Not bad for starters

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The Independent Online

The main complaint of the past week about Jamie Oliver's triumphant intervention in public policy seems to have been that Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, has tried to "claim credit" for his victory.

The main complaint of the past week about Jamie Oliver's triumphant intervention in public policy seems to have been that Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, has tried to "claim credit" for his victory. Well, doh! She is a politician in a democracy responding to public opinion. Let us, instead, congratulate Mr Oliver on so effectively drawing attention to a problem previously known only to the consumers of packed lunches. (And let those parents who grumbled about making those packed lunches admit that they were wrong to dismiss their children's preference as fussy.) Let us welcome Ms Kelly's announcement of an increase in the average amount spent on each school lunch from 45p to 50p in primary schools and to 60p in secondary schools. The reintroduction of minimum nutrition standards from September 2006 is also a sensible reversal of a Conservative mistake.

As we report today, some of the impetus for change is likely to be dissipated in bureaucratic wrangling between the health and education departments. So let us also resolve to keep up the pressure on politicians and schools to see this thing through. Which brings us to the final point. Ultimately, as Rose Prince points out, "it's the parents, stupid". If parents do not take an interest in what their children eat at school, and do not keep them healthy at home (which does not, of course, mean a dated and counter-productive tyranny of eating your greens), the nanny state cannot do it for them.

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