The government’s partial u-turn on Educational Maintenance Allowances shows that campaigning against the cuts can make the government change their mind. There’s two things to say about the planned £180 million bursary scheme: one is that it is less than a third of the £560 million spent on EMAs. But the other is that it is an improvement on the Spending Review plans – which were to spend just £50 million.
Both points are true. We are still going to lose one of the most progressive programmes introduced by the last government, but we have forced the government to cut by less than they wanted.
Does anyone imagine that today’s change of heart would have happened if the abolition of EMAs had not contributed to the government’s loss of support among young people? That is an achievement that everyone who has argued and lobbied to defend EMAs (especially campaigns like Save EMA) can take pride in.
After the March for the Alternative, Vince Cable said “no government – coalition, Labour or any other – would change its fundamental economic policy simply in response to a demonstration of that kind.” (Curiously echoing “this march won’t stop a single cut” arguments from people with very different political allegiances.)
But today’s news shows that it is possible to get governments to change their minds. It is still a long way short of what we want, but it shows that campaigning does make a difference and it is worth keeping up the effort.