Tom Watson is clearly obsessed by the concept of 'burying bad news', as well he might be. However, it seems he thinks the government managed to 'bury bad news' yesterday before it even knew what the news event was, under which it could bury bad news.
Ealier this morning on Labour Uncut, Tom wrote ‘David Cameron’s press team didn’t just bury bad news yesterday, they built a mass grave and emptied a juggernaut of trash into it.’ Apparently, ‘The manner in which the announcements poured out yesterday was [a] cynical, determined and ruthless’ attempt to use the announcement of the royal wedding to cover up negative stories.
But Downing Street yesterday confirmed on the record that the first anyone in Number Ten knew of the Royal engagement announcement was when Jeremy Heywood was called mid-morning yesterday, after all the ‘buried bad news’ that Tom Watson lists had broken:
• Andy Parsons and Nicky Woodhouse. The news that Parsons and Woodhouse would be removed from the civil service payroll and returned to CCHQ was briefed by Downing Street early on Tuesday morning, before Downing Street was informed about the Royal engagement. According to newspaper reports their contracts were terminated the night before.
• Compensation for Guantanamo prisoners. Ken Clarke’s announcement that the Government would be giving compensation to former Guantanamo prisoners broke on ITV on Monday night (Keir Simmons on ITV News, 15 November 2010) and was widely reported in Tuesday’s papers, including the front pages of the Daily Mail (‘Hush Money’, The Daily Mail, 16 November 2010) and The Guardian (‘Guantanamo detainees win huge payouts’, The Guardian, 16 November 2010).
• Governor of the Bank of England letter. The publication date of the letter from the Governor of the Bank of the England to the Chancellor would have been decided months in advance by the Bank of England. Such letters are always written and exchanged the day before the Office for National Statistics publish CPI inflation data and published on the day the data is announced (Letter from Mervyn King to the Chancellor, 15 November 2010).
• Greater Manchester police cuts. The news of police cuts in Greater Manchester was already running on Monday’s lunchtime news and was reported in Tuesday’s newspapers (‘Thinner Blue Line’, the Daily Mirror, 16 November 2010). Ed Balls had already given an interview reacting to the announcement on Monday on Sky News. The announcement was made and its date decided by the Greater Manchester Police, not the Government.
• Redfern report. This independent review into the harvesting of body parts in the nuclear industry was set up by the last Government, of which Tom Watson was a member. Publication dates would have been decided in consultation with the report team weeks ago in order to print the two-volume, 704 page report in time for the Commons statement yesterday (The Redfern Inquiry: Final Report, 16 November 2010). But more importantly, this is a report about the illegal retention of people’s body parts dating back to the 1960s, a sensitive matter and not something with which to play party politics.
Tom Watson is certainly overestimating the Government’s scope if he thinks they had the ability to predict the exact timing of the royal wedding announcement yesterday, which apparently even Prince Harry didn’t know about until a few hours beforehand, and ‘bury’ all the bad news before it even happened. Burying it so effectively, in fact, that it managed to be widely reported both in the broadcast media and in Tuesday’s newspapers.
Or perhaps Tom thinks that Downing Street managed to orchestrate the date and timing of the announcement and that David Cameron was lying all along when he said that the first he knew about it was in the middle of yesterday's Cabinet meeting. If so, why doesn't he just say so?