Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fisking Tom Watson

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?


Osama the Nazarene said...

How very true Iain. I remember noticing all of the announcements on various Beeb news outlets before hearing the great news of the engagement at 11.

Watson and Labour must be so steeped in spin that they think everyone else stoops to their level.

DocRichard said...

So are we to believe that Andy Coulson knows nothing of the art of burying bad news, just as he knew nothing of how the News of the World was getting the material for its Exclusives?

Please don't force me to write another verse for the Ballad of Andy Coulson.

Mark Fulford said...

Yes, but did any other office in the country cheer at the announcement of the royal wedding?

The timing may not have been deliberate but it was certainly fortuitous.

Anonymous said...

Its not that Watson is thick (well ...), its that he thinks we are.

Not a sheep said...

Maybe Tom Watson is judging this government by the standards of the one he supported.

................................. said...

So of the 5 instances he gave, 2 actually came to light the day before and the other 3 were out of the Government's control anyway.

Tom Watson is telling a big, fat, lie there.

I am glad to see you have given him a good fisking, Iain.

Bill Quango MP said...

Tom Watson is bad news.

Lossie Beachcomber said...

Watson is an oaf. He shows time and again he has no thought other than attack.

No matter how ridiculous his line of attack, or how far seperated from reality, he rests comfortable in the knowledge that his constituency is one of the Labour "pin a rosette on any ass" areas. So much so he could probably stand at a hustings, soil himself, jibber apelike for 20 minutes and still be returned to Parliament.

Nigel said...

A pretty comprehensive refutation, Iain.

For some reason, the phrase "miserable pipsqueak" springs to mind.

Why would that be ?

Unknown said...

Hmm, Tom Watson refs this fisking as evidence that he's right. Wow, being Labour means never having to say sorry, I suppose.

Hey – Tory trolls and a fisk on Iain Dale. The Downing Street spin machine is angry. Good to know the column hit the mark.

Unsworth said...

Watson is, simply, a bleeding idiot. Like all bleeding idiots he simply doesn't recognise his own limitations. Still he's no doubt been a useful bleeding idiot to his masters.

HampsteadOwl said...

You've got this one quite wrong Iain.

It is perfectly obvious that Number 10 orchestrated both the timing of the royal wedding announcement to take our worried little minds off the Irish financial crisis, and the fact of its happening so as to refloat our own economy off the back of a glut in souvenir tea-towels, mugs and guided tours to Slough from where Miss Middleton apparently hails.

Memo to PM: the Chinese make this stuff; they don't buy it.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Tom Watson is going down with the orchestra playing as his ship sinks slowly in the muck.

Eddy Anderson said...

I really wish we could come up with a better word than 'Fisking' for this kind of analysis. Robert Fisk is a fantastic journalist; this tedious, really quite artless mode of criticism is not the legacy he deserves.

HampsteadOwl said...

@Political Reboot

Brave comment. I suspect you've now let yourself in for a whole fusillade of anti-Fisk abuse (liberal-leftie, anti-Semite &c) from those for whom anything less than 100% unquestioning obedience to Tel Aviv's line is treachery.

Personally, I think half the problem here is with having a name that sounds just too much like fist.

Unknown said...

Fisk writes well but let's not pretend that his 'line' is any less partial than 'Tel Aviv's line'.

And as for 'fisking' Labour Uncut (sic) I mean what's the point. They have nothing to say; and they don't say it very well either - why bother giving them the oxygen of publicity.

And I write 'sic' because - be honest- how many layers of 'approval' do articles go through before they end up on Labour Uncut, for goodness sake.