Conservatives in Parliament have rejected a plea by footballer – and anti-poverty campaigner – Marcus Rashford for the government to fund meals for poor children during school holidays.
Despite some unease on the Tory benches, a motion on providing 1.4m disadvantaged children in England with £15-a-week food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021 was voted down.
Conservatives were scathing in their criticism of Rashford, who personally experienced food poverty as a child:
Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith thinks feeding poor children during school holidays is “nationalising” them
No it’s providing a safety net during a once a century pandemic
If that’s nationalisation, then it’s the morally right thing to do
— nazir afzal (@nazirafzal) October 21, 2020
But this attitude is nonsense from a political party that has spent decades depriving working-class parents of the financial ability to feed their children.
The hypocrisy is even stronger during the year of Covid-19 when people are being forced to live on a fraction of their normal wages, or to claim Universal Credit and suffer a five-week delay in payments that pushes them into debt, meaning the amount they receive will never be enough.
I'm watching cruel Tories protesting that parents are responsible for feeding children when they've spent the last decade and more taking money away from parents in order to PREVENT them from being able to feed their children. Take responsibility, Tories! #PoliticsLive
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) October 22, 2020
Meanwhile, the Tory-funded “gravy train”, pumping money to their chums in business for Covid-19-related measures that don’t work, is chugging along merrily:
“While the provision of free school meals is closed, the gravy train is still open for business. £7,000 a day for consultants working on a test and trace system that doesn’t work"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 21, 2020
Rashford took to Twitter – the social media that was the focus of Brendan Clarke-Smith’s petulance – to spell out his frustration:
Time we worked together. pic.twitter.com/xFPsgBiPQC
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 21, 2020
But the most biting criticism came from Nigel Farage, the former UKIP and current Brexit Party leader, who said on Twitter that “not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong”.
The comment went viral, and it isn’t hard to understand the reason:
If you're keeping score at home, the UK government has now gone to the right of Nigel Farage. https://t.co/MzT8qDTzP7
— Liam Robertson (@Doctor_Cupcakes) October 22, 2020
When you’re officially so evil you make Nigel Farage left-wing https://t.co/v6nCDJobyR
— Jonathan Lis (@jonlis1) October 22, 2020
2020 is definitely proving to be one for the history books because why am I agreeing with Nigel Farage??? https://t.co/4sWp6j3Baf
— Urenna Okonkwo (@urennalexa) October 22, 2020
This Boris Johnson govt has now achieved something truly special…
…it’s making Nigel Farage look like a less right wing, voice of reason.
You have to be one special kind of govt to achieve that.. https://t.co/0iuk9tDinb
— Nick🇬🇧🇪🇺 (@nicktolhurst) October 22, 2020
Who had agreeing with Nigel Farage in apocalypse bingo then https://t.co/gq8GJzpZZL
— Cara Lisette 🧜🏻♀️ (@CaraLisette) October 22, 2020
Oh dear, my government is now more far right than Nigel Farage. Thankfully, I don't think anyone has noticed. https://t.co/uWu2RgP5fw
— Boris Johnson #StayAlertControlTheVirus ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ (@GetBrexit_Done) October 22, 2020
The strange forces on Twitter that spot anti-Tory tweets and try to mitigate them meant that the very first reply to Farage’s message came from one Helen Thomas, who contradicts herself in her own Twitter bio: “No personal messages, why are the lefties so vile?”
She had to change it from “Why are there so many rude selfish people on Twitter?” – possibly after it was pointed out to her that she is one such person. So we can see where she’s coming from.
Her response was that poor people should forage for food – and it has received short shrift, I’m happy to report:
When you are making Nigel Farage look like the compassionate one, it's time to evaluate your conscience.
— Owen Richards (@DanivonUK) October 22, 2020
She's changed it. These old tories don't understand that anyone with empathy disagrees with letting kids starve to death. They can't comprehend how that's not something we can get on board with pic.twitter.com/msb70tO6uJ
— christopher* (@lazy_inebriate) October 22, 2020
And it got worse for her after she revealed where she found her apples:
She clarified – her neighbours give her apples for free. Free food is only bad when it is feeding deprived children it seems.
— Frances McF (@francesmcf) October 22, 2020
Lazy parents?! Food inexpensive?!
What a morally bankrupt know-it-all Helen is. How devoid of empathy & humanity must you be to make Nigel Farage appear sensible.
I speak on behalf of hungry British children & 'lazy parents' when I say:
Get. Lost. pic.twitter.com/TTWjUeI3LK
— Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (@SholaMos1) October 22, 2020
Yes indeed. How devoid of empathy & humanity must you be to make Nigel Farage appear sensible.
But that is exactly what many (although not all) Conservative MPs have done – following their boss Boris Johnson’s lead.
Including your MP, perhaps.
Postscript: Readers in England may wish to note that the devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have both provided funds to ensure that free school meals are available to children who need them:
We've guaranteed free school meals for every school holiday up to and including Easter 2021.
It's important families don't have the added pressure of worrying about food in these uncertain times.
We won’t forget those for who school is about far more than education. pic.twitter.com/U92VDNcJpo
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) October 15, 2020
Attended today’s Daily Briefing to announce £10 million for local councils to help fund free school meals.
— S-A Somerville (@S_A_Somerville) October 20, 2020
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