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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Boris forced to