WWhen Home Secretary Priti Patel arrived at the No Time To Die premiere last September, you might be forgiven for wondering what on earth she was doing out there. Was Danielle Craig’s girlfriend a secret? Is she so obsessed with number 007 that she has a huge picture of Timothy Dalton tattooed on her back? Did the producers invite her together to gather ideas for the next Bond villain?
The answer turns out to be much less exciting. This week, a standards committee hearing learned that Patel attended the premiere as a guest from the Jamaican Tourist Board, who paid for her tickets. And this is interesting, because on the surface there is no clear connection between Priti Patel and the Jamaican Tourist Board and James Bond.
To further confuse the matter, the Standards Committee raised the incident because Patel registered the gift as a minister rather than an MP. Had she done the latter, she had to register the gift within 28 days and declare its value. But by declaring her a minister, it was not necessary to declare the value.
You might think she did because writing “The Jamaican Tourism Board bought me a free gift for no apparent reason” doesn’t sound great. However, when the topic was brought up during the hearing, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis suggested there might be another reason for Patel to declare the gift ministerial. “It can be said that the nature of the film is related to the executive functions,” he said.
In other words, Patel declared the film a ministerial gift because No Time To Die is a movie about spies and she is in charge of spies. Now, there’s clearly a long and important discussion to be had about how easily elected officials can be bought by outside influences, but we’ll leave that for another time. Because the main thing here is that Patel can accept gifts for spy movies, because she does spying as her job.
Now, it’s important to note that Ellis’ proposal was dispensed with outside the hearing, with Chris Bryant barking incredulously “what?” as a response. But, nevertheless, this sets an important precedent. Effectively, this means that government ministers can accept gifts to see films, as long as the film is tangentially related to their administration.
This is incredible news. Essentially, this means that the entire hierarchical position of each cabinet position has been completely reversed. Until yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking that every ambitious politician in the government has plans to be the next finance minister. Well, not anymore. Who wants a job where they only allow you free tickets to movies about the economy? Your only chance of a nice night would be if Oliver Stone decided to make a sequel to Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleep, and heaven knows we all pray that this never happens.
Ministry of Health? Boring. You’ll only watch sad movies about people dying, like Contagion or Million Dollar Baby. Imagine you’re the Secretary of Health, so upset about all the heavy movies you have to watch that you spend your life praying for a theatrical remake of the Carry On movies. And just imagine how miserable Michael Gove must be. He is the Secretary of State to raise the bar. Realistically, this means that he can only go and watch movies based on video games, which is clearly a fate worse than death.
No, now that the rules have been rewritten like this, it is clear that there are only two government departments worth mentioning: Defense and Transportation. The former allows you to accept free tickets for any movie that includes a war, but, boy, the latter will pretty much take you in on anything with a car chase. Grant Shapps should be completely beside himself with joy. So far his job has been about boring infrastructure. But now, the next time there’s a Fast and Furious movie, he’s going to be sitting there in the front row, popping popcorn in his face like a super excited little kid, and all for free. They likely let him do Instagram with Vin Diesel as well. They will likely do this with a fist. Vin Diesel will probably give him a promotional baseball cap. Probably my favorite Shapps hat. What a lucky boy.