Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Nurseryshambles debate is a lot more than a stroll in the park for Liz Truss


In a long, and, by current standards, less than politically correct description, Raymond Chandler has his private detective hero Philip Marlowe describe different types of blondes, including the “perky blonde who is a little pale and wants to pay her own way…and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder…”

It’s too early to claim that Liz Truss is that kind of blonde. But she seems pretty cool in the eye of a perfect political storm, which is where she found herself today. Like its metereological equivalent, this one seemed to come from nowhere. But the conditions – a Coalition Government beginning to creak at the seams, a seemingly low key issue affecting millions of people and a young, upwardly mobile minister attached to a policy of her own devising – were all in place when Nick Clegg announced he was blocking it. Nurseryshambles!

Ms Truss had been summoned by the Speaker to answer an urgent Labour question on her plan to increase the number of children qualified staff are allowed to look after.

Unable to resist a clunky analogy from the world of childcare, the Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop told the minister: “Whoever was babysitting the Deputy Prime Minister this morning did not do a very good job, as on LBC [radio]… he apparently insisted that the Government’s child care policy will be reversed.”

Yet in these adverse circumstances she was steady under fire. In particular, she argued that the ratios were higher, childcare cheaper, and staff better paid in France, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Germany. Something of a Francophile in these matters, she demanded to know “if any Labour Members have been to see French provision for the under-twos and seen how good it is. I bet they have not”.

Luckily, the irony of a party falling apart on the issue of Europe using it as a social model was not lost on the Tory backbencher Peter Bone, whose distaste for the EU is matched only by that for Clegg’s party. Today the latter prevailed. Possibly for the first and last time in his career, he declared: “It is always good when we look at the European Union and copy what is good in it...” before adding: “I suggest that we press on with the policy and ignore the Liberal Democrats.”

Ms Truss, however, is up against not only Clegg but Mumsnet, the formidable multi-tentacle parental web forum. That certainly does damage to her prospects of winning this battle – but probably not to her career.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power