Tag Archives: demand

After Lord Geidt’s whitewash, Labour wants INDEPENDENT probe on Downing Street flat redecoration

Good advice: Boris Johnson can say what he likes about his alleged breaches of the ministerial code, but nobody in their right mind would take only his word for it.

Labour will be like a dog with a bone over Tory corruption.

You know why?

The party can’t attack the Tory government over its incompetent hnadling of Covid-19 because Keir Starmer supported every duff decision Boris Johnson made (until the evidence revealed those choices to have been homicidal).

And Starmer can’t criticise the Tories over Brexit because his choice of policy contributed to Labour’s spectacular loss of the 2019 general election. He would just be inviting ridicule.

But Tory corruption is a different matter.

And the controversy over the redecoration of the Downing Street Flat occupied by Boris (and Mrs) Johnson, dubbed “Wallpapergate” due to the enormous cost of the wallpaper they chose – more than £800 per roll – was only ever likely to get worse after the prime minister was cleared of wrongdoing by a man who is his employee.

And Labour has found a way to make this an actual Double Whammy.

Not only has Labour reported Johnson to the independent Parliamentary standards commissioner, but it has pointed out that he was warned to face stronger sanctions after a previous transgression.

He had failed to declare shares in a property by the deadline required for it to appear in the relevant register of MPs’ interests.

At the time, standards commissioner Kathryn Stone had reprimanded Johnson. She also warned that any further breaches may warrant “more serious sanction”.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, reminded Ms Stone of this in her letter requesting an independent investigation into Johnson’s failure to register a donation by Tory donor Lord Brownlow to pay for the flat redecoration.

She wrote: “Far from learning the lessons of his previous transgressions, the prime minister has continued with his attitude of treating basic standards of integrity, openness and transparency with contempt, and behaving as though there is one rule for him and another for everyone else.”

And she said the fact that Mr Johnson told Lord Geidt he became aware of the donations for the works on the flat in February this year but did not settle the invoices personally until March 8 suggests he is in breach of parliamentary rules on declaring donations that all MPs must follow.

Ms Stone is already investigating whether Mr Johnson properly declared a £15,000 holiday on the Caribbean island of Mustique with his now-wife Carrie.

Johnson is also facing two other inquiries into the flat refurbishment.

The Electoral Commission is investigating whether the Conservative Party broke the rules on declaring donations over the Downing Street flat and has the power to issue a fine of up to £20,000.

And Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the UK’s top civil servant, is also examining whether donations were properly declared.

And it will only get worse for Johnson because he won’t stop breaking the rules. It seems he genuinely thinks he’s above the law.

Still, it’s great for political commentators like This Writer. It guarantees me stories for years to come.

As for you… if you like that sort of thing, I recommend you buy popcorn – in a regular supply.

Source: Labour demands further probe into Boris Johnson’s flat revamp – BBC News

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Money-grubbing millionaire: Riley grabs cash from Mike after LOSING libel appeal

Money: after losing part of her libel case against Mike, Rachel Riley was desperate to get some from him, any way she could. The way she found was particularly loathesome.

The Court of Appeal has ordered me to pay £3,628 to Rachel Riley after she lost the appeal in her libel case – because it reckons she ran up more costs in presenting her failed case than I did in winning mine.

In fairness, it could be said that she won two-thirds of her application to strike out all my defences (because two of them remain struck out). But the starting-point for the appeal is that I won it outright, because the third of those defences was the only thing that took up all of the court’s time.

I had done what I considered the chivalrous thing: suggested that we should simply write off all our costs and move on. It seemed to me that, having won the appeal and a third of the strike-out hearing, I would be more likely to benefit from a costs order than her.

But it seems Riley wasn’t happy with that. The millionaire was determined to wrench some money from the poverty-line blogger, any way she could manage.

The strategy seems clear: she still wants to run down my funds to make it impossible for me to take my own case to a trial – despite two years in which you have shown that you won’t allow her to achieve that.

Of course, I could choose not to pay. But then, it seems likely that she would call in the bailiffs while seeking an order from the court that my defence should be struck out unless I pay. I would have to spend more money than the costs order itself if I wanted to resist those moves.

