Dominic Cummings, the ex-Gove adviser formerly known as @ToryEducation, has piled into Clegg’s unravelling free school meals policy on the World at One. He confirms it was part of a deal between Cameron and Clegg involving the Tory conference marriage tax break, that Gove told them it was “rubbish” and that DfE were only told about it an hour before it was announced:
“Clegg’s team tried to persuade us to do it in 2013. We refused. So Clegg said to Cameron in secret before party conferences, ‘you give me this and I’ll give you your marriage tax announcement for Tory conference, Gove refuses to do it so you’ll have to force him.’ The DfE wasn’t told until about an hour or so before the announcement. No policy work was done in advance. Officials in DfE were unanimous that it was a bad gimmick and introduced in a way that makes it hard to avoid implementation chaos. Officials were obviously right.
It was a back of the fag packet number by Clegg’s spin doctors. We told them it was rubbish. It is based on a supposed DfE underspend that did not exist and they were told it did not exist. Because Clegg only thinks about politics – and starts every meeting saying ‘I haven’t been able to read the policy papers but let’s talk about the politics’ – he assumed that our opposition was because it was a Clegg idea but it wasn’t. Our opposition was because it is a dumb idea badly executed that shows why politicians should have less power over schools, and although I had many disagreements with Whitehall officials and the methods of the civil service, this is very firmly the fault of Clegg.”
Not like Dom to sit on the fence about something…