Muffin run leads the DFES astray

Ian Nash

If you've been unable to get hold of civil servants to answer your urgent query this summer, TES investigations have found a possible reason: muffins.

Not the "Muffins" in Primary Colors, the best-selling US political satire on Bill Clinton. These, you might recall, were the eager troupe of women volunteering for the President's election campaign.

No, the spanner in the English political system appears to be the edible sort. The pursuit of the perfect and ideally-priced muffin is proving something of a distraction in the corridors of power.

One of the favourite munches from the cafe and the trolley that passes regularly around Sanctuary Buildings - workplace of up to 2,000 staff at the Department for Education and Skills - is none other than the "Fabulous Bakin' Boys" muffin (apparently there is a particular penchant for banana flavour).

The trouble is that while it costs 70p at the DFES, it can be purchased around the corner from the cafe in the House of Commons for just 55p. And it has not taken long for civil servants to take action.

For as one source close to Education Secretary Estelle Morris said: "Poor beleaguered staff are subsidising the eating habits of MPs."

Hence the muffin run - with an average 15-minute dash for those muffin-munchers making the round trip between the DFES and the Commons.

Anecdotal assessments suggest that one in ten staff is a regular muffin- eater. If all of them choose the cheaper option, that means staff will be away from phones for a total of at least 50 hours a week.

Five irritated callers phoned The TES on a single day in mid-August, around 11 am and 3 pm, to say they could not get through to relevant people for information at the DFES. Sources could not reveal whether there was a run on muffins in the Commons that day.

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Ian Nash

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