LISTEN: Angela Rayner gets a case of the Diane Abbott’s over class size numbers
Another Labour frontbencher has come up short when questioned forensically on the detail of one of the party’s general election pledges.
Angela Rayner today became the last Shadow Cabinet member to face a grilling from Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio, and like her colleague Diane Abbott last week, struggled somewhat on the finer details.
The Shadow Education Secretary was taken to task over Labour’s pledge to ensure that no pupil is in a class larger than 30 children in the first three years of primary school.
When asked how many children the policy would help, Rayner said “a significant amount”. It got a bit awkward from there on in, with Ferrari eventually disclosing the numbers.
Here’s a transcript of the key exchange:
AR: Well, it's different, there's variants in terms of class sizes over 30. And there's even some that are over 40 to be quite honest with you.
NF: What number of pupils are we talking about?
AR: Well, there’s quite a substantial amount of people… I haven’t got the numbers on me at hand, Nick, but it is quite a substantial amount of children that are in class sizes that are over 30 now.
NF: Angela Rayner, are we talking about 50 children, 5,000 children, 5 million children? I mean how many are we talking about?
AR: It’s a significant number, it’s not 500 or 5,000. It’s significant.
NF: No, you’ve said that three times. Do you not think it would be an idea to have a sense of how many children we’re talking about? You are the Shadow Education Secretary.
AR: Yes, well I do have a sense of that.
NF: Could you give me the number then please?
AR: No, I’m not just going to pluck a number out of thin air.
NF: I’m not asking you to pluck a number out of thin air – you’re the Shadow Education Secretary. One of your key pledges is to try and reduce class sizes which will really resonate with my listeners for four, five and six year olds, and seven year olds, and I’m asking you how many children this effects and all you can tell me is ‘it’s a substantial number’. Should I help you? I’ve got a number, shall I give it to you?
AR: Go on then, you give it me. If you’ve got it you give it me, and it is a substantial number, go for it.
NF: Don’t you think it’s strange that it’s left to the journalists, the media to inform the Labour party of the number. You’re talking about 520,445 primary school pupils in England alone, classes of 31 or more. So it’s a sizeable chunk. Do you not think you should have had that number?
AR: It is. Well I told you it’s a sizeable chunk, Nick, and you had that number so you know exactly what I was talking about and we’ve been absolutely clear about that. I’m just not going to play that numbers game with you and try and pluck one out the air.
Listen to the full clip below: