'No reply to this': Tory MP takes on Marcus Rashford in free schools meals Twitter row

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
Free school meals clash: Ben Bradley and Marcus Rashford. (UK Parliament, Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)/Getty Images)
Free school meals clash: Ben Bradley and Marcus Rashford. (UK Parliament, Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)/Getty Images)

A Conservative MP is still trying to call out Marcus Rashford as the footballer’s free school meals campaign continues to gather pace.

Ben Bradley once again urged the Manchester United and England star to meet him so he can explain why he is against providing free school meals for children during half-term.

On Thursday, Bradley invited Rashford to his Mansfield constituency and “one of the country’s most deprived schools”, saying the headteacher agrees with his stance.

Bradley called out Rashford again on Friday, saying there had been “no reply to this” and “you were very quick to reply to previous tweets…”

The pair had clashed earlier this week after MPs rejected a campaign started by Rashford.

A vote on the plan was put forward by Labour and made its way to the House of Commons. It would have seen free school meals over school holidays extended to Easter next year, but was defeated by 322 votes to 261, with Rashford venting his “despair”.

Since then, hundreds of hospitality businesses and councils have backed Rashford anyway by offering to provide their own meals to children during the holidays, which start next week.

Throughout Friday, Rashford has been posting a string of tweets to his 3.6 million followers highlighting those businesses and councils which have volunteered.

Watch: Marcus Rashford: Which businesses are giving free meals to children?

In their Twitter clash earlier this week, Bradley said extending free meals to the school holidays “passes responsibility for feeding kids away from parents to the state. It increases dependency.”

Rashford hit back by saying: “The economy already pays a high price for child hunger. If children were fed properly you would increase educational attainment and boost life chances.”

Rashford had also clashed with another Tory backbencher, Steve Baker, who voiced his opposition to free school meals during the holidays by saying “not destroying the currency with excessive QE [quantitative easing] is also one of our duties”.

Rashford has been described as a “hero of our times” following his latest campaign.

It followed his crusade over the summer for free school meals, in which he argued many children would be going hungry during the holidays as a result of parents losing their jobs and income during the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester United's English Forward Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring a goal  during the UEFA Champions League Group H first-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 20, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
'Hero': Marcus Rashford. (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

That time, his popular campaign was able to force a government U-turn, with Downing Street announcing the one-off £120m “COVID summer food fund”.

On Friday, meanwhile, Downing Street declined to praise the business and councils which have been supporting Rashford by offering free meals for vulnerable children over half-term.

A Number 10 spokesman, asked repeatedly if Boris Johnson welcomed these offers, said: “As we have set out before, we are in a different position now with schools back open to all and the vast majority of pupils back to school.

“I believe the PM said during PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions] that free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids if they need to.”

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