Saxby wriggles. Mercer, Foster and Streeter keep digging.

On 23 October, we published an article on North Devon MP Selaine Saxby’s insensitive but revealing comment on the free school meals issue. You can read the article here.

Ms Saxby has attempted to defray the criticism of her (speedily deleted) Facebook post elicited thus:

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m never very satisfied by an apology in which the apologist attempts to claim a quote is taken out of context when they themselves set that context – see MP Ben Bradley for an epic fail of this wriggle tactic:

More seriously, I’m not convinced at all when they apologise for the offence their remarks ‘may have caused’. This bothers me in the Ms Saxby example because she appears to have no understanding as to why her remark was offensive in the first place or any self-awareness of what it has revealed about her thinking, her mindset, her values.

Now, we could tell MPs how to do it – how to apologise so people accept the apology and turn their attention elsewhere, but I guess it’s better to see their true colours. I imagine many of her supporters and constituents are just mightily disappointed that she did not fess up to a horrible, mean-spirited comment.

Mind you, no apology will erase the fact that she and 321 others voted against extending the voucher scheme through the holidays. It’s not as if the whole party toed the line. Five Conservative MPs managed to square small state ideology with crisis-time compassion. Here is Newton Abbot’s Anne-Marie Morris, who voted for the Labour motion:

The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021. 1/2

This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system. 2/2

Originally tweeted by Anne Marie Morris MP (@AnneMarieMorris) on 21/10/2020.

and Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee:

“The government has got to sort this,” he said. “They need to sit down with people like Marcus Rashford and his taskforce, which has got some of the biggest food companies involved. They need to set out a long-term plan to combat child food hunger, not only looking at rolling out free school meal vouchers at Christmas temporarily during the coronavirus pandemic, but also rolling out breakfast clubs, introducing a holiday activities programme, and examining [the level of support in] universal credit.”

Selaine Saxby is by no means alone amongst west country MPs in revealing an empathy bypass. Here’s Johnny Mercer, Plymouth, Moor View. He’s had a tough week, poor lad.

Ordinarily, this might be no more than a teensy bit grating, but in the context of the free meals vote, the immigration bill, the agriculture bill? Not on. Not on at all.

But there again…we’ve had an insight, haven’t we? You or I would be moritified, surely. We’d have our heads down or be out there, retweeting all the businesses and people who have shown they care and we’d be putting pressure on the government to shift its stance.
Unsurprisingly, his tweet garnered responses like this:

Mr Mercer was joined by Sir Gary Streeter in the hole-digging exercise.

Apparently, he and Gary voted the way they did because the motion was just a nasty Labour stunt to embarrass the government. Wow! If you know something is going to embarrass you, you know it’s because you are IN THE WRONG! It ain’t rocket science! Why should hungry kids pay the price for political ’embarrassment’, eh? Where’s your answer to that?

Meanwhile, the baton/spade has been passed to Kevin Foster, Torbay, who retweeted Mr Mercer’s post above but also made this contribution on Facebook:

Oh, well that’s OK then. Kids have always gone hungry in the holidays. Phew! Nearly fell for the opposition stunt there! But hang on…Covid-19. Anne-Marie Morris spotted the problem. Why couldn’t you?

What is wrong with these people? Seriously!

Meanwhile, keep on sharing the news of all those businesses and people who know that actions speak louder than words. Keep up the pressure on your MP, where approriate. Sign the petition. Donate. Be kind.

This looks like a way to make a point:

Outside Cheltenham Conservative party office.