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Why Ken’s EMA pledge matters

Labour can use London as a base to offer an alternative to austerity.

By George Eaton

Ken Livingstone’s pledge to reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for London students is an important moment in the Mayoral election. It’s a good example of how Labour could use the capital as a base to offer an alternative to austerity. After all, it was the conflict between the Greater London Council’s policies and those of the Conservative government that led Margaret Thatcher to abolish devolved government in the city. As Norman Tebbit stated with typical candour, the GLC was abolished because it was “left-wing, high spending and at odds with the government’s view of the world”. Livingstone has explicitly stated that the election is a chance to vote against “Osbornomics“.

The London EMA will pay sixth formers from poorer households (those with a combined income below £31,000) up to £30 a week to stay on at school or college. The challenge for Ken is to convince voters that this pledge is deliverable. At present, for instance, 68 per cent support his “fare deal” campaign but just 44 per cent believe he would keep to his promises in power. Until he narrows this credibility gap, Boris will be able to paint him as fiscally irresponsible.

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
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