Tory MP who voted against her own party to support free school meals motion quits government in protest

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell speaking in the House of Commons

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell speaking in the House of Commons - Credit: Facebook,

A Tory MP who defied her own party to vote in support of Labour's free school meals motion has quit her government post.

Caroline Ansell, the MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, was one of five Tories who backed an amendment to provide children with free meals over the holidays.

The MP quit her role as parliamentary aide in the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, saying she could not "in all conscience" back the government's stance.

She said: "In these unprecedented times, I am very concerned to be doing all we can to help lower-income families and their children who are really struggling due to the impact of the virus.

"I do not consider this extension could be in any way a long-term solution to this need, which is complex. There are better ways to help children, including linking meals to activities so they can also benefit from extra-curricular learning and experience.

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"However, as we are still very much living in the shadow of the pandemic, vouchers are a lever - not perfect, not sustainable - but one which I thought could be used to reach families in Eastbourne and across the country in the immediate time ahead. I could not in all conscience ignore that belief."

The motion to extend meals to hungry kids over the October half-term and Christmas breaks was unanimously voted down by the government, 322 votes to 261.

Ansell was joined by education select committee chair Robert Halfon, Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, Newton Abbot's Anne Marie Morris, and Scunthorpe representative Holly Mumby-Croft.

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Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, who successfully lobbied Boris Johnson to provide meals over the summer recess, expressed his dismay at Wednesday's vote.

MORE: 'Shameful' Tory minister defends government memo attacking Marcus Rashford's free school meals call

Tweeting to his 3.5 million Twitter followers, he wrote: "Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics, and let’s focus on the reality. A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today."

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