Tory ministers are now well rehearsed in the latest slogan that Rishi Sunak wants to take into the election. Today’s Education Questions in the Commons underlined what it is: ‘Our plan is working, Labour would take us back to square one.’ Education Secretary Gillian Keegan took care to ram that into every answer she gave, as did her junior ministers. The Conservatives have a plan on childcare provision, Labour doesn’t; the Conservatives have a plan to give better mental health support in primary and secondary schools, Labour doesn’t; the Conservatives are funding breakfast clubs in primary… you get the picture.
It shouldn’t normally be remarkable that ministers in the governing party are using their Commons slots to spout slogans in an election year. But it is for this current Conservative party, because the Tories have largely been behaving as though there isn’t an encounter with the electorate looming for at least a decade. Mind you, a lot of these ‘plans’ that ministers are boasting about are ones they’ve recently alighted on, rather than the culmination of more than a year in government, which is why they can’t say ‘we have a record, Labour doesn’t’.
As for how these new plans are working out, Labour continues to attack the government on its preparations for free childcare hours for two year olds in England, which are supposed to start in April. Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson attacked Keegan for appearing to blame local authorities for nurseries not knowing their funding allocations yet, and asked the Education Secretary to repeat the promise made by her junior David Johnston that no parents would lose out.