It isn’t worth it, so I have instructed my solicitor to let her have the cash, if she’s that desperate for it. It’s still less than half the £7,500 she wanted earlier in the week.

The timing is unfortunate – I put it no stronger than that – because I am facing an expensive month.

My amended defence must go before the High Court on June 23, and this will take up an unavoidable amount of my legal team’s time. I don’t know how much this will cost.

So I have to return to my regular appeal. If you can spare it,

Consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

It would have been nice to be able to tell you that I had received money from Riley, but the size of the costs bill she submitted for the High Court hearing (inflated because it came from a price list that, in my opinion, was not relevant) made that impossible.

Once again, those of us who are poor have to try to accommodate the selfishness of those who are very rich.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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After Mike won his libel appeal, Rachel Riley wants him to pay HER court costs

Filthy lucre: Rachel Riley thinks I should pay her court costs, despite the fact that I won my appeal and she lost. It will cost a lot more than the loose change in this image and I don’t intend to part with a penny.

That’s not a typo in the headline.

You may recall that, when I reported that I had won my appeal against the striking-out of my ‘public interest’ defence against Rachel Riley’s libel claim, I said the awarding of costs had yet to be determined, but I would be happy to see my win at appeal and Riley’s two-thirds win on the application (she did manage to strike out two of my defences) cancel each other out.

Riley has other ideas, it seems.

I have learned that she has rejected that proposal. She says that, because she did not argue against the public interest defence in the High Court, she should not forfeit any costs for losing on that issue at appeal.

But the High Court’s costs order reflected the fact that it struck out all three aspects of my defence.

Now, having restored the public interest defence I could, technically, argue that I actually won in the High Court; Riley tried to destroy my entire defence but my defence survived.

As for the appeal, Riley is trying to say that I only succeeded in relation to one-third of it because two aspects of my defence did not receive permission. This is a false argument.

The starting-point under the rules is that I succeeded and so I am entitled to my costs. Also, the vast majority of my lawyers’ time and all of the court’s time was spent on the successful aspect.

It gets worse: Riley then says that my Counsel was too expensive, having regard to the amount of work involved, which is bizarre. My Counsel charged less than hers, who is more junior and had much less work.

The practical upshot of this is that Riley wants me to pay, to her, £7,500 of your money.

She won’t get a single coin if I can help it.

Because Riley has taken this unreasonable position I will now argue not only that the result of the appeal means she should pay costs money to me, but I may also ask the court to impose an indemnity order – penalty costs.

I am entitled to take this step but had not intended to do so. If the court awards me the extra cash, then she should know she has brought it on herself.

But it’s your money I’m using to make these arguments, and I would appreciate your approval for this course of action.

If you agree that I should go ahead as I have described, then please signal your support in the usual manner:

Consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

It really is a squalid way for Riley to behave, after losing the appeal.

We know she doesn’t need the money, so I think there’s only one obvious conclusion.

She is still trying to drag out the case as long as possible, to drain my funds and prevent me from giving evidence in a trial that she fears she won’t win. Let’s make sure she can’t.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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MPs demand inquiry into Boris Johnson’s ‘failure to be honest’

Opposition parties in the House of Commons are demanding that Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle allow a vote on an inquiry into Boris Johnson’s “consistent failure to be honest” in statements to MPs.

They have no chance of actually securing such an inquiry – the huge Tory(/fascist) majority in Parliament will kill it – but the debate will be hugely embarrassing to a prime minister who lies habitually.

And of course, deliberately lying at the Dispatch Box is Contempt of Parliament – for which the highest penalty is expulsion.

It occurs to This Writer that a viral video by Peter Stefanovic may have something to do with this move, having been viewed more than 11.5 million times.

Here it is – let’s give it a few more:

The letter was organised by the Green MP Caroline Lucas and it has been signed by five other parliamentary party leaders: Ian Blackford (Scottish National party), Sir Ed Davey (Liberal Democrats), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru), Colum Eastwood (SDLP) and Stephen Farry (Alliance).

One name is significant for being missing from the list:

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was invited to sign the letter, but declined. A party source said Labour did not normally sign up to initiatives launched by other parties.

