Monday, 9 August 2010

Free Milk

There has been a bit of a kerfuffle over the issue of free milk in schools.  The Health Minister had commenced a consultation about possibly ending this £50m universal scheme with the savings to be targeted at those in greatest need.  When this emerged in the media there was much running about first to explain then to announce that the milk scheme would not be cut.  This abandonment of the idea left David Willetts in a somewhat awkward position as he was doing a live interview while the announcement was made.

Guido offers the argument for this scheme being a special case based on the politics of it.  However, it is an example of mismanagement by the Coalition.  Before now it had been largely Cameron dropping one clanger for every country he visited yesterday it hit the domestic scene.  If the politics were so obvious then it should never have been proposed and this entire incident avoided.  The claim that Downing Street knew nothing about it shows a lack of internal co-ordination as did making the announcement while there was a minister on air.

Now that the story is out there the manner of its killing creates another issue for the Coalition.  In any cuts programme it is not unusual for elements of the bureaucracy to try to thwart the intentions of a government.  To overcome this requires a resoluteness of purpose.  That was not what was displayed yesterday.  Any civil servant seeking to protect their particular bailiewick will be running to the history books to see if a Thatcher angle can be found on their policy area with the intent to create a similar story. 

Lord Ashcroft is about to produce his report on the Conservative election campaign and it is expected to point out how close Labour came to holding on.  This does beg the question that if the Cameron team weren't able to plan and implement a successful election strategy and campaign, why would they be much better in government?

UPDATE Iain Dale offers this defence of the Health Minister.


Uncle Larry said...

This Ashcroft report is being totally misconstrued.

As we know in Northern Ireland, the election was by no means at all "ideal conditions" for the Conservative Party.

The public sector addicted parts of the country (Scotland, NI and the North East) took massive fright at the prospects of cuts and voted for more public spending.

Cam did the best he could at the election in the face of the disingenuous DUP-Labour lie of "we won't cut".

Lee said...

"Cam did the best he could at the election in the face of the disingenuous DUP-Labour lie of "we won't cut"."

Labour had produced a budget with projections for cuts.

Cam began an austerity narrative for a few weeks but took fright when he saw a dip in polls and backed off it. Much as he did on free milk.

Frank said...

"Don't cry over spilt milk!" says the old adage. Or perhaps a "storm in a tea cup" would be more appropriate, as it is a trivial side issue.