Government milk u-turn points to 'nasty habit' of allowing media to shape policy

The Government made an embarrassing on-air u-turn over cutting free milk for nursery children yesterday, pointing to a 'nasty habit' of making policy decisions based on press reaction.

Andrew Marr show appearance: David Willetts
Andrew Marr show appearance: David Willetts
Yesterday, universities minister David Willetts appeared live on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show seeking to justify Government proposals to end the £50m-a-year Nursery Milk scheme.

However, a BBC presenter broke the news to Willetts on air that Cameron's aides had stated he ‘did not like’ the idea.

Cutting nursery milk would have drawn comparisons with Margaret Thatcher who, as education secretary, ended free school milk for children aged seven to 11. She was dubbed ‘Mrs Thatcher the milk snatcher’ by the media.

A Downing Street source told PRWeek that Cameron had not been aware of the proposal, and when he was informed ‘had a firm view that this will not be cut’.

However, Luther Pendragon partner Mike Granatt said the Government was developing a ‘nasty habit’ of deciding whether to go ahead with plans on the basis of media reaction.

‘I’d say they’re developing a nasty habit of kiting ideas and Number 10 deciding its strength on the basis of the press reaction whether or not it should go forward,’ said Granatt, who also praised Willetts' fast on-air reaction to the news that Cameron did not support the plan.

When told of Cameron’s change of heart, Willetts replied: ‘We have an endless process of assessing options. It is inevitable that if you go through those decisions some options go ahead and others don't. That is how decisions are taken.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in