This is typical Starmerism. He won’t sign up to any good Opposition ideas unless he can claim they come from him – although he has been quite happy to support Johnson’s government policies, no matter how daft.

Perhaps it’s time for genuine Opposition parties to resurrect an old US presidential campaign slogan from 1964, and say: We want a choice, not an echo.

As for Johnson, I can only echo the sentiment voiced by Billy Connolly, above. The Big Yin has always been able to spot a wrong ‘un.

Of course, it means most of the Tories who follow Johnson know exactly what he is and don’t care. Otherwise, they would be admitting they need psychiatric treatment and should not be in their current jobs…

(… although let’s be honest, they probably consider being an MP their second or third job, behind representing whichever private firm has them lobbying the government on its behalf!)

To Billy’s pronouncement, let’s add another piece of advice, for those whose sense of humour encompasses this kind of wit:

Source: Parties call for inquiry into Boris Johnson’s ‘failure to be honest’ | Politics | The Guardian

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Keir Starmer was part of an attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Now he’s whining about Shadow Cabinet backstabbers

Keir Starmer was happy to resign as a shadow cabinet minister in order to push Jeremy Corbyn out of the Labour leadership in 2016 – but now he thinks his critics in the current shadow cabinet should go instead of him.

Keir Starmer. What a piece of… work.

Five years ago he was among a group of right-wingers in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet who took part in a co-ordinated series of resignations intended to cause a leadership election in what became known as the “chicken coup”.

As the name suggests, this behaviour was considered to be cowardly and underhanded.

Now, Starmer has thrown his toys out of his pram after hearing that some of his own, predominantly right-wing, shadow cabinet have been briefing against his aides and some of their colleagues:

Unnamed shadow ministers have in recent weeks criticised Starmer’s aides, including his chief of staff Morgan McSweeney, policy chief Claire Ainsley and political director Jenny Chapman, blaming them for Labour’s caution or its reliance on focus groups of former “Red Wall” voters.

Starmer is also understood to be furious at recent briefings against frontbenchers Anneliese Dodds and Rachel Reeves.

I can’t discuss the briefings against Starmer’s aides because I don’t know enough about it, but it was claimed that Dodds would be sacked for failing to communicate Labour’s vision – which is Starmer’s job.

And Reeves was criticised for appearing in media interviews instead of Starmer, after he made a video praising a church that preaches homophobia.

According to the Huffington Post,

The Labour leader told the weekly meeting of Labour’s shadow cabinet that he was appalled by recent criticism of his aides, saying those responsible should “either stop now or have the guts to get out” of his frontbench team.

Why would these critics want to resign?

Their entire point is that it is the aides and Starmer who have behaved inappropriately – Starmer in the cases of Dodds and Reeves because he had (allegedly) put them in the line of fire that he should have taken.

And by actually putting forward an argument, it seems to This Writer that they have behaved much more honourably than Starmer did in 2016, when he resigned because he didn’t like the leader the Labour Party had democratically elected (and who was elected again as a result of the coup, with a bigger majority than before – despite (again, alleged) attempts to rig the vote).

I notice that Starmer himself seems far less inclined, himself, to resign, even though that action seems far more appropriate now than it was in 2016.

Perhaps next month’s local elections will change his mind.

Source: Keir Starmer Blasts Shadow Cabinet ‘Cowards’ Who Brief Against His Staff | HuffPost UK

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Met police want to stop social media sharing of rogue police cracking heads

Police violence: it seems our law guardians are upset at being filmed attacking members of the public, with the images subsequently going on social media. Simple solution: don’t commit violent attacks on members of the public.

Apparently breaking the heads of members of the public isn’t such fun when you can be identified and shamed on the social media.

Of course that’s not what the Metropolitan Police Federation is saying. Its spokespeople call it “trial by social media” and say it should be banned.

They would, wouldn’t they?

They’re justifying their demand by pointing to verdicts of investigations into police conduct that have resulted in no action being taken.

But doesn’t that just raise questions about the way the police are policed?

Doesn’t it give us cause to question what police need to do before they are penalised for the outrageous behaviour they have been caught doing on camera?

This Writer has seen a woman being punched in the face by a policeman, her head snapping back almost into the camera taking the footage.

