Priti Patel’s Resignation Was A 24-Hour Social Media Rollercoaster

The moon landing. The JFK assassination. Lilith the lynx escaping from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom. Everyone says they knows where they were during these seismic moments in human history. While the resignation of Conservative minister Priti Patel probably won’t live as long in the memory, those who do remember it will know precisely where they were. They were on Twitter. So how did we get to the stage where a politician’s downfall was so absorbing it probably dented Britain’s GDP? Patel, the UK’s international development secretary, got into hot water after she admitted to holding meetings in Israel while on holiday in August, including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the Foreign Office was only made aware of the ‘secret’ meetings on August 24 - after they took place. The problem here is that Patel could have been seen as freelancing and making government policy on the hoof. By Tuesday night, amid increasingly loud calls for her to resign, things got appreciably worse. So I am hearing that Priti Patel is likely to be sacked within hours. That would be two cabinet ministers gone in a week. — Robert Peston (@Peston) Breaking: Priti Patel has admitted to two more unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials since her return from Israel in August. — Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) Except removing Patel from her ministerial berth for breaking the ministerial code was problematic for Theresa May, chiefly because they were more than 4,000 miles apart. Patel was on an official trip to Uganda, and firing a colleague while in another continent when you don’t have a parliamentary majority is probably not good form. Why she was in Uganda in the first place is itself intriguing. The bizarre thing about today's Uganda trip is a rumour that it was brought forward by a couple of weeks to give Patel easy escape from current controversy. — Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) Undeterred by geography, May ordered Patel to abandon her visit, and it was briefed a nine-hour flight from Nairobi in Kenya to Heathrow had been hastily arranged. Meanwhile, the MP’s recall left a Daily Telegraph journalist high and dry. Flew a few thousand miles overnight for interview with ... have a feeling it’s cancelled - she missed our flight this AM. — Anna Isaac (@Annaisaac) British political Twitter swiftly identified a Kenyan Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner was probably carrying the imperilled Secretary of State. But back on terra firma, more allegations were ping-ponging around. Israeli newspaper is reporting that Priti Patel visited the Golan Heights - which the UK does not recognise - on her trip to ?? — Joey D'Urso (@josephmdurso) This time in Patel’s favour: the Jewish Chronicle reported how Number 10 instructed Patel not to include her meeting with an Israel foreign ministry in her list of undisclosed meetings. If this is true - and is very good - then Number 10 have been misleading journalists all week about what Theresa May knew and when. — Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) Six hours until Priti Patel lands. The Kenya Airways flight is due to land at Heathrow at 3.30pm GMT. There is no WiFi on board — HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) We’re at “OJ and the white bronco” stage of the coverage as BBC News now showing Priti Patel’s flight from Kenya on the online flight radar: “You can see its just over Greece at the moment" — Mark Di Stefano ?? (@MarkDiStef) BBC News have just flashed up the Kenyan Airways flight that we’ve all been following & everyone assumes Priti Patel is on. Extraordinary day in political journalism — Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) More than 22,000 users are currently tracking flight en route to London. According to media is on board this flight. — Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) The Dfid Secretary is BACK IN UK AIRSPACE. In my experience, phone signal kicks in at about 15,000 feet, just above Kent, so if Theresa May's got even half a pair of bollocks she'll have sacked her by now. — Tom Peck (@tompeck) Like a scene from Rat Race, the BBC helicopter is now flying after Priti Patel's car as it goes from Heathrow to Downing Street — Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) Reports: Priti Patel’s car now heading for Cliff Richard’s house as it’s the only location safe from the BBC helicopter. — Niall Paterson (@skynewsniall) A misjudged tweet I think. We’re not dealing with an on-the-run crim here. I can understand media bloodlust but only from declared Leftists. — Patrick O'Flynn (@oflynnmep) (this is stupid. A not particularly important person probably will resign because she had some meetings without telling more important people first. It's being covered like a small war) — James Morris (@JamesDMorris) There was a break in the drama as Patel was forced to wait for more than an hour as May met the Queen for her weekly audience at Buckingham Palace. But Patel eventually arrived by Downing Street’s back gate.