Mark Garnier’s ‘laughing’ gaffe: when politics and Twitter don’t mix

Tory MP made an embarrassing typo while tweeting in support of a new government policy

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Twitter can be a dangerous platform for this generation of politicians
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A Tory MP claimed that “laughing” was to be banned under new government plans in an embarrassing Twitter gaffe.

Mark Garnier made a “glaring omission” in a tweet responding to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement that possession of nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – is to be made a criminal offence, said The National.

“Delighted to see laughing to be banned,” tweeted the 60-year-old Conservative MP on Sunday. “It’s not just the antisocial behaviour – it’s the human tragedy of harm to long-term users.”

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Shortly after realising his mistake, Garnier added: “Apologies! Of course I meant to say ‘delighted to see laughing gas banned!’.”

“Freud would have a lot to say about this,” tweeted one Twitter user, while another quipped: “Next General Election manifesto just leaked.”

The gaffe is far from the first – and is unlikely to be the last – made by a politician on the social media site. Here are some of the best Twitter and social media gaffes from politicians past and present.

Liz Truss ‘hits the ground’

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When Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the Tory leadership contest in July 2022, the then foreign secretary Liz Truss was quickly installed as the new favourite to become prime minister. She celebrated by tweeting that she was “ready to hit the ground from day one”.

The tweet was widely ridiculed online until it was hastily deleted and replaced with a message that read: “I’m ready to hit the ground running from day one.”

Given her short eventual tenure as prime minister, some noted the prescient nature of the tweet.

Ed Balls Day

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In what is arguably the “greatest” of all Twitter-related mishaps by an MP, Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls accidentally tweeted his own name, after one of his staffers “reportedly recommended he search for his own name on Twitter, in order to check out what the great British public was saying about him”, said Snopes. “The rest is history.”

But what sets apart “Ed Balls” from other gaffes is the “sheer longevity” of the mirth generated by the tweet, which was posted back in 2011 – and 28 April is now “a weird and wonderful unofficial holiday for political nerds with a sense of humour”.

A ‘legendary’ typo

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Across the pond, Donald Trump posted more than a few tweets that had users scratching their heads. But none more so than when he gave rise to the “legend of covfefe”, said Snopes.

Trump’s political aides and supporters insisted that “covfefe” had a “hidden meaning”, rather than admit it was an early-hours typo. White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed only that “the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant”, according to Politico.

The New York Times’ White House correspondent Maggie Haberman later reported that the president had “fallen asleep doing this tweet”.

Feline fiasco

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A news conference held by politicians in Pakistan in 2019 “descended into farce” when a cat filter was switched on during a Facebook live stream, said the BBC.

Shaukat Yousafzai, from the Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), was briefing journalists when the setting was accidentally turned on. Although Facebook users watching the video live commented on the gaffe, Yousafzai carried on for some time “unaware of his feline features”.

Shadow cabinet ‘snobbery’

An ill-advised tweet cost a Labour MP her position in the shadow cabinet in 2014 after she tweeted a picture of a house in Rochester in Kent, which was draped in two St George’s flags and a West Ham United flag and had a white van parked outside.

Emily Thornberry posted the image along with a caption that read: “Image from Rochester”.

Some felt the tweet conveyed a “snobbish disdain for the working class people of England”, said Snopes, many of whom had “historically been reliable Labour voters” but at the time had “increasingly turned to populist candidates from the Conservative party or even far-right populists in the UK Independence Party (UKIP)”.

Thornberry later apologised for the tweet and revealed that she had stepped down from her role as shadow attorney general.

Steve Bannon death penalty blunder

Louise Mensch tweet

In 2017, the blogger and former Conservative MP Louise Mensch claimed on Twitter that the death penalty was “being considered” for Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, “for espionage”.

“I am pro-life and take no pleasure in reporting this,” Mensch continued.

With Bannon “not only still breathing and oozing, but a free man” it’s safe to say that “Mensch’s sources may not have had their fingers on the pulse”, said The Cut.

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