A Tory minister has been labelled “shameful” after he defended a government memo attacking Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals.
A leaked memo has shown that Tory MPs are being ask to shift the blame for a failed vote to extend free school meals to children during the holidays onto Labour.
The statement said MPs should bring up the Labour’s refusal to extend a similar scheme when it was in government over a decade ago if Rashford pulled ministers up on the vote on Twitter.
Defending the text, policing minister Kit Malthouse said it was “standard practice” for political parties to issue guidelines to its MPs and dismissed claims his party was “ganging-up” on the Manchester United footballer, who has been lobbying government, on Sky News.
Presenter Kay Burley pressed: “But the whips have issued a statement with suggested interventions in a memo to MPs.
“One suggested [to say] that when Labour was in government they refused to extend school meals into holidays. These sorts of interventions should be put onto Twitter if Marcus Rashford talks about kids not getting free school meals.
“This is a footballer who wants to put food into hungry kids’ bellies, taking on the government, and you’re ganging up on him. That’s pathetic.”
Malthouse replied: “I don’t think it’s necessarily ganging up, it’s standard practice during any debate for political parties to issue briefs with suggested lines.”
He argued that it was up to MPs to decide whether to peddle the government’s messaging.
“MPs have to make their own decisions about what they say publicly and parties obviously give guidance and information about what the party position is on a particular circumstance,” he explained.
The minister added: “Look, no one is trying to decry what Marcus Rashford is trying to do and it’s coming from a good place.”
“Yeah, they are,” Burley butted in.
Malthouse said it was “frustrating” to hear people assume ministers did not care about helping vulnerable children like Rashford.
“You know, I’ve spent 20 years in public policy in inner-city London and now in Hampshire. I’ve dedicated enormous amounts of my life to trying to better the progress of my fellow citizens,” he said.
“The problem with these situations is that you get these really tough decisions which the government has to take and that’s the privilege and the difficulty of being in government.”
He added: “We think the best way to help people on low income is to give them great schools, great jobs, and Universal Credit.”
Malthouse then deflected the question again, telling Burley she would have to ask the Whips office to explain the memo.
Liz Anderson tweeted: “Kit Malthouse and his Tory colleagues have lost their minds. Cruel, selfish, completely out of tune with the public on this.”
Chris Shaw wrote: “Utterly, utterly shameful. Tory MPs are scared that @MarcusRashford understands the mood of the nation better than they do.”
Utterly, utterly shameful.
— Chris Shaw (@The_ChrisShaw) October 22, 2020
“Lower and lower they sink…” posted Sean Claxton.
“Incredible. They’d rather strategize how to take Marcus Rashford down instead of feeding starving children. Truly craven ghouls,” shared comics writer Sarah Horrocks.