Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Beckham flying home"

The MPs have given themselves a fortnight's break to coincide with the opening of the World Cup. Some have even made the ultimate sacrifice and gone on a two-week football "tour" of Japan, all for the cause of charity.

It falls to the football "lobby", then, to provide us with made-up stories as the Westminster lot take a break. I have had the pleasure of mixing with both these fine bodies of men. They are very similar in another respect: they thrive on bad news. The ones covering England were deeply jealous of their colleagues reporting on Ireland's progress: they had a real story to report after the sacking of the Ireland captain Roy Keane. All the England mob has had to report is injuries to players. Even a reported £37,000 team bar bill didn't get anyone excited. The football hacks excel at destroying England managers, but they now have one who has got England to the World Cup against all expectations. Sven's assassination will have to wait until the team get humiliated - something that many of the hacks actually want.

Meanwhile, they will have to make do with Beckham's foot for a story, and so it was reported last Sunday that "Beckham is on the next plane home". No sooner had we all read this nonsense than we saw that Beckham's foot wasn't as bad as we were being told. He came out on to the pitch before the morning game to kick a ball. Afterwards, Sven said he had never considered sending his captain home. This was one story that lasted little longer than Tony Blair's policy on "hole-in-the-wall" instant fines for hooligans.

Normal political service will not be resumed until England get knocked out - which, by some coincidence, is likely to be just about when the MPs return.

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