“Ask any returning or new MP what the big issues were during the election campaign and I bet most would have school cuts and police cuts top of the list. Indeed, at the beginning of the campaign, before the manifestos which changed the course of the election, I felt our school gates campaign was our strongest card and it would only be a matter of time before the Tories closed it down, as they did in 2015 on the NHS, with a promise to meet the shortfall.
Yet, with the arrogance and complacency that became the hallmark of their campaign, the Tories continued with their defensive line that school budgets were protected in cash terms (not real terms).
The Tories then adopted a similar (and wrong) strategy when police numbers took centre stage in the wake of the Manchester and London terror attacks, with Theresa May completely unable to say she’d “give the police the resources they need.”
In today’s Daily Mail, Tory MPs complain that headteachers lost them the election. Wrong. It was their own policies (and inability to change) which lost them the election. Polls after the election estimated that over three quarters of a million people changed the way they voted because of school funding cuts.
It wasn’t the fault of headteachers, nor the Chief Constables of the Met Police and Greater Manchester Police who also cited resource pressures, it was the Tory government’s own record on these issues.
The public can cope with a certain amount of “efficiencies” and necessary cost-cutting, but when their kids are in oversized classes without text books, and their hot lunches are being scrapped for a cold breakfast, or when our streets and communities become unsafe because of unsustainable cuts to the police, that’s when people get rightly very concerned.
The Tories failure to get this, is the biggest failure of their campaign and their government. It made Theresa May look remote and shifty on the campaign trail, unable to answer a straight question with a straight answer.
The Queen’s Speech shows that they’ve completely failed to learn the lessons of their election losses with no new money for schools or the police.
What an irony then that their own “magic money tree” has produced £1billion for their grubby deal with the DUP. This same billion pounds used at the start of the campaign to meet the shortfall in schools’ budgets and to give the police the resources they need with extra police officers, could have won them a majority, probably quite comfortably. Instead they are now going to have to find at least another £1billion to deal with the ever growing, and legitimate, calls of senior police officers and head teachers for adequate resources. The NUT has estimated that if English schools were given the same proportion of funding under this bung to the DUP as Northern Irish schools head teachers would receive over half a billion pounds.
The Tories key lines against Labour so effectively used in 2015 now all look in tatters, for the long term. It’s a common view that this election was a disaster for them, their dodgy deal with the DUP will only lead to more pain unless they learn the lessons of the election campaign.
Lucy Powell is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Manchester Central”