.

Meanwhile it’s fair to say Twitter was revving up to a WTF moment. Did she just offer a non apology?


Is she going to be clapping NHS staff next week? Thoughts of the following kind should never cross into the amygdala — the seat of memory — but you wonder what must it be like to ever fall ill and visit the hospital if you’re Ms Patel? Of course NHS staff are professionals so separate their politics from their de facto oath. Otherwise you do wonder.

The star was undoubtedly Ms Patel — stealing the show with a monumental crash. The main characters NHS deserved more. The architect of the question showed how to ask a question and doggedly follow through.

A lesson to the rest of the British Press who’ve been performing piss poorly, asking double barrelled questions which allows politicians to be evasive.

This event will resonate for a while because it confirms for those whose good will has been put in front of this pandemic. That no matter how much the government spins its remorse, is it ideologically incapable of bringing itself to truly paying tribute to an institution whose fate was prior Covid-19 on a thread? “Sorry” is a word that can’t be that hard to say.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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