We all saw the police men practically stripping a female protester at a demonstration in Manchester. Why were they doing that and when will they be punished for it?

We’ve all seen footage of police harassing people from ethnic minorities, for no readily-apparent reason.

The MetFed wants those videos to be banned – and I don’t think it’s because there is no case to be answered.

I think it is because the MetFed doesn’t want to be embarrassed by the behaviour of its own people.

And what about this:

Two good points, don’t you think? For clarity, they are:

1. If nobody had taken footage of George Floyd being throttled under the knee of a US police officer, nothing would have been done about it.

2. It is hypocritical of the MetFed to complain about the sharing of images that shame the police when its own officers have shared images of them behaving inappropriately (to say the least) with the dead bodies of members of the public.

If the police did not behave inappropriately; if they weren’t prone to violence against the public they are meant to protect; and if we didn’t have reason to believe the system was corruptly supporting them, then nobody would be recording these images – they simply would not happen.

So, before these people demand what are frankly fascist measures to stop us from holding them to account – and remember, they can still record us (although I understand footage from cop cameras is likely to be restricted due to failings in policing by the officers involved) – it seems clear they should try cleaning up their act instead.

But I suppose that would take all the fun out of it.

Source: Met Fed calls on chiefs to end trial by media after IOPC verdict | UK Police News – Police Oracle

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Lavery demands working-class Labour MPs – but what do we get?

Telling it like it is: Ian Lavery.

Here’s another split between Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership and senior party MPs.

Ian Lavery was party chairman under Jeremy Corbyn and is a member of the Socialist Group of Labour MPs. I’m sure that, once upon a time, every Labour MP was a socialist but now there’s only a rump of around 30.

He was replaced as chair by deputy leader Angela Rayner so you can tell which way the wind is blowing.

Lavery is putting forward a viewpoint that will be particularly unpopular with the Starmer faction that currently has control: he thinks the Party of the Workers should have working-class representatives.

We have seen from the treatment of Anna Rothery in Liverpool that Starmer doesn’t like any hint of socialism in his Labour Party and will take extraordinary steps to stamp on it (his behaviour towards her also suggests he doesn’t like anybody who isn’t white and male, but that’s another story).

Lavery says:

Labour representatives cannot focus group their way to a better society. We need people with the heart and instincts that can only come from the bitter sting of personal experience. Parliament is desperately short of people who have claimed benefits, gone through life with disabilities or struggled day in day out in bad employment. This past year we have seen key workers carry the country on their backs, yet the green benches are sadly lacking in them too. We desperately need people with this experience to rebuild our country.

Labour has a history of promoting positive discrimination and it has an even longer history of championing the cause of working people. It is time that we remember our roots and embrace protected places for working class candidates throughout of our movement. If we do not trust in the power of people from our heartlands, why should they ever again put their trust in us?

Excellent points – although I fear the ideal of protected places for working-class candidates may not weather the reality of Starmer’s leadership, as Anna Rothery was standing for election to be Liverpool’s executive mayor as part of a protected all-female list and Starmer scrapped that when he realised she was black, a socialist, and female.

And I fear that Lavery only gets to make these point because he has held a senior post in the Labour Party.

I recently heard about an MP in Bristol who has given up positions as a junior shadow minister and as Starmer’s PPS “to concentrate on constituency work”. Maybe that’s true. But generally they only take a reduction in pay grade if they have serious disagreements with the leader.

It occurs to me that this MP cannot say as much, though, due to a lack of seniority. At junior grade they can’t speak their mind because the leaders will eat them for breakfast.

That’s how it seems to me, anyway.

It is no way for the Labour Party to behave.

But that’s Keir Starmer and all his minions for you.

Source: Ian Lavery on the Need for Working Class Labour MPs | Beastrabban\’s Weblog

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Senior Tories including ‘Brexit Steve’ Baker demand continuation of Covid death spiral

The image above may not be the most sophisticated graphic This Site has ever published, but it is accurate all the same.

The Tory rabble who have been pushing for more deaths in a bid to keep the economy going and their paymasters in big business happy have been pressuring Boris Johnson for another early end to the restrictions he has (laughably) encouraged us all to call a lockdown.

