Why Are 22,000 People Desperately Tracking This British Politician's U.K.-Bound Flight?

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Priti Patel, Britain’s international development minister, in London, on June 27, 2016. Patel has become embroiled in a deepening scandal. Toby Melville/File Photo/Reuters

British politics can be dreary nowadays: The ceaseless slog of Brexit negotiations and the tired state of Theresa May's embattled government make for an endless parade of doom-laden headlines.

That might explain why 22,000 British politicos embarked on a temporary flight of fancy Wednesday afternoon as they sat glued to their screens, tracking a fateful flight carrying a government minister from Nairobi, Kenya, to London.

The passenger in question was Priti Patel, the U.K.'s international development secretary, who has become embroiled in an ever-deepening scandal in recent days.

On November 3, it first emerged that Patel had held a series of previously undeclared meetings with senior Israeli politicians and other leading figures in Israel, accompanied by a pro-Israel lobbyist, during a trip she described as a family holiday.

But that wasn't all. It later emerged that figures Patel had met included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that she had not informed the U.K. Foreign Office in advance of the trip, that the British prime minister had not known about the meetings, and that Patel had explored the possibility of giving British aid funding to Israeli military humanitarian projects.

Finally, reports of two further meetings emerged, beyond the ones Patel had been forced to disclose already. (Theresa May's office denies a Jewish Chronicle report that it knew about these.)

The upshot is that on Wednesday, Patel had to cut short a trip to Africa and fly back from Kenya.

And then people worked out what plane she was on.

Follow what I am 90% sure is Priti Patel's flight back to Heathrow here... https://t.co/Yiboj4KE7S

— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) November 8, 2017

And then it turned into a very good day for a flight-tracking app called Flightradar24, which claims 22,000 people were tracking the flight at one point.

More than 22,000 users are currently tracking flight #KQ100 en route to London.

According to media #PritiPatel is on board this flight.https://t.co/3GXUkQw0e3 pic.twitter.com/8uzL9usnRc

— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) November 8, 2017

For American readers, it's been compared to O.J. Simpson's infamous 1994 televised police chase around Los Angeles.

The FlightRadar platform offers a range of viewing styles for maximum drama.

really nice view as they pass stuttgart pic.twitter.com/pUd7nucGnN

— Tom Phillips (@flashboy) November 8, 2017

It does make you wonder whether she was blissfully unaware or somehow keeping tabs.

Meanwhile, Priti Patel is sitting on a plane with no wifi, and doesn't know we know that she knows that Number 10 knows. https://t.co/MYyaSGyxDC

— Tom Peck (@tompeck) November 8, 2017

Now, she's just got to get through arrivals.

*Priti Patel walks through "nothing to declare" line*
Theresa May: Are you fucking kidding?

— James Felton (@JimMFelton) November 8, 2017