Inchworm

7th January 2011 at 00:00
The policy wonk rethinking your profession

Monday: Still mopping up after the Bookstart fiasco. When the Department - in the correct manner, with proper transparency and everyone on holiday - announced the scheme's percentage funding cut (100 per cent actually, that's not the point) everything went ballistic. The Gove was badly mauled in the liberal papers by a shrieking mob of prominent writers. I say mauled. Most of them look like they'd struggle to open a pickle jar. They haughtily and unhelpfully declared that encouraging young children to read by giving them books was a worthwhile national enterprise. The Department responded in the customary way, first by saying its pasty-faced critics had got it all wrong, then by saying it had changed its mind and that the funding was not being scrapped after all. For the time being.

Tuesday: Bookstart Debrief. Head of Intelligence Scary Paula reminds us (again) that every action taken by the Department must be seen to be aspirational. The whole purpose of our educational reforms is to help poor and disadvantaged children. Make no mistake, these are EXACTLY the sort of children we're putting at the heart of our press releases. She makes it clear, however, that a U-turn on Bookstart would be an unacceptable humiliation. We'll do a PARTIAL U-turn. That's as much as we can concede without appearing - here she casts her eyes to the floor and frowns - weak. After she's flapped off, we consider the grave implications of a partial U-turn. You have to go right or left really, don't you?

Wednesday: Toby Young. What a pain in the arse. He's been badgering The Gove for months about "getting a slot" in the Department. Initially he was just pitching ideas, like his creepy script for a party political broadcast. It featured him, Cameron, Gove and Osborne sassing through a shopping centre, wisecracking policy one-liners. "Think Sex And The City, but with guys. Guys with a casual style and the right answers ..." Recently though, he's been niggling for a Proper Role Within Government. He must be smothered.

Thursday: As he's such a hit with the Free Schools Halloumi Motherhood, Toby is to be made Nibbles Czar. He'll offer wry advice on how to host exploratory get-togethers in a large kitchen with the right jazz, wine, values etc. No office space in the Department, alas. He'll be working out of his own, large kitchen.

Friday: Our solution to the Bookstart problem is elegant, traditional and classical: means testing. We can reduce the number of books distributed by sorting young children into two groups - the Deserving and Undeserving lliterate. Tony at the Mail on Sunday, who's tasting a lot of policy appetisers for us these days, reckons it's a winner.

As intercepted by Ian Martin.

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