If you thought Priti Patel's family holiday with Netanyahu couldn't get more farcical, you haven't read her apology yet

Priti Patel doesn’t make immediately clear if her nine year old son was also treated to this family holiday of a lifetime, hanging out at the Strategic Affairs Ministry and witnessing presentations on farming

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 07 November 2017 16:52 GMT
The International Development Secretary flaunted convention with her ‘What I Did On Holiday’ press release
The International Development Secretary flaunted convention with her ‘What I Did On Holiday’ press release (PA)

There are no guides to crafting government press releases. No Aristotelian unities to obey, no three act structures.

There are, strictly speaking, no rules to break. But even so, it is rare, perhaps indeed unprecedented, to see the head of a foreign government make his first appearance in paragraph 17.

So what? Convention is there to be flouted. That Benjamin Netanyahu should leave it this late to ride into Priti Patel’s already stunning account of ‘What I Did On Holiday’, like Sean Connery on horseback in the final scene of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, well it just improves what is already un-improvable.

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There was a lot to get through up to this point. Who, you know, knew about the trip (no one), when they were told (after it happened), and some more general stuff about why a member of Her Majesty’s Government is meeting up with world leaders in secret on her family holiday.

Politicians walk a fine semantic line. Say the wrong thing, in 2017, like, for example, making a joke about dead bodies all over Libyan beaches, and you run the very real risk of getting a very stern talking to.

So we should not rush to judge Ms Patel when she seeks to clarify some a quote given to The Guardian.

“Boris knew about the visit. The point is that the Foreign Office did know about this, Boris knew about [the trip].” she told them. She now wishes to clarify.

"This quote may have given the impression that the Secretary of State had informed the Foreign Secretary about the visit in advance," she explains, not unreasonably. If someone knew about something, you might infer, that they knew about it. Not so.

"The Foreign Secretary did become aware of the visit," she explains. "But not in advance of it."

People are ridiculing Patel over this aspect in particular, and that is unfair.

Knew about and knows about are very close semantic cousins. If you ask Sonny Liston, for example, whether he "knows about" a punch he received from Mohammed Ali in 1965, he might very well reply, "Yes. It knocked me out."

Ask him if he "knew about" it however, and you may get a different answer, by virtue of the video footage showing him making very little effort to get out of its way. But this is not to suggest for a second anything other than Ms Patel has made an entirely innocent mistake.

Mainly, there is sadness here. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel go waaaay back. That giddy summer, driving round on the big red bullshit bus together. Do they ever stop and have a laugh about only being in the Cabinet because they both trashed the country for their own careers lol? Boris, meanwhile, is clandestinely trying to steal her department.

Where, in all this, was the friendly, “Hi Priti, what you up to on your holidays this summer?”

Wellll, funny you should ask… we were thinking Center Parcs but actually, I'm going to Israel to see if I can give some taxpayer cash to the Israeli armed forces. What about you? Anywhere nice.”

Still, at least she kept herself busy. A “family holiday paid for by myself” where you fix up a meeting with one of the world’s most controversial political leaders and not tell your own Prime Minister what you’re up to could look, well, misadventurous. But with half the Israeli government to meet, she’s not left a lot of time for, you know, thinking, walking, clearing the head. Making big decisions, that sort of thing.

In anything like ordinary times, this sort of utterly insane behaviour would get a minister sacked. But in these rarefied days, Theresa May would do well to keep such insightful holiday planning tips close at hand. “Just pack a lot in, Prime Minister,” Ms Patel will now remain on hand to tell her. “Too much thinking time, that's where you can get into trouble I find.”

What Ms Patel doesn’t make immediately clear is whether her nine year old son was also treated to this family holiday of a lifetime, hanging out at the Strategic Affairs Ministry and witnessing presentations on farming, solar and hospital projects. If he was, the backseat whining surely would have broken all records.

But muuuuum! You said we were going to float in the Dead Sea!

“Oh come on. Everybody gets to float in the Dead Sea. But because your mummy’s really important, we're going to meet the Prime Minister!"

But I don't want to meet the Prime Minister! I want to float in the Dead Sea!

“And you will, but first we’re going to get an introduction to the work of the Galilee International Management Institute! And then, we're going to... CASSIT ORTHOPAEDICS! And not just Cassit Orthopaedics, but a whole range of startups with a focus on Africa!”

We’re not going to the Dead Sea are we mummy?

“Maybe next year little one."

I don't like having a really important mummy.

”Well darling, just be patient..."

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