But instead of standing by you, or at least merely saying that no final decision has been made, Number Ten throws you to the wolves and performs the fastest U turn in history. And this from an administration that prides itself, according to the PM's letter, in thinking "for the long term".
Yesterday, David Cameron wrote this in the Sunday Times...
"The truth is there will be some things that we genuinely value that will have to go because of the legacy we have been left."
Clearly school milk doesn't fall under that category. It ought to.
I was 8 years old when Mrs Thatcher abolished school milk for the over sevens. I hated the stuff so I was profoundly grateful. I suspect that like many children today I refused to drink it. It was very low quality milk and quite often had been left out in the sun. A cursory survey of the two people I know who run nurseries proves my point. At least half the milk goes to waste, they told me.
And to be honest, should the state actually be seeking to replace the role of the parent here. Surely it is up to parents to ensure their children eat and drink the right things? If I was spending £50 million I might think it would be better spent on a bit of targeted health education.
And just by way of pointing out a few facts, those who accuse the Tories of delighting in withdrawing things like school milk, should remember that it was Labour in 1968 who withdrew school milk for 11-16 year olds. Over to John Redwood, who has done a little research...
What we need to do is a little detective work. The biggest “milk snatchers” were Labour. In 1968 they took free school milk away from all 11 to 18 year olds. The Conservatives did not dub Harold Wilson a milk thief, but accepted this economy as part of the package to cut the excessive borrowing of that Labour government. No subsequent government, including the Labour governments of 1997 to 2010 thought free school milk worth reintroducing. Most people cannot remember that Edward Short was Education Secretary for most of 1968 (I looked it up)when the free milk was withdrawn, because no-one ran a campaign claiming he left us short of free milk.
In 1971 Edward Heath’s government took milk away from 7 to 11 year olds. This was opposed by Labour, who personalised it to the Education Secretary. Labour have always treated Mrs Thatcher in a mean and personal way. They dubbed her “Milk snatcher” rather than coming up with a phrase like “Edward Heath, milk thief”. Doubtless if the Education Secretary in the 1979-1990 governments had cut free school milk they would still have personalised it to Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister.
The BBC website tells us free milk for 5, 6 and 7 year olds had gone “by 1980″ without telling us which Minister removed it. Nor did they name the Labour Ministers responsible in 1968 for the main cut. There’s bias for you, after the account of how Margaret Thatcher had done her bit to cut it. People were so untroubled by the removal of free milk for 5-7 year olds that few can remember who did it.
Labour in office did not restore milk to primary school children, despite finding money for everything else, and despite still reminding people from time to time of their “Milk snatcher” jibe.
It is high time we moved on from these lurid lies and silly soundbites. The truth is all three parties in power from 1968-2010 went along with the phased removal of free milk in schools. Presumably they did so because they recognised there were better ways of helping children from low income families with dietary needs. I am prepared to say I support the results of both Harold Wilson and Edward Heath’s decision to remove free school milk as an economy measure, though I disagreed with many of the things both these Prime Ministers did in other fields. Any truthful politician should say the same, as no mainstream politician in living memory has campaigned to restore these “brutal cuts” from a long-gone era.
I'll be on the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 at midday discussing this.