Poor schools help Ukip's appeal to the "left behind". Photo: Getty
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How failing schools help Ukip

Schools are getting worse in Great Yarmouth, the second most likely seat for Ukip to gain their first MP next year.

Poor education is one of the strongest determinants of voting for Ukip. Ukip voters are half as likely to have attended university than the population as a whole, and half as likely again to have left school aged 16 or younger.

The Department for Education recently published a list of the best and worst areas for GCSE results, based on pupils getting five grade Cs or above, including English and maths. The three worst schools were all located in East Anglia, the region in which Ukip has gained its best local election results and is targeting a number of seats in the general election. The City of London was the best performing area, with pupils 34 per cent more likely to gain five good GCSEs.

According to Ofsted, schools are only getting worse in Great Yarmouth, which bookmakers regard as the second most likely seat for Ukip to win their first MP next year.

Five years ago Ofsted deemed schools in Great Yarmouth and London to be performing very similarly. Now the contrast is marked: as London schools have improved, so those in Great Yarmouth have deteriorated.

As the following chart shows, the overall picture in East Anglia is little better. Taking Great Yarmouth, Norwich North, and Waveney - three areas that the political scientist Rob Ford highlights as Ukip performing particularly strongly in - 44.3 per cent of pupils today are in schools that Ofsted deem to "require improvement" or be "inadequate", a number that has barely dropped from 46.7 per cent five years ago. In England as a whole, the number has fallen from 38 per cent to 27 per cent while in London the improvements have been the most notable - just 16 per cent of pupils today are in schools that Ofsted deem to "require improvement" or be "inadequate", compared with 29 per cent five years ago.

“We’re left out of everything,” says Matt Smith, a county councillor and Ukip’s parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth. “It could be schools, it could be policing, it could be hospitals. Everything seems to boil down to being left out and forgotten. We’re at the end of the line and no one’s interested in us.” While East Anglia's schools remain so poor, such feelings will resonate, and it will remain fertile territory for Ukip.

But the links between failing schools and Ukip may run deeper. As low educational attainment correlates with Ukip support, the struggling schoolchildren of today in Great Yarmouth could end up becoming the Ukip voters of tomorrow.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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