At last it seems Corbyn and his team may have briefly understood about how to work with the media (one good day is a real start!)
This week you will have seen wall to wall coverage of a policy announcement. The Policy to provide free school meals for all primary school children generated lots of coverage and the photo opportunity below.
To make matters even better Labour then managed to not do something stupid on the same day to detract from the story they wanted covering. (unlike earlier in the week when they launched the local eleciton campiagn on the same day Ken Livingsonte hearing and decision- unsurprisingly drowning out the launch).
When Corbynistas moan about the MSM it’s usually because they don’t know how to work with it or how it actually works. The story this week shows what you can do even with a ‘biased media’, when you learn the basics!
Now of course the policy outcome itself is questionable. I really understand the desire to ensure that children from poorer households get a nutritious meal. However, after years of watching policy development both from inside and outside parliament I have become much more intersted in the evidence base for policy effectiveness. As this Opinion from the Independent argues this is one of those policies that grabs a headline but doesn’t meet the VFM for effectivness test. Of all the demands on the education budget I don’t think there are many who really believe this is the most effective use of new investment if it were ever made available.
Of course some policies are designed to capture headlines and not stand up to detailed scrutiny. They are more a signal of intent than the last line in how a specific idea could be rolled out in 3-4 years time. I have seen plenty of ‘policies’ adopted for a slow campaign day never to be heard of again.
The intent of this launch rightly highlights the growing inequality between the 7% in private schools and the poverty in society and many schools where poor children may not be performing at their best because of their difficult home backgrounds. In a country of ‘The Foodbank’ it is unsurprising that nutrition is a key political issue.
However, as many who have studied the previous policy for infant children introduced by Nick Clegg the costs of introducing the universal scheme really do outweigh the benefits. There are much better ways of tackling poverty impacts on school attainment than providing 70% of kids who can easily afford a hot nutritious meal to get to the 15-30% who will benefit. Sometimes the principle of universalism can be questioned.
If you have time it is worth reading the blogs from a twitter friend Andy Jolley who has exposed the Universal Free School Meal costs and policy gaps for some time. His analysis had already convinced me that this was not a brilliant way to tackle the issue we are all agreed needs tackling!
So to return to my original point. This was an example of what can be done if Corbyn and his team can get their act together. The MSM will give you coverage (and quite rightly challenge the news release with an opposite view) if you take the trouble to do it this way. I am nothing if not fair. If I think there is something worth praising from Corbyn I will do so. At last I have spotted something worthy of a big thumbs up for presentation. Getting policy right is the next stage but we have time to do that.
Having said nice things about this day… do I now have permission to say awful all the others have been this week. First Ken Livingstone and then *that* reaction from Corbyn on Syria. I have got to the stage I am grateful for small adequate days.