Tories accused of diverting attention from education cuts with culture war

Elliot Chappell
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Labour used an opposition day debate on Monday to expose growing concern on the Tory backbenches over the government’s planning reforms and capitalise on Tory ‘Blue Wall’ nightmares after their loss to the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham. Describing the by-election result as “the first blast” of a backlash, Labour’s Steve Reed warned Conservative MPs: “It won’t finish there, because it’s fair to say the Conservatives’ planning reforms are not popular with voters.” The non-binding motion called for ministers, pretty innocuously, to “protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications”.

It passed easily last night as Conservatives were instructed to abstain, with 231 MPs voting in favour and none against. But it was perhaps not the rebellion-stoking instrument the Labour frontbench had hoped it might be; in the end just two Tories, William Wragg and Anne Marie Morris, voted with Labour. Meanwhile, the opposition itself has been criticised for some of its messaging on the issue. A campaign graphic shared by the party shortly before the vote asked: “Do you want developers building on your green space without your say? Boris Johnson does.” The much-criticised tweet saw Labour accused of nimbyism, with some raising concerns over the party’s own plans for housebuilding.

Labour has marked Windrush Day by demanding that the government overhaul the Windrush compensation scheme. Highlighting that just 687 people have actually received compensation, out of the 11,500 the Home Office estimated are eligible, Nick Thomas-Symonds said the programme had “heaped insult upon injustice”. He called on ministers to place the scheme under the control of a new independent body. “This is to help restore faith in the process and quickly get compensation to people who have been so appallingly treated,” the Shadow Home Secretary said. “This injustice cannot continue.” He also called on Priti Patel to implement the 30 recommendations from the Windrush ‘lessons learned’ review, warning that “the lack of progress allows the shameful failings exposed by the review to continue”.

A row has broken out in Westminster following the publication of a report from the education select committee, which found that white working-class children have been failed “by decades of neglect and muddled policy thinking”. It argued that the term ‘white privilege’ may be “alienating to disadvantaged white communities, and it may have contributed towards a systemic neglect”. Tory MP and committee chair Robert Halfon was out defending the report this morning, telling BBC Radio 4 listeners that the term white privilege is “wrong-headed” because it “says there is collective guilt when it should be individual responsibility for racists acts”.

Labour MPs on the committee attempted to remove the paragraphs on white privilege from the document, and instead replace it with a section including the statement: “Blaming the educational underachievement of white working-class communities on the concept of ‘white privilege’ or critical race theories, rather than the systematic deindustrialisation and underinvestment of successive Conservative governments, is a red herring.” Unsurprisingly, the committee was divided on this, with Labour MPs backing the amendment and the Tories rejecting it. Labour MP and committee member Kim Johnson accused the report of “cherry-picking” data and said this morning that it is “deeply depressing that we are seeing a government that has presided over deep cuts to education diverting attention from that on to a fake culture war”, adding: “Nothing changes.”

Downing Street is once again facing fury over the lack of a plan for social care. Two years on from the infamous promise from Boris Johnson to fix social care, the Prime Minister is facing criticism this morning for cancelling a meeting with Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock to discuss proposals. The Health Secretary rubbished a question over the cancelled meeting this morning and insisted that proposals for the sector will be brought forward “before the end of this year”. Labour MP Harriet Harman described his reaction and vague assurance as “very worrying to see” and added “let’s hope he doesn’t stick with that position and gets down to working across parties to sort it out”. Writing in The Times this morning, Jonathan Ashworth warned that “the ongoing failure to fix social care casts a long shadow” and argued that Health Secretaries have for too long “shunted social care into the ‘too difficult’ box”.

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