Matthew Bell: It's a very good 17 days to bury bad news

Matthew Bell
Saturday 04 August 2012 18:46

Nobody puts anything dodgy in emails any more. But if they did, there'd be plenty of Jo Moores whizzing round Whitehall this weekend. Remember her? She was the civil servant who, minutes after the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center, cheerfully rattled off a note saying it was "a very good to day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?"

For the past week, the Olympics have hogged the headlines to such an extent that the economy might actually have collapsed and I couldn't tell you. With every medal we win, the less we care about the European Central Bank's plans to save the single currency.

So the past few days have presented the perfect opportunity for ministers to slip out any awkward announcements they'd rather we didn't bang on about. On Wednesday, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, said that, while he might once have given the impression he was keen to reveal the truth about the Iraq war, actually he'd rather spare Tony Blair's blushes, so if it's all the same to us, he won't be releasing those crucial minutes of two 2003 Cabinet meetings after all. Sorry!

Then, on Thursday, David Cameron pledged that George Osborne will remain Chancellor until the next election, ending speculation that he could be shunted aside in an autumn reshuffle. All those baying for Osborne's head since the news that Britain is in the worst double-dip recession in 50 years were too busy calling for Wiggo to get a knighthood to notice.

Emboldened by all this, on Friday, the PM got round to dealing with House of Lords reform. So in between watching bouts of beach volleyball from the landing window, Dave tiptoed into the back garden and dumped the whole dossier on the compost. Controversial plans to replace appointed peers with elected senators, longed for by the Lib Dems, were seemingly given a new berth among the leftovers of Sam Cam's veg box. Simples! But this is a major stinker for Nick Clegg, who only recently emailed party members to reassure them this policy would get the go-ahead in the autumn. We'll see.

Are there more announcements to come? Now the athletics are under way, there's surely a good few more cupboard-clearing days left in Whitehall. By the time the Games are over, August proper will be upon us, and then off to Polzeath we go! There's never been a better time to bring back hunting and scrap Trident.

Traditionally, August hails the start of the silly season, when the face of Jesus starts turning up on bits of toast. But recent years have shown real news can also happen then: the London riots, the trapped Chilean miners, war in South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia.

Journalists are as guilty as politicians in practising the shady art of news management. But while we might sometimes be guilty of getting carried away with excitement, we rarely bury bad news altogether. As Jo Moore found after she was forced to resign, bad news has a way of getting out. Though if anyone knows what's happened to the euro, do let me know.

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