People Power: Johnson promises ‘no child will go hungry’ as he faces free school meals backlash

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The Marcus Rashford led campaign for FSM is forcing the Tories to do the right thing.

Boris Johnson today hinted at another climbdown on free school meals during holidays as he faces a growing Tory revolt. 

The PM insisted he was ‘very proud’ of the way the government had supported families during the pandemic, including handing tens of millions extra to councils and increasing universal credit. 

But Mr Johnson also sounded a conciliatory tone in the face of the campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, vowing children would not go hungry due to government ‘inattention’.

‘We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas. Certainly not as a result of any inattention by the government – and you are not going to see that,’ he told reporters on a visit to a hospital in Berkshire. 

Boris Johnson also confirmed that he has not spoken to England star Rashford since June, when the government staged its first humiliating U-turn, despite claims from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they had been ‘communicating’.

The government is scrambling to find a way out of the latest bitter wrangle, with Tory MPs furious at the ‘shockingly inept’ handling and threatening to help Labour change the policy. 

A petition by Premier League footballer Rashford calling for funding of free school meals during holidays has gathered around 900,000 signatures.

Businesses have been pitching in by offering food for distribution to those in need. 

Meanwhile, protesters have been leaving empty plates outside local Conservative offices, while Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians have been banned from some firms in their constituencies.  

Empty plates left outside Tory HQ after vote against extending free school meals 1
Empty plates left outside Tory HQ after vote against extending free school meals

This is not a Left or Right issue, this is about people in the 5th richest economy in the world we must do more to help the vulnerable feeding them is a good start.

The UK government’s own advisory committee on social mobility has backed Marcus Rashford’s campaign on free school meals.

The Social Mobility Commission urged the government to extend free school meals during school holidays until Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

A commission spokesman said:

We know that the current pandemic is having its greatest impact on the poorest regions in Britain where people are already struggling to afford food for their families.

Our recent report – The Long Shadow of Deprivation – identified some of the ‘coldest’ social mobility spots in the country and many of these are now in the higher tiers of Covid restrictions.

Our earlier research this year showed that 600,000 more children are in poverty than in 2012.

We believe the government should do all it can to start reversing that trend. It should begin by ensuring that all children are properly fed.

But it needs to go much further. We now need a much more ambitious programme to combat child poverty.

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