The first season of The West Wing featured an episode entitled ‘Take Out The Trash Day’. It is named after, and focuses on, the practice many governments adopt of releasing bad news on days – like Fridays – when it will receive less notice in the press.
Josh: They’ve got X column inches to fill, right? They’re going to fill them no matter what.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story’s X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories …
Josh: They’re a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.
Donna: You guys are real populists, aren’t you?
The World Cup, particularly as long as England remain in the tournament, constitutes a take out the trash month for the Coalition government, conveniently falling only a few weeks into their tenure. George Osbourne’s much trumpeted emergency budget will be delivered to the Commons next Tuesday (a day before a crucial England game, no less), and the mood music beforehand has not been good – but nor has it been particularly heard above the sounds of the vuvuzelas. Even better, the good news, too, can be hidden beneath the roar of God Save The Queen. Result!
So in a week when the Government refuse to field a representative for a Newsnight feature on the cuts, and the policy on CGT looks set to be watered down even as Sheffield Forgemasters workers are robbed of any residual hope they had (cue Nick Clegg desperately shoring up his own constituency), the true face of the Coalition (or ‘Tories’ as we like to call them) has remained coyly behind its veil. This distraction isn’t good news for Labour – the polls (and ones this close to an ellection are surely pointless) don’t see them making much ground, true, but more worrying, given the Tories’ similar lack of a honeymoon bounce, is the relative invisibility of their leadership contest. There are more exciting things afoot, right?
England may be performing poorly in the World Cup, but as far as this weary country is concered they remain a bigger story than grubby politics. The team’s poor form, it has been suggested by some, may in part be down to coach Fabio Capello’s insistence on cutting the egos of his players down to size – and his going so far in the effort as to actively damage their confidence. There is a difference between necessary discipline and wilful damage; this we may learn in the coming months, even if Capello does not.