No second helpings of kindness from Conservatives, in spite of Rashford’s pleas

“File:Press Tren CSKA – MU (3).jpg” by Дмитрий Голубович is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you find yourself boiling with rage at the growing evidence of wanton cruelty and shameless and shameful politicking from this government? I do. Today was another terrible day. You might wonder why this piece mentions second helpings, when even firsts are being denied. Cast you mind back to the summer, when footballer Marcus Rashford successfully campaigned to get the government to provide food vouchers for kids through the summer holidays. This time around, as we enter another period of lockdown and job losses, he begged for help to be extended via free school meals. Labour got behind the idea.

This was the motion put before the house:

That this House calls on the government to continue directly funding provision of free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021 to prevent over a million children going hungry during this crisis.

Five Conservatives, just FIVE, supported Labour’s motion, which was defeated by 322 votes to 261 with a government majority of 61. One of them was a name I confess I did not expect to see – Newton Abbot’s Anne-Marie Morris. Good for her. Chair of the Commons Education select committee, Robert Halfon, was another:

“If we acknowledge that children risk going hungry in term time by providing them with free school meals, despite the provision of universal credit and the other things that have been mentioned by the government, we know that they risk going hungry in the holidays too.”

He said the additional expense could be covered by using £340m a year in revenue from the tax on the sugary drinks.

“This tax hits… families on lower incomes – why shouldn’t we redistribute the revenue to fund those policies proposed helping those same families facing food insecurity?”

37 Conservative MPs have no vote recorded. Sir Christopher Chope, Dr Liam Fox, James Heappey, Simon Hoare and Neil Parish were amongst them. One can only hope that some vestige of humanity, some twinge of conscience made them feel unable to follow the whip. But why would anyone in public office hesitate for one second to do the right thing, here? Why?

This is a government which has happily doled out billions to mates and donors for a failed track and trace system which has cost lives and PPE that was unfit for purpose. Conservative MPs have voted to defy the rule of law, junk our food standards, throw farmers under the bus, deny EU citizens physical proof of their right to carry on living here, deny refugee children a safe route to reunion with their families. And now they’ve told the nation’s hungry children to suck it up.

Are we governed by monsters?

And this:

Speaking of ‘dependency’, seems to me a lot of private companies are developing a pretty unhealthy dependency on chunky contracts handed out without scrutiny and with no obligation to deliver. Our money, spaffed up the wall.

Did you see the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on child poverty and hunger last December? It was estimated back then that one in three children were growing up poor, their families increasingly dependent on food banks. Ten months ago. Imagine what it is like now in the Covid crisis, with people losing their jobs or living under local lockdown without enough financial support. And then there’s Brexit, set to take the country down to a whole new level of economic hardship.

Marcus isn’t giving up.

And being ganged up on by a bunch of morally bankrupt, stony-hearted Conservatives isn’t going to faze him. Look at this!

It is easy (and understandable) to feel helpless in the face of such arrant abuse of power and eye-watering heartlessness, but we must do what we can. Write to your local paper. Write to your MP. Share this article and others like it on community sites. Help people to see what the mainstream media will not show them.

If we give in to apathy, defeatism or indifference then we facilitate these hideous actions. Resist.

And sign Marcus Rashford’s petition and keep donating to your local foodbank. It should not be needed, but it will be essential this winter and long into the future in Brexit Britain.

In case you missed it, Bylines Times ran this powerful article by Alex Andreou two days ago. I commend it to you.