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3 June 2021

The row over education spending is a dream opportunity for Labour, but will the party take it?

Keir Starmer has yet to explain how and why his party would spend more on schools than the Conservatives. 

By Stephen Bush

Kevan Collins has resigned from his post as the government’s education recovery tsar after the government agreed to spend just £1.4bn on closing the learning gap among pupils following the disruption to schooling caused by coronavirus, rather than the £15bn he believes is needed. 

Meanwhile Conservative supporters of the United Kingdom’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on international development believe they have the numbers in parliament to defeat the government on Monday (7 June).

What links the two stories is that they are the consequence of Rishi Sunak’s desire to reduce public spending and the very austere day-to-day spending framework envisaged in his Budget. 

It’s the row over catch-up education that is the most damaging and risky for the government. Collins’s resignation achieved one of the most important things any story can: a push notification from the BBC news app. You can see how the row is perfect for Labour: it is on an area where the party is a) in line with public opinion b) has its own £15bn plan for Covid education recovery to talk about and c) means the blame can be linked back to the government’s most popular minister and biggest asset, Sunak. 

But Labour hasn’t yet landed the argument – or indeed, hasn’t really started to make it – about how and why Labour would spend £15bn rather than £1.4bn. And unless it can do that, Boris Johnson may have any number of bad days – but very few bad months.

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