UK Transport Minister jets off to Spain on holiday and becomes immediate victim of his government’s new quarantine policy.
Picture this: Grant Shapps and his family flew off to Spain last weekend, picked up their hire car and were just settling into their villa when he chose to break the bad news: as of midnight UK time, anyone returning from Spain would have to quarantine themselves for 14 days on their return home.
Would your family go ballistic?
“Now you tell us,” his wife and three children chorused angrily. “We thought you were meant to be the ‘air corridor’ transport secretary. Did you actually know this was going to happen?” We imagine that, if the children had not been present, the wife's howl of annoyance would have been accompanied by a more expletive laden exchange.
“Well, I did get a text this morning from Matt Hancock [Health Minister] saying he was much enjoying his hols canoeing in England and how sorry he was to screw up our time in Spain. Though he didn’t give me any exact details. But in any case, if we had cancelled our hols then it would have looked like we’d been acting on inside information.”
Pause for a second. It's not share dealing. Isn't it just a question of connecting arse to elbow across government departments, and then acting appropriately? The (expletive laden - but suitably redacted) conversation continues:
“So let’s get this straight. You let us all come out here knowing that we would have to be cooped up at home for a fortnight on our return. Didn’t you think that some of us might have stuff arranged for when we got back? Worse still, why have you knowingly flown us into a place where we’re more likely to get sick?”
“You needn’t worry too much about that," replies Mr MisShapps, "most of Spain has a far lower rate of coronavirus infection than the UK. So we’re probably safer out here than back home.” Sharp intake of of breath from assembled family.
“In which case why have you put blanket quarantine restrictions on the entire country? Wouldn’t it have been better just to target those regions where the infection rate had gone up?” Sharp intake of breath by the Minister.
“Oh,” he replies. “I hadn’t thought of that. Michael Gove [another Minister in the UK's 'on the same page' government] just said we had to include the whole of Spain because he’s got a holiday in Ibiza booked and he rather fancied an extra two weeks lounging around at home when he gets back.”
The rest of the evening passed in a broody, uneasy silence. His wife was giving him the cold shoulder and the kids were on their phones texting their friends about what a moron they had for a dad.
Things were still tense the following morning, but eventually everyone agreed to go down to the beach for lunch. On reflection, a mistake, because it was just his luck there was a Brit who happened to recognise him and within minutes he was being harangued by dozens of holidaymakers who were pissed off to find out their summer had been completely ruined.
Shapps’s first instinct, naturally, had been to try and lie his way out of it. “I’m not Grant Shapps,” he had insisted. “I’m Michael Green. I mean, me llamo Miguel Verde.” But after 20 minutes or so, he had been ground down and forced to give an informal briefing to a bunch of angry strangers.
No, he couldn’t give them any advice on claiming statutory sick pay or universal credit for the quarantine period. And no, he had no idea how long the self-isolation restrictions would remain in place. In fact, he was just as clueless as they were about the current situation. It had all been a bit last minute and the government was still making policy up on the hoof.
The exact exchange of words between Mr MisShapps and his angry fellow beach-goers, according to the legal team at OGN Daily, has had to be carefully edited. But it was, shall we say, pretty fruity.
After a miserable lunch, Shapps and his family returned to the villa. “There’s only one way this holiday is going to work,” said his wife. “And that’s if you remain inside the compound where no one can see you for the next two weeks, while me and the kids go off in the car and try to enjoy ourselves as best we can without you.” Grant nodded meekly.
So on Monday morning, Shapps found himself at a bit of a loose end. Out of boredom, as much as curiosity, he phoned his government department. “Look on the bright side,” said his special adviser. “You’re not the only minister who has been caught out. Paul Scully is stuck in Lanzarote.”
“Who is Paul Scully?”
“No idea. But I’ve been told he’s been tweeting photos of a couple of beers on the Playa Dorada along with some bollocks about people behaving confidently and sensibly.”
“So, can you give me any more information about what’s going on? Can’t we at least open up the Canaries and the Balearics?”
“Fraid not. The Foreign Office has got it in for them, too. God knows why. Nobody in Whitehall has a clue what’s going on.”
“Well, can we try and find out where Dominic Raab [Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs] is going for his holidays and impose quarantine restrictions there? Even if it’s in England and it means closing down the whole of the West Country. Come on, I don't want to be seen as the only idiot, my wife's giving me serious grief."
Bored and frustrated, but feeling a plan coming together, Shapps dozes off. Only to be woken a few hours later by the return of his family. “It’s no good. I’ve decided I’m going home on Wednesday,” he told them. “I’m bored out of my mind on my own here.”
“Are you serious?” his wife replied (note: we've deleted the obvious expletive). “You mean you dragged us all out here knowing we were going to be in quarantine and now you’re going back early because of the quarantine. You can’t make this stuff up. No wonder most people think everyone in government is a complete twat.”
“I’m sorry. But I think it’s for the best,” MisShapps mumbled sheepishly. “And I guess I might get some time off quarantine with a visit to Barnard Castle. In any case I won’t have to do any food shopping as I can take advantage of the government’s obesity strategy that will give me £10 off every Burger King Deliveroo meal in August.”
Inspired by an article in The Guardian
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