The government announced today that a new cabinet post was to be created. They have decided that the creation and promotion of Chaff is a full time role.
Chaff is the material that is ejected by military aircraft as a countermeasure when they are under attack. It is designed to distract missiles and other weapons from the plane itself. In political terms, Chaff consists of those ideas that are put forward by government when they don't really care whether they are adopted or not. They get picked up by the media and debated and discussed, and then if they are unpopular they just get dropped. In the meantime the government's real agenda trundles on unaffected.
Nick Clegg, who has been handling some of the Chaff work over the last few months, thinks the role has now become so important that a cabinet post is necessary.
"These are important policies in the eyes of ordinary people," he told a group of journalists yesterday, "Just because they are not politically relevant doesn't mean they should be treated as low priority by the government. In some cases our major policies sink or swim depending on the Chaff that is in the public domain at the time."
Recent examples of Chaff include the idea of changing to Double Summertime and moving the May Day Bank Holiday to October. Politically there is no benefit to either of these ideas, but they are emotive enough to get national newspapers running campaigns about them and people arguing about them in the pub.
One person who is not pleased with the idea of a Chaff Minister is new Tory communications head, Craig Oliver. He has voiced concerns that his job will no longer include spinning positive Chaff messages and instead be limited to trying to minimise the bad publicity associated with cuts to public services.
However, Mr Clegg was unrepentant. "We need effective Chaff so that our essential long-term policies such as electoral reform are not overlooked."
When Prime Minister David Cameron was later asked about electoral reform policy, he responded "You should ask the Minister for Chaff about that."