The Miliband strategy, with a better striker? Photo: Getty Images
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We're beginning to see the outlines of the Labour leadership race

Both Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have reasons to be cheerful after the GMB hustings.

The race is still open, but we’re beginning to understand the candidates a little better at least.

The hustings in front of the parliamentary Labour party didn’t do much to shake up the three-way race between Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, but it did ensure that it won’t become a four-way. Those left-leaning MPs who could switch from Burnham’s camp to put Jeremy Corbyn left the Attlee Suite feeling more confident in their choice – Burnham’s line that the party had to be careful “not to distance ourselves from the last five years” was approvingly cited by some – which means that there is no real chance that Corbyn will get the numbers he needs to get past the nomination stage.

Mary Creagh, too, is unlikely to get the numbers. It’s not in the interest of the Kendall campaign to have another candidate with an near-identikit message in the race and it’s not in the interests of the Cooper campaign to have another woman on  the ballot paper.

So what do we know about the candidates who will make it? Burnham seems to have abandoned anything beyond a tonal shift from the Miliband leadership, describing the 2015 manifesto as “the best manifesto that I have stood on in four general elections”.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, of course, depends on your perspective. One Burnham supporter, approvingly, told me that the shadow health secretary offers “the same gameplan, but with a better striker”, while one MP from the Cooper camp refers to him as “a Scouse Ed Miliband”. Who’s right? It comes down to the big argument of the leadership election: was it Miliband’s personality, or his programme, that turned off voters?

Burnham is now firmly on the side of personality and tone. He sounds more reassuring than Miliband towards business, looks the part, but, policy-wise, he’s Miliband Mark Two, at least at present. That's better news for Team Burnham than it sounds: he is, far and away, the campaign's best assest and focussing on "Burnham the salesman" isn't a bad place for their campaign to be.

But it will also cheer the Kendall campaign, who will believe they can successfully persuade party members that a bigger change than the man at the top is needed to win. “Don’t forget that Labour members quite liked Ed,” one supporter points out, “I don’t think they’ll be as receptive as the media thinks to the ‘It was all Ed’s fault’ narrative.”

As for their candidate, this was another tricky away fixture after last Saturday’s hustings at the Fabian Society. That she didn’t leave with a flea in her ear shows that she can win, and she burnished her credentials as the most unambiguously pro-immigration candidate out of the three contenders, repeating her “Labour must offer a chance, not a grievance” one-liner. That may be enough of an offer to the party’s “soft left” for them to look over her policy heresies if they think that she’s the candidate best placed to win in 2020.

As for Cooper, her campaign still looks like it has a problem with definition. Her performances are getting better all the time but it’s still a struggle to complete the sentence “I’m voting for Yvette Cooper because...”. 

You can see the outlines of her support base – members who think it’s time for a woman but don’t want a candidate from the party’s right, activists who want Andy Burnham but are uneasy about his Blairite past – but both those groups are likely to be just as turned off by her hostile tone on immigration as they are by Kendall’s heresies and Burnham’s U-Turns.  If Cooper comes second, she ought to win on second preferences. But the real risk is that her core is simply, in her own words, “too narrow” – and instead of pulling off an astonishing victory, she comes a humiliating third place.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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Children from "just managing" families most excluded from grammar schools

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said grammar schools "offer nothing to most kids".

Children from "just about managing" families are unlikely to benefit from an expansion of grammar schools because they don't get accepted in the first place, research from the Sutton Trust has found.

The educational charity also found that disadvantaged white British pupils were the least likely among a range of ethnic groups to get access to elite state school education. 

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The Tories are failing our children. They should be delivering a country that works for everyone but all they have to offer is a plan to build an education system that only helps a handful of already privileged children.

"The evidence is clear - grammar schools reinforce advantage and offer nothing to most kids."

Theresa May launched her premiership with both a pledge to make Britain work for the "just managing" families (consequently termed Jams), and a promise to consider expanding grammar schools. 

The Sutton Trust researchers used the Income Deprivation Affecting Children index to compare access rates to those defined "just about managing" by the Resolution Foundation. 

They found that even non-disadvantaged pupils living in deprived neighbourhoods are barely more likely to attend grammar schools than those in the poorest. The report stated: "This is a strong indication that the ‘just managing’ families are not being catered for by the current grammar school system."

The Sutton Trust also found different ethnic groups benefited differently from grammar schools.

Disadvantaged Black pupils made up just 0.8 per cent of pupils in 2016, while disadvantaged white British pupils made up roughly 0.7 per cent, although disadvantaged white non-British children fared slightly better. Among disadvantaged groups, Asian pupils made up a substantial proportion of grammar school pupils. 

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “Today’s research raises concerns about the government’s plans to use new grammars as a vehicle for social mobility. We need to get existing grammars moving in the right direction before we consider expanding their number.”

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.