Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Laboured Lessons in Communication

The UK Labour Party have today made an announcement about their education policy (“our fantastic new education policy that will give the next generation the best chance”).

Before commenting on it, I am intrigued by the way it is being communicated to their supporters’ list. I am puzzled by the paucity of the announcement – given the above objective.

An email arrived (three times!) in my junk mailbox this morning:

Dear Karl,

I wanted to let you know about our fantastic new education policy that will give the next generation the best chance:A Labour government will fund free, healthy meals for all primary school children. All the details are at the link below, and right now we need to let as many people as possible know about Labour’s plan. Will you help, Karl?
Find out more and back our plan
I’m really excited about it – and I hope you are too. So please, follow the link, read the details, pledge your support, and help us share it with Britain.Thanks,

Angela Rayner
Shadow Secretary of State for Education

“All the details are at the link below”  So, having established that the email is genuine (or as genuine as previous emails that I believe have come from the Labour Party), I click the link, it takes me to a donation (!) page:

Free School Meals - Labour Party

So, wanting all the details (the above sounds like a recycled Lib Dem policy – there must be more to it), I fill in the form and I get:

Free School Meals - Labour Party2

Well I suppose that is a bit of detail, but “All the details” of “our fantastic new education policy that will give the next generation the best chance”? Perhaps another click?

Free School Meals - Labour Party3

I feel cheated.

First the details of this rather minor change in Labour’s education policy are a bit patchy:

  • How is it being paid for?
  • Will the meals be JOA (Jamie Oliver Approved)?
  • Will the capital costs of kitchens and dining rooms etc. be funded, or will the meals be shipped in and re-heated (a bit like this policy)?

From the “Mainstream Media” we do of course know a little bit more. It will be funded by imposing VAT on private education. I suspect given the Labour party’s core antipathy to “private education” that this will apply to private schools and will somehow not apply to private nurseries or childcare fees – or to University and College fees.

Secondly, to highlight this with much fanfare as “Labour’s Education Policy” falls a bit short of what I think the education system needs.

It is, of course, good old fashioned “beat up the privileged” and get the home crowd cheering, but if the authors of this policy really had the courage of their convictions they would ban private schools rather than make their pricing just even more financially “exclusive”.

Finally, how does voting Labour on 4th May (local election and regional governor election day) “deliver” this change which I would have thought requires either a Labour Government – or the ability to give the Tories a Labour-style social conscience?

This whole communication seems cack-handed; it does not live up to promise, it is apparently unfunded and the “call to action” is irrelevant. Is the party too paralysed by division to put forward a more complete policy – and to find a decent reason for voting for Labour Councillors?

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