Labour could reintroduce EMA, says Tristram Hunt

The shadow education secretary says the reinstatement of the Education Maintenance ­Allowance (EMA) could be funded by removing Winter Fuel Payments from the wealthiest pensioners.

Since becoming shadow education secretary three weeks ago, Tristram Hunt has successfully begun to regain control of the debate from Michael Gove, and Labour's new star pupil has made another notable intervention today. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he suggests that the party could reintroduce the Education Maintenance ­Allowance (EMA), scrapped by the coalition in 2010, and pay for it through its previous pledge to remove Winter Fuel Payments from the wealthiest pensioners. He says: "A bit of rebalancing towards young people wouldn’t go amiss."

Hunt's words will cheer Labour activists who have long warned that the abolition of EMA, which paid up to £30 a week to 16-to-18-years-olds living in households whose income is less than £30,800 a year, will reduce working-class participation in education and decreas social mobility. The coalition rejected the payment as a deadweight cost since around 90% of pupils would have stayed on anyway. But an IFS study suggested that it benefited the economy by increasing the productivity of all pupils (for instance, EMA recipients were required to attend 100% of their lectures). 

In addition, a report by Barnardo's warned that the coalition's £180m replacement Bursary Fund (targeted at young people who are in care, leaving care or on income support) was leaving many disadvantaged pupils without support. It found that some were skipping meals in order to afford their bus fares to college. The charity's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: 

"The Bursary Fund is an unfair and totally inadequate replacement for the Education Maintenance Allowance.

"The government has a moral duty to urgently invest in adequate help for 16- to 19-year-olds from poorer backgrounds to stay the course and complete their education or training.

"The alternative is to risk losing a whole generation to the trap of long-term unemployment because they don't have any qualifications."

She suggested increasing payments to £30 a week and widening funding to all those who have received free school meals. Reforming the fund along those lines would be a reasonable aim for Labour. While Ed Miliband and Ed Balls would likely baulk at the full £500m cost of reintroducing EMA (the removal of Winter Fuel Payments from the wealthiest 5% of pensioners would raise just £100m), providing more support for those who need it would offer a powerful dividing line with the Tories. 

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt in his seat of Stoke Central in 2010. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.