Tory MPs Ben Bradley, Mark Jenkinson and Selaine Saxby spark outrage with free school meal remarks

Luke O'Reilly
·2-min read
Ben Bradley, left, and Selaine Saxby: Houses of Parliament
Ben Bradley, left, and Selaine Saxby: Houses of Parliament

Three Conservative MPs have sparked outrage with social media posts about the debate over free school meals.

On Wednesday MPs rejected a Labour motion , inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign, to extend the free school meals scheme until Easter 2021.

Tory MPs who have taken to social media to defend voting against the motion have found themselves in the firing line.

Ben Bradley, who represents Mansfield, denied accusations of stigmatising working class families in his response to a tweet describing the free school meals programme “£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel”.

A motion on free school meals, inspired by Marcus Rashford, was defeated by the Government (Reuters)
A motion on free school meals, inspired by Marcus Rashford, was defeated by the Government (Reuters)

In a post which has since been removed, he wrote: “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did…”

After Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused him of stigmatising working class families, Mr Bradley claimed his tweet had been taken “completely out of context”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I was merely making the point that there are kids who live in really chaotic situations, really difficult lives, where actually giving them an unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn’t helpful."

Meanwhile, Mr Bradley’s Conservative colleague Mark Jenkinson accused people of attempting to “score political points” as he claimed that in his constituency of Workington in a “tiny” minority of cases food parcels – not vouchers – are “sold or traded for drugs”.

The comments also sparked questions and demands for evidence, with Labour’s Jess Phillips writing: “Seriously Mark, let’s have a chat about this when in Parliament I’d love to see your evidence, I’d also like to talk to you about life living with those with substance misuse and what does and doesn’t help solve it.”

Tory MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby also ignited anger after commenting on local businesses giving free food away to those in need.

A screenshot of a since-removed post in her name on Facebook said: “I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support.”

The MP later claimed her comments were “out of context” and added: “I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused.”

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