Diane Abbott Deserves A Drink

Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, was caught sipping a can of M&S mojito on a London Overground train on 19 April.

Since 1 June 2008, it has been illegal to drink alcohol on Transport for London’s network. The image has led to a Twitter uproar, forcing the MP to apologise for the photo.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP, who previously campaigned to end the sale of cheap alcohol, did receive several supportive messages in reply to her tweet. These included, “I’m sincerely sorry you feel the need to say sorry Dianne and I hope you really enjoyed your drink” and “Put it in a water bottle next time”.

The combination of the Marks & Spencer’s detail and Abbott’s earnestness paved her way into the hearts of millions. She did not attempt to justify nor offer an excuse for her behaviour, nor direct blame on the cheeky snapper who exposed her whilst she was quietly sipping away on the Overground.

Arguably, there is nothing Britain needs more right now that a candid reminder that politicians are, in fact, people. People who, quite often, make mistakes. Abbott’s drinking has led to more good than evil, it seems, brightening the days of Londoners across the city and the sales figures of national treasure Marks & Spencer.

Abbott’s actions led to a flurry of commuters anxious to get their hands on an M&S mojito, which caused sell-outs in M&S stores all over London.

Of course, like everything in Britain, there is a class element to the story. At £2.25 for 25cl, these pre-mixed cocktails do not come cheap. The slender cans scream privilege, and disregard the world of mixology and extensive bar menus, which arguably, also scream privilege.

Many people agreed that judging by the current state of UK politics over Brexit, it is a wonder all MPs are not knocking back the cans on their commute home.

Last year, MPs swigged some 4,000 bottles of wines and spirits, 20 per cent up on 2016, the year of the EU referendum and the arrival of Donald Trump.

In 2012, drunken Labour MP Eric Joyce attacked four Conservative politicians in a House of Commons bar before telling police: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP”. Sadly, Mr Joyce was mistaken. A 12-month community order and £3,000 fine later, Mr Joyce said he was “ashamed and embarrassed”. 

TalkRADIO presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer felt particularly strongly about Abbott’s behaviour, proclaiming, “If you’re drinking a cocktail on the train at lunchtime… I’m sorry, something’s going horribly wrong in your life.

But here, we are not talking about an unruly alcohol-fuelled brawl on the District line. Lunchtime or not, Abbott committed a minor transgression of the law, which she swiftly accepted and apologised.

And of course, in our bizarrely performative digital age, a Facebook event is borne out of the incident, inviting citizens to express their solidarity by following in Abbott’s footsteps on 22 June. One can only imagine the M&S Head of Sales’ delight. Fill your boots, Diane, and let the rest of us have a sip too.

Caitlin Tilley, Lifestyle & Culture Editor

Image: Wikimedia Commons.