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Published on Monday, August 17, 2020

MP slammed for insensitive 'joke' about Brits returning from France to beat quarantine



A Conservative MP as been roundly criticised for joking about the chaos caused after France was removed from the UK's travel corridor.





In a tweet, James Sunderland compared Brits trying to get home before quarantine rules came into force at 4am on Saturday to scenes out of 'Wacky Races' and the 'Cannon Ball Run'.


The MP for Bracknell tweeted: "An epic dash to the Channel. Never seen so many Brits heading North at the same time - it's the Quarantine Grand Prix of Europe! Calais is sure to be chaotic but I just hope the boat sails on time and the bar is open... #cannonballrun #wackyraces."


Twitter users called his comments 'stupid', 'tone deaf' and 'not a laughing matter', with one saying it was 'just about on par for this party and government,' and another saying it 'show's the complete and utter contempt this govt has for both the public and the UK travel industry'.


Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni owner Der Touristik UK said: "It's all just a game to them...meanwhile, a whole industry is being wiped out with hundreds of thousands of job losses. Still, as long as the bar's open!"





Gold Medal and Travel 2 Managing Director Lisa McAuley tweeted: "A little empathy wouldn't go amiss. Myself and many others in the travel industry are currently managing redundancy programmes in our businesses. Covid-19 is decimating our industry. The only joke is the current unworkable government policies for travel."


Former Shearings Holidays MD Jane Atkins responded: "It shows the lack of understanding at sector level...so prevalent at cabinet level and amongst some MPs, although not all."


Autocarbookers founder Kevin Hall added: "I find it staggering that you make light of such a serious situation. Friends and colleagues are being made redundant everyday and the government has no plan, no strategy and no idea."


Referring to Sunderland's Wacky Races comparison, another Twitter user posted: "Insensitive, stupid and thoughtless...this is NOT a joke and you making light of it sets you up nicely as the Dick Dastardly of the scene #wackyraces #pantovillan #outoftouch."


Steve Dunne, CEO of communications strategy consultancy Digital Drums Ltd, said the MP's 'joke' is a clear example of tweeting without thinking of the implications, but he added the travel industry isn't getting its message across to people in Whitehall.


"It's an unfortunate, indelicate and irresponsible tweet," said Dunne.


"The travel sector is battered and bruised and a tweet like this is just rubbing salt in the wounds of everyone in the industry. The MP clearly tweeted before he thought it through, and that is always a problem with social media, you tweet in haste and repent at leisure - even if he took it down, it has done huge damage and will be screen grabbed and replayed over and over again."


"But there is another tale here, under the surface. That is that the travel industry is clearly not getting its message across to MPs in a way that resonates.


"The tweet indicates to me that outbound travel, and the economic life or death scenario it is currently facing, is just not on his radar or, I suspect, many other MPs, government ministers and civil servants - I suspect the sector needs to change its strategy to get up the agenda."


TravelMole has asked James Sunderland for a comment.


By Lisa James, Deputy Editor (UK)


 


 



 

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