If Friday afternoon is the traditional time for Governments to sneak out awkward news, Friday afternoon the day after a load of elections must be the traditional time for Governments to sneak out very awkward news. This would certainly explain why Nicky Morgan has just informed the BBC of a climbdown on the controversial plan for all schools to become academies.
It seems that compulsion will now only apply to areas where the local authority is routinely failing to deliver good standards, and to areas where most schools have already become academies. The Government stresses that it still wants all schools to eventually take on academy status, but this is a sizeable shift in policy.
Backing down on this is a blow for Morgan, but it’s also another bit of bad news for the Chancellor, who announced the policy in the most recent Budget. Just last week he joked about his diet: “It is called the 5:2. After two out of every five Budgets I eat some of my own words.” This is evidently a “2” year.
It’s also another reminder of the fragility of the Government’s majority – this news comes on the heels of retreats over tax credits, PIP and child refugees, to name but a few. Tellingly, the revised policy will now be introduced without the need for legislation, avoiding the risk of a rebellion altogether. Not for the first time, Downing Street must be thinking back to the Coalition days with some longing.