Former culture secretary Nicky Morgan made the controversial comment during an appearance on BBC Question Time on Thursday evening.
Asked by host Fiona Bruce if the vote against free school meals for the UK’s poorest children was “a good look for the government”, Morgan replied: “Well I think the Labour Party might have found they got more supporters yesterday if the deputy leader hadn’t called one of the Conservative MPs ‘scum’ in the course of debate”.
Challenged by Bruce over whether or not her retort was besides the point, Morgan continued: “The point is, if you want to build a coalition – we’ve heard comments saying it’s ‘unconscionable that the government didn’t support this’.
“If the Labour Party had really wanted, and I think Marcus Rashford complained about it becoming politicised, if the Labour Party had really wanted support they wouldn’t have made it what’s called an opposition day debate. There would be other ways to build a coalition in parliament.”
After swerving a question from Bruce about whether or not the Tories voted down the motion for political reasons, Morgan offered a lengthy description of the money the government had already put into free school meals – which Labour MP Bridget Phillipson interrupted by asking: “So kids are going hungry this Christmas because you don’t like the parliamentary process?”
Morgan doubled down on her comments, replying: “If the Labour Party really want to get people supporting this debate then labelling Conservative MPs with unconscionable, unparliamentary words, and then the way it was dealt with absolutely not.”
Morgan is not the first Tory to offer justification for her vote on free school meals, with both Kit Malthouse and Jeremy Hunt met with derision for their defensive comments in the wake of the debate.
The former culture secretary has faced fierce criticism for her comments online, with anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole writing: “I hope everyone can see the irony of a Tory Nicky Morgan saying she was happy to watch poor kids starve as revenge for being called scum.”
— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) October 22, 2020
Labour MP Lisa Nandy also shared the clip, adding: “Thank goodness for MPs like Bridget Phillipson.”
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) October 22, 2020
So, let me get this right. Nicky Morgan said that the Tories may have decided not to vote for free school meals because one of them was called ‘scum’?
They reacted to being called scum by behaving like, err, scum?
— Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) October 23, 2020
Nicky Morgan going for “civility” when it comes to feeding kids is…not the winning strategy she thinks it is.
— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) October 22, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.