Tory MP threatened and office vandalised after children’s free meals vote

By Richard Vernalls, PA
·3-min read

A Conservative MP has said he and family members have received death threats while his office has been vandalised after he voted against offering free meals to children during school holidays.

Stuart Anderson was among 322 MPs who voted with the Government against a Labour motion in the House of Commons last week, after a campaign by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford calling for the extension of free school meal provision.

The MP for Wolverhampton South West has since had his constituency office vandalised in several incidents, with the latest on Monday morning coming after the word “scum” was sprayed on a window.

Over the weekend, about two dozen paper plates – covered in messages claiming he “voted against meals for hungry children” and a banner reading “Your MP voted no to feeding poor kids” – were put up across its frontage.

In a statement the father-of-five said: “I’ve had threats against me, threats against my family, and my staff have been intimidated.

“I accept political arguments but you should not impact people’s safety by targeted harassment and vandalism.

“I can take name-calling but when my family have to fear for their safety that’s just disgusting.”

The 44-year-old added: “I’ve been told to watch myself if I turn up anywhere.

“Other MPs have had a lot worse than me and some are afraid to go outside their house at the moment.”

Mr Anderson is away this week but staff at his constituency branch in Chapel Ash on Monday said they had been scared by the threats.

The MP, who has said he relied on free school meals growing up, added that he voted against the Labour motion because it was “the role of the wider welfare system to help families that require extra support”, outside term-time.

After the Commons vote, he said he had raised the issue of funding with Chancellor Rishi Sunak but that the Government had already put in place “significant” extra support.

He said: “We must also seek to address the issues which fuel demand for free school meals.”

Fellow Tory MP Gary Sambrook, who also voted against the Labour motion, posted a photo on Twitter of graffiti reading “Gary Sambrook eats big dinners”.

In the accompanying comment, he said: “Apparently if you disagree that vouchers is the only way to solve poverty this is what happens.

“Some on the left always try to bully their way through politics & caricature the right as evil (or scum) for merely disagreeing.

“I’m afraid that sort of politics just doesn’t work.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there would be no U-turn on current plans, adding the Government would “make sure we have no children, no kids, no pupils in our country who go hungry this winter”.

He said “huge sums” had been given to councils to help, including “specific” cash aimed at funding meals for children.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure no child goes hungry, this winter, during the holidays,” he added.

Labour-led Wolverhampton City Council is among more than 50 local authorities across the country which have vowed to supply free meals or vouchers over half-term.

It is supplying meals for 16,000 youngsters over the next week, in a £250,000 scheme.