The news story that made me embarrassed to be a Liberal Democrat

David Laws probably thought it was a good idea to run a story about school in the week that most children in the UK return to school. And in many ways, in terms of publicity, it was good way of getting lots of publicity for a Lib Dem news story. The shame of it was that it was a seriously flawed proposition the Lib Dems were trying to make and I found it really embarrassing.

"The Liberal Democrats claimed that the 250,000 drop in meals served in secondary schools meant that the school meal service was in meltdown", said the BBC, yet when I heard the story in full I was shocked at the lone the Lib Dems were taking on this story.

Yes, it is bad that nationally nearly 400,000 less school meals are being served. Yes, it is right to suggest that this means more children are having packed lunches which may not be as healthy as school meals. But, for David Laws to suggest that the introduction of healthier school meals so quickly was wrong, and that dealing with the problem of childhood obesity, unhealthy diets in schools and the effect this also has on learning should have been delayed or dealt with more slowly is absolute madness.

It may have been Jamie Oliver that brought this issue to the Labour government's attention, but they have made the biggest strides in years towards trying to sort out the mess of a system that the school meals service was in many parts of the country. We ought to be proud of the fact that children in schools are eating healthier. To suggest that because the parents of 400,000 children are not prepared to make sure their children eat healthy school meals, we should have denied the other millions of the opportunity to eat much more healthily is a dreadful line for the Liberal Democrats to take.

If we followed the policy of failing to support any policy that is opposed by any minority then we are opening a can of worms and pandering to the wrong people. As I said, I felt embarrassed by our partys' stand on this issue today.


Anonymous said...

Whats the point of serving healthy meals if they don't eat them?
Those who are bringing packed lunches are those who are likely to be most unhealthy at home, and those who need healthy meals at school most. If they are switching due to current policy implementation, it is fair to say that the policy as a whole is failing to meet the needs of the children it is aimed at.

Unknown said...

Millions of children are now eating healthier. A minority ahve stopped. Why should the majority miss out because of the minority ?

Dominic said...

You're absolutely right - I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing on the radio when this story came up.

I know it's not very liberal, but I think that packed lunches should not be allowed in school. In the same way that kids used to be given milk, the state should ensure that they get at least one healthy meal a day.

Anonymous said...

As I said, those who are now missing out are those who would most benefit. Of course we should introduce healthier meals, but we must remeber that many pupils will be very used to unhealthy meals.
By having a slightly longer transitional period, including educational efforts, we could have got many of those pupils to continue school dinners.
As is, becuase we did not have a short transitional period, thousands of students are now set to spend the many years of their school career eating less healthily.
On a somewhat related point, I wonder how many of those who switched away from school dinners are entitled to free school meals?

Paula Keaveney said...

Norfolk blogger, you are right. A good idea to time a story for the start of school term. A bad idea to push this one. Anyone not paying 100 percent attention (ie most people listening to the radio or watching TV) will get the bizarre idea that we are against healthy school meals. This to me sounds like getting a news mention without thinking the message through properly.