Marcus Rashford slaps down Tory claims he’s had ‘communication’ from Boris Johnson
Marcus Rashford today hit back at top Tory Matt Hancock for claiming he’s had “communication” from Boris Johnson over his free school meals fight.
The campaigning footballer slapped down the Health Secretary for trying to suggest the PM had replied to his plea to extend vouchers for poor families during the holidays.
The Prime Minister was said yesterday to have snubbed a personal message from the England star, who asked Mr Johnson to join his taskforce to end child food poverty.
Rashford sent a private letter to Downing Street in September, saying free school meal vouchers were a short term solution, and appealed to the PM for “teamwork” to fix the issue.
Asked if the PM had replied to the letter, Mr Hancock today told BBC Breakfast: “There has been communication between the two, as far as I understand it.”
But Rashford tweeted: “Hmm, unless he’s referring to the call we had following the u-turn in June?…”
Rashford added: “I heard a couple of days ago that going in to the debate the feeling was that the British public wouldn’t care about the issue of child hunger a second time around.
“Boy did you prove that theory wrong…
“Those who have rallied around our communities, please continue to do so, you are the real pride of Britain.
“Some of our children will be waking up anxious this Monday morning, let’s show them that there is never any shame in asking for help. Thank you.”
Mr Hancock today praised the footballer despite refusing to accept his plea to extend free school meals over the holidays.
The Tory minister told BBC Breakfast: “You know, we’ve all seen what Marcus Rashford has done, and the way that he’s conducted himself in this campaign he’s running I think is absolutely exemplary.
“He’s making an argument, based on personal experience, for the benefit of people who really need that support.
“And as a result there’s support going in, not just from government, but from the community as well.
“I pay tribute to him”.
Boris Johnson is said to be planning a partial U-turn over kids’ free school meals after he faced an outpouring of public fury.
The Prime Minister’s allies told the Times he could increase funding for the poorest families over Christmas to ensure children do not go hungry during the holidays.
But any U-turn would likely be too late for half term – which has already started.
And it’s not yet known if any new scheme will be as generous as the £15-a-week supermarket vouchers offered over summer.
It comes after the cruel PM faced a revolt from generous restaurants, councils and even some of the 322 Tories who voted down help last week.
One Tory MP, Sir David Amess, had dozens of empty plates left outside his office over the weekend in protest against his stance.
Ex-minister Caroline Nokes told the BBC’s Westminster Hour there should be an announcement within hours, saying: “I don’t think there’s any doubt about them having to take another look at it. I would argue that they need to find a better mechanism that vouchers.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin warned the government had “misunderstood the mood of the country” while ex-minister Tobias Ellwood said he regretted voting with the PM.
Labour are now planning to bring a second vote on the issue before Christmas. Ex-children’s minister Tim Loughton – who abstained last week – said he would vote against the government if a vote is held again.
Despite just five Tory MPs backing Rashford last week, some told The Telegraph “more than 100” are now angry at the government’s response.
Mr Hancock refused to confirm or deny plans to increase funding for the poorest families. But he appeared to hint at more help for councils.
Mr Hancock repeatedly pointed to a £63m fund announced in June for councils to help those struggling to buy food, which the Times reports could be extended.
“There’s constantly, constantly work ongoing with councils,” Mr Hancock said.
Fellow minister Brandon Lewis added yesterday: “What we’re looking to do is ensure we deal with child poverty at the core, put the structure in place so that even in school holidays children can get access to the food that they need.”
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