Tories make sure it's a good news week – even in the silly season
The No 10 press office has clearly not forgotten Alastair Campbell's insistence on controlling the news 'grid'
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Sunday 11 August 2013
David Cameron this, David Cameron that... It may be August, but the Downing Street press office is keen to show it is still in full work mode. The Prime Minister's tweet yesterday opposing a possible sporting boycott of Russia was just the latest example of his and his team's ostentatious not-at-the-beachmanship. The No 10 press office has clearly not forgotten Alastair Campbell's insistence on controlling the news "grid".
And last week they seemed to take aim after Radio 4's pips at 7am and 8am, traditionally the way to control the political agenda for the day. "Call me old-fashioned," said a producer at the BBC's Millbank nerve-centre, "but did the election campaign start and nobody told us?"
After a slow Monday, the following three days saw a barrage of perfectly timed Tory initiatives and reasons for the party faithful to be cheerful. On Tuesday at 7am, after the new Summer Nights talk show was previewed and the weather forecast mentioned "sun out there", top Tory tales began arriving after the hourly pips.
Vacant slots in the summer silly season were being shaped into a drip-feed Torytopia of good news. Tuesday's Today had July as a "bumper month" and "more evidence that Britain's economic recovery was gathering pace". July sales were up 2.2 per cent, the best in seven years.
By Wednesday, with the headlines featuring "Bongo Bongo Land", and specially trained judges for child abuse cases, good-news UK was still being carefully rolled out by Downing Street and Tory Central Office.
"Business is booming," Today proclaimed, with the reporter stating that "good news was coming thick and fast", with factory output, car sales and other factors all experiencing an "up tick".
The good news continued into Thursday with headlines proclaiming that doctors welcomed the Government's announcement of a £500m cash injection for struggling A&E departments.
One pollster with a decade's experience of measuring political clout inside the Westminster village, said: "Last week? Well, now we know what the general election will feel like."
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