TV audience jeers at prime minister over real-terms education funding cuts

30 May 17

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn faced tough questions from a live TV audience before being questioned by Jeremy Paxman.

The pair made an appearance on the Battle for Number 10 programme on Channel 4 and Sky News last night, although they did not go head-to-head in a debate.

May’s refusal to concede that real-terms cuts were going to hit schools was met with jeers from the live audience, who heckled her claims that “record levels” of spending was going into education.

Studies reported by PF have indicated the record £42bn earmarked for schools would result in real-terms cuts to spending per pupil over the next parliament when inflation, increasing costs and larger class sizes were accounted for.

May argued "nobody can guarantee the real terms per pupil funding increase" - adding Labour's figures "don't add up" but members of the audience shouted that at least Labour had costed their proposals.

She continued: "What we need to do is to ensure we will put those record levels of funding into schools, we need to ensure we get that better spread of funding in terms of the fair funding formula."

The prime minister also faced difficult questions about “chronic underfunding” of the NHS to which she replied that real-terms increases to spending were being made, but the midwife who asked the question said she’d “believe it when I see it”.

Both party leaders faced questions related to the Manchester terrorist attack. Corbyn was asked about his stance on “softening” Britain’s foreign policy while May was quizzed about the 20,000 drop in police officers since 2010.

The Labour leader said he wanted to employ a foreign policy, which did not leave parts of the world ungoverned, creating “breeding grounds” for terrorism.

May said “crime is changing” and police officers had different issues to face such as cyber crime. Corbyn was also probed on immigration, with an audience member asking him why Labour had not offered an immigration target.

He replied that the Tories had made the same claims, to reduce net migrant numbers to tens of thousands, in three successive elections but “never came close” to the figure.

Under Labour, he said, immigration would probably "go down" but he declined to give a definitive number but he also argued immigration was necessary to fill skill shortages and that everyone in the UK had benefited from immigrants who work in public services and private industry.

When Paxman queried May’s inability to reduce the net migration figures during her time in government she said it was right to continue working towards that aim because it was an issue the voters cared about.

Think-tanks have said limiting immigration to the tens of thousands would damage the UK economy and its public finances.

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