Hit or Miss? Government in a muddle over free milk

Milk bottler David Cameron acted swiftly this week to kill the idea that free milk distribution could be axed in the austerity drive.

The plan appeared in a leaked letter by a junior minister, but was rejected by Downing Street so rapidly that Universities Minister David Willetts was confronted with the about-turn while defending the policy on air. Downing Street denied that the rejection was to save Cameron from 'milk snatcher' jibes.


MIKE GRANATT, Partner, Luther Pendragon

The great advantage of coalition is that ministers have a bomb-proof excuse for the inevitable little embarrassments that emerge when party manifestos collide with reality. Indeed, Cameron's and Clegg's eager sacrifice of principle on the altar of pragmatism has - for a time - conjured up the minor miracle of making politicians look like thoughtful custodians of the greater good.

So why on earth has Downing Street succumbed to the foolish habit of knee-jerk populism this early in the game? History suggests that the public trashing by Number 10 of departmental policy proposals is the sound of the first nails being driven into an administration's coffin. This variety of open political paranoia never marks the end of the beginning - only the beginning of the end. Someone should tell Dave and Nick.


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