PMQs: out of touch Rishi Sunak's 'record school funding' is not the reality for families across the UK
As Keir Starmer said in PMQs, Rishi Sunak's mantra of “‘it’s all fine out there’ is at odds with the lived experience of millions of working people across this country”.
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Watching Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions you would have been forgiven for thinking everything was rosy as children went back to school after the holidays.
Inflation is down, economic growth is up, and Sunak says record amounts of funding is going into schools, as well as "incredible" reforms that are improving education.
I’m sure I’m not the only voter who doesn’t feel like that’s the case. Mortgage rates are still sky high, with some monthly payments increasing by more than £1,000, while rents in London are at record levels.
Inflation is embedded in the economy, with many experts fearing it will rise when the latest CPI is announced, and food inflation remains in double digits. The average annual energy bill is still almost £2,000.
And that’s before we get onto education, where more than a hundred schools were forced to close some or all of their buildings at the start of term - due to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
The trail leads back to Sunak, with even his own minister admitting the then-Chancellor refused the request to fund rebuilding works on 200 schools per year, and instead gave the Department for Education money for just 50. Now the DfE has said only four schools have been rebuilt.
However, fear not, in that budget, Sunak actually spent £2.6 billion on school maintenance - the highest level for 10 years (of austerity). The problem is, as Keir Starmer said, “‘it’s all fine out there’ is at odds with the lived experience of millions of working people across this country”.
Starmer listed six schools, one in every question, which are now closed, but would have been refurbished under New Labour’s schools rebuilding programme. This was scrapped by the coalition government due to austerity economics.
“The truth is, this crisis is the inevitable result of 13 years of cutting corners, botched jobs, sticking-plaster politics,” Starmer said.
He told Sunak “it’s the sort of thing you expect from cowboy builders”, adding: “The difference is in this case the cowboys are running the country.”
According to Ipsos’ political monitor survey, carried out in July, more than three-quarters of people think Britain is becoming a worse place to live.
Three-quarters also think Rishi Sunak is doing a bad job on the cost of living crisis, while 69% think he’s managing the economy badly. And even before the current RAAC closures, 64% believe he’s doing a bad job at improving the education system.
People don’t believe him when he says the Tories are “delivering for Britain” as hardly anyone has noticed the very slight drop in inflation or the tiny growth in the economy.
No matter how many times you say it - if voters don’t feel their finances are getting better, they won’t vote for you, especially as 61% of people say the economy is the most important issue.
This happened earlier in the year, when Sunak was answering a phone in on LBC. Jack, from Guildford, called up to say his mortgage was going £1,500 a month to £2,800. All the Prime Minister could say was that it was important to note that the average payment was going up by £200.
And as the richest person to ever inhabit Number 10 Downing Street, he’s in danger of looking slightly out of touch. It doesn’t help of course that he flies to most places by helicopter or private jet, holidays in his swanky pad in Santa Monica and doesn’t know how to use contactless cards.
If voters don’t start feeling better off soon, Sunak’s premiership will start to crumble just like our schools.