By Tohid Ismail
By this point, I am sure you all have heard about the famous Diane Abbott’s catastrophic comments when telling Nick Ferrari and the listening British public that 10,000 police officers would only cost an extra £300,000 per year. Now I am not, to the disappointment of my Indian parents, quite the mathematician – yet taking four zeros off the latter figure leaves one with £30 – so, Abbott would be paying each officer £30 a year.
My position on this embarrassing error is not to justify it, nor to moan on about it as every major news outlet has done since it happened. Rather I shall try to put it in the wider context of mistakes made by politicians (can I do it? ‘Hell yes, I can’).
Many mistakes have been made over the past few years; from Miliband’s inability to look presentable before a camera, to Osborne eating a burger that probably costs as much as I have spent on food so far this year. Before that, Brown calling a Eurosceptic woman a bigot may have cost him the election, and most recently May’s Superwoman stance caused much a stir. I can go on.
The point is that these errors made by our leaders can be interpreted in two ways: as not being fit for political office more than they are for an appearance on the Mr. Bean Show or Live at The Apollo. Or – that they are human, and humans make mistakes.
As my friends could probably attest, as I’m sure could all of yours, the list of unimaginably imprudent and nonsensical things we say and do is endless. From a teacher saying well done to me – and me replying ‘you too’ – or deciding to tell my driving examiner that his trousers looked like a half-eaten, out-of-date pomegranate, I have often found myself sitting and thinking ‘why on earth did you say that?’ But the next day, even with a failed driving test report, it is all forgotten.
And most of us in these situations say, ‘we are but mortals and mistakes are made’. For politicians, this is different. One thing said and someone will tweet, and retweet it – and then share it on Facebook or Snapchat or Tinder. So Abbott, as much as many people may loath her, Osborne, Miliband and May no longer enjoy even the small ability to slip up that politicians in the last century have had.
In many ways, this is good – it gives us the chance to scrutinise their roles day in and day out. But sometimes, perhaps it would be best to just accept that they too are not walking embodiments of perfection. And just let it go.
Photograph: Garry Knight via flickr.