A good day to bury bad news?
ASK ANY JOURNALIST which is the worst day for news to break and they will almost invariably say Friday. News stories which might be published on a weekday often never appear over the week-end, so releasing a story on a Friday is always a bad idea if you are trying to get maximum coverage.
If, however, you are trying to get minimum coverage, then it might be a very good idea. And if the Friday in question happens to follow hard on the heels of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, at a time when the world is still transfixed by the events unfolding in Iraq, it might well be the best day of all.
It was, of course, Jo Moore, the Labour aide to former Transport Minister Stephen Byers, who notoriously, at 2.55pm on 11 September 2001, sent an email to some of her colleagues saying: "It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?" Whether Jo Moore has recently taken a job at the Home Office is not clear. But when suddenly, apparently with no formal notice at all, the Home Office decided last week to publish its response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on police trawling on Friday 11 April, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the shade of Jo Moore had not returned to haunt Whitehall.
The Home Office have certainly got a great deal to be ashamed of. For, in their extraordinary, and possibly unprecedented response, they rejected every one of the recommendations made by a committee which is normally regarded as highly influential. They did so on the basis of arguments so weak that there was every reason why Lord Falconer, the Home Office minister who might have ended up having to explain himself, might fight shy of publicity
All credit to Rosie Waterhouse, then, who at least managed to file a story for the Telegraph. I hope to return to the Home Office response later. In the meantime, if you want to read the bad news, please click here.
For an interim antidote to the Home Office mindset, click here.
14 April 2003
© Richard Webster, 2003