Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cancelling the extension of free school meals

There has been some controversy in the Liberal Democrat blogosphere over the coalition government’s decision to cancel the extension of free school meals that Labour had announced. Nick Perry says "Progressives do not cut free school meals" and Liberal Burblings thinks that the lack of an explanation from the government is "disgraceful".

I am not so sure.

Was a support for this increase in the Liberal Democrat manifesto? I can recall no discussion of it within the party. It certainly did not feature in our general election campaign.

This proposed extension looks more like an elephant trap left by a Labour government that expected to leave office at the last election rather than a serious proposal for government.

So when Nick Perry says:
There are many things, in policy terms, that rank and file members will be expected to swallow as a result of the Coalition. There are Lib Dem red lines drawn in the agreement. There are abstentions arranged for the Parliamentary Party on particular issues.
he is right. But it is far from clear to me that Liberal Democrat members should die in the ditch for Labour policies.

This talk of being a "Progressive", after all, is not something one usually hears in Liberal Democrat circles. It is essentially a Labour concept - one promoted by those who hope that the Liberal Democrats will one day give up and join them. We heard a great deal of it in the days after the election from people like Lord Adonis.

I am not a Progressive. I am a Liberal. And I say I am not a Progressive because as far as the concept exists as a political idea in Britain, it implies an acceptance of the idea that progress consists in more and more areas of social life being run or policed by government. That is an idea I reject.

Behind that idea is the view that the general populace cannot be trusted. Give the poor more money and they won't use it to feed their children: it will all go on gin, the football pools or whatever their betters currently disapprove of. Better for the state to take over the feeding of all our children.

I don't think such an idea would work even if we could afford it. So this is one coalition policy that I shall not die in the ditch to oppose. Let's campaign for more generous benefits or a more successful economy with higher wages instead.

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Anonymous said...

here here - let's go for the latter - the people that shifted to us are sick and tired of hearing about more benefits for people - what they want is a better education system so that their kids and the other kids in their areas get a better start in life.

They're also fed up to the back teeth of privileged `lefties` like Toynbee whining on about benefits for people that can work but don't work. Let's build a strong economy with higher wages that protects the vulnerable and those that can't.

Mr Eugenides said...

Deciding against implementation of an extension in entitlements is not a "cut".

Anonymous said...

Amen to both the above and your view, JC. Balls announced the extension of the free school meal trials before the results of the first set of trials were in: poor policy-making and a poison pill if not an outright electoral bribe to the areas involved. We should have none of it.

dreamingspire said...

@DC: another reason why Balls should not be Labour Leader, by which I mean that Labour needs a realist, not an obsessive.