Budget blunder a corker of a calamity on campaign course

19th May 2017 at 00:01
The shadow education secretary failed to highlight a vote-winning adult education idea from the party’s manifesto – and it’s unlikely to be the last mistake made on the campaign trail

What is it about general elections that turns politicians into imbeciles? It seems that the Labour Party is particularly fond of shooting itself in the foot. We’ve had Gordon Brown being caught on microphone referring to lifelong Labour voter Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman”, before being caught on camera with his head in his hands when the clip was played back to him. We’ve had Ed Miliband’s failure to competently eat a bacon sandwich, swiftly followed by the EdStone debacle. And now, this year, we’ve had the leaking of the party’s draft manifesto before its official publication this week.

Ahead of this, though, the party pushed out a few of its education policies. Credit to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who made FE front and centre of her speech at Leeds City College, outlining a series of FE-related policies the party would enact if it came to power in a passionate speech about the sector’s importance. FErret was brought to his feet with excitement.

As ever, though, the devil is in the detail. In its press release, the party proudly proclaimed it was increasing the adult education budget to a stonking £1.5 billion to allow it to abolish upfront course fees and “increase course funding by an average of 10 per cent year on year”. Bravo, bravo. Only one small problem – the adult education budget is already £1.5 billion. So what mad alchemy skills does Labour have up its sleeves to allow it to scrap all fees without actually increasing the budget at all?

The following day, the party had to sheepishly admit that it was actually planning to increase the budget by £1.5 billion, not to £1.5 billion. So it had managed to hide the fact that it’s planning to double adult education funding – a vote-winner in the sector, if ever there was one.

Still, we got there in the end. And it could be worse: the Lib Dems proudly announced an additional £660 million of investment to protect “per pupil” funding in colleges. Since when has anyone used the word “pupil” in FE? Sigh. Ferret can hardly wait to see what other corking cock-ups emerge before 8 June.

Share your gossip, scandal and intrigue with FErret by emailing ferret@tesglobal.com

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