David Blackburn

Sour milk

Sour milk
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David Cameron can’t afford to be known as ‘The Milk Snatcher.’ It is for that reason that N0. 10 has airily dismissed Anne Milton’s suggestion that free school milk for the under fives be cut. Still, it is encouraging that Milton has the freedom to think the unthinkable in government – her immediate predecessors were subject to a maniacal control-freakery.

Despite the restitution of cabinet government, Ben Brogan asks if Cameron remains ‘too tight’ with his ministers, denying them the latitude they require run byzantine bureaucracy. This is an important point: ministers will only find cuts if they are allowed to get their hands dirty. Brogan cites the fate of Milton’s proposals and Crispin Blunt’s decision to protect prison entertainment as examples of Cameron perhaps being a little overbearing. For me, those are examples of efficient cabinet government: milk and the Tories are a toxic combination and Blunt’s proposal was untenable; No. 10 was right to quash both.

But Brogan’s point stands. Cameron interferes to protect himself from negative publicity, which is fair enough as he the buck stops with him. However, Cameron’s interventions will increase as the autumn spending review nears, and it will be far more damaging if Cameron is seen as an obstruction to his own government, especially as the Lib Dems are sacrificing themselves for the coalition. All of which suggests that appointing a cabinet minister with sole responsibility for cuts might not be a bad idea to protect the fragile coalition and the PM.