I rarely comment on politics because, if it bothered me that much, why have I never joined a political party? Yet I do think the UK deserves better than the sorry lot which sits in Westminster these days.
Turning on Radio 4 towards the end of Any Questions? at lunchtime on June 12 I was struck by how poor a speaker was one of the commentators; sadly, she turned out to be my local MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, speaking just before her Cabinet post as Secretary of State for international development disappeared with the announcement of its merger with the Foreign Office.
Responding to a listener’s question querying the wisdom of easing the lockdown on non-essential retail shops, fellow panellist Theo Paphitis of Dragons’ Den fame and owner of, among other things, the Rymans stationery chain, questioned the “mixed messages” given out by Ms Trevelyan’s government in insisting that shoppers must keep two metres apart while Tube passengers were allowed to travel on packed trains.
Asked by host Chris Mason to respond to Paphitis’ charge, this is a verbatim transcript of our MP’s embarrassing response:
“Umm, I think, umm , you know, Richard (the caller) makes a fair point and that’s something constituents have raised with me, is the concerns about, you know, what’s OK and what’s not OK, umm, you know, and that’s, umm, you know, completely understandable. We’ve all been, you know, faced with this virus which has, you know, deadly consequences for far too many people.
“But the key messages, and they continue to be the right ones, is obviously social distancing where possible because the virus, you know, at two metres, err, the chances of contact are absolutely minuscule, but make sure you wash your hands regularly and indeed sanitise, err, you know, with hand sanitiser as well, and I mean I have and I’m sure, you know, many, many people do a little bottle in my bag so that when out and about regularly do that.
“And, you know, in terms of, you know, kind of social, umm, you know, err, friendliness with others out shopping, if you want to wear a face covering, that reduces the risk if you’re a carrier of, of, passing it on, so as part of our civic duty, as [Health Secretary] Matt Hancock refers to it, umm, you know, that can be a good thing to do.
“Theo’s point about, err, public transport, err, from Monday (June 15), umm, everyone who gets on to public transport will be asked to wear, err, some sort of face covering exactly for that reason because social distancing isn’t necessarily going to be possible. Err, but the the very, you know, simple, err, rules of maintaining social distancing where you can, face covering if that’s not possible, and making sure that you wash your hands and, err, sanitise them very regularly because the chances are, of, you know, of picking up a red file (in Rymans) as you say that someone else has handled and then putting your hands to your mouth, err, is the most likely transmission cause in that situation, so keeping your hands clean is key.”
Ms Trevelyan’s inarticulate and hesitant trotting out of the party line starts at about 37.26 minutes and continues to 39.04.
Surely a 51-year-old government minister, sent out as an official spokeswoman, ought to be able to do better than this. Or am I asking too much?