The infection and death rates are back at pre-‘lockdown’ levels, they say, so he she start easing us all back into work at the beginning of March.

Shockingly, arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, clearly believing he hasn’t done enough to wreck the nation, has been traipsing around the broadcast media today, claiming that we need to give Covid-19 a chance at a third wave, for the sake of the poorest in society.

“Think of the poor!” How disgusting.

As the infographic above points out, he couldn’t care less when he voted against letting the poor keep the Universal Credit uplift they need to get by.

In this light, he seems clearly revealed as the kind of opportunist who says whatever he thinks will get him what he wants.

And he isn’t the only one:

Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.

In a letter to the prime minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the “tremendous pace” of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a “roadmap” stating when they would be removed.

The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all. However, scientists advising the government are warning that lifting restrictions too quickly risks another wave of the disease as big as the current one.

Of course, 63 Tory MPs in rebellion isn’t enough to bother Johnson – the Tory majority in Parliament is 80 – but it might be enough to rattle his cage, reminding him that he needs to keep his members happy.

He has already said he hopes to map out a “cautious” route out of lockdown on February 22 – next Monday.

The CRG people, led by Baker and Mark Harper, reckon they can dictate its pace – demanding that schools reopen by March 8 and hospitality businesses by Easter.

So we’ll be well on the way to another surge by Whitsun, then.

Source: Tory MPs tell Johnson to commit to lifting Covid restrictions by end of April | World news | The Guardian

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MPs – including Tories – demand Universal Credit uplift retention after misleading Tory tweet

The Big Lie: Labour won a vote calling on the Tory government to extend the £20 Universal Credit uplift – and this is the tweet the Conservatives sent before the debate.

MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have urged Boris Johnson to extend an uplift of Universal Credit beyond its planned end date.

The non-binding Labour motion passed by 278 votes to none, with six Conservatives defying a Tory whip to abstain.

They were Robert Halfon, who appeared on TV vowing to support Labour’s motion…

(He has some strange ideas about the so-called ‘benefit’ but he did the right thing so we’ll cut him some slack this time, right?)

… along with former Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Peter Aldous, Jason McCartney, Anne Marie Morris and Matthew Offord.

Personally, This Writer thought their decision was more impressive when contrasted with the behaviour of whoever writes the official @Conservatives Twitter feed.

Before the vote, a message appeared there, saying

Keir Starmer wants to scrap universal credit, withdrawing vital support from millions of people.

Experts say Labour’s plan would would [sic] be disruptive and cause chaos.

Conservatives are investing £7.4bn to help those who need it most.

It is a sickening distortion of the facts, as Peter Stefanovic makes clear:

But wait! The plot thickens:

He is.

That’s like paying them the uplift for 25 weeks, all at once – and it’s a dangerous thing to do.

The people receiving it are in dire straits financially. That’s a given, because otherwise they would not be on benefits.

They probably got into debt while waiting the mandatory five weeks before payment of UC began, and probably took out the advance loan of UC that is offered to people in that situation.

This means those who did this have been receiving less than even the government says they need on which to live, because they have to pay off that loan.

Now suppose they get that £500 payout. What do you think they’ll do with it?

They’ll pay off their debts and treat themselves with some – or all – of what’s left, most likely. It’s a relief reaction: “We’ve got some money; let’s enjoy it.”

And then they’ll find themselves back trying to make ends meet on UC – with £20 a week less on which to live. In fact, if they do pay off the debt, they’ll probably be in more or less exactly the same position as they are now.

And let’s just put this into context:

That’s right. The sum we’re discussing is less than one-third of the amount a member of the House of Lords gets, simply for turning up.

Finally, let’s be clear about what Universal Credit is.

Grateful?

That would be hugely overstating the obligation, considering we all fund UC with our taxes. And what do claimants of the so-called benefit get in return?

See for yourself, if you can bear it:

Labour does want to scrap Universal Credit – because it is a diabolical travesty of social security.

But Labour wants to replace it with something better. That can’t happen at the moment because we have a Tory government, with ministers who put forward the view of it that Robert Halfon expressed (above).

Retaining the £20 per week uplift is the least those Tories can do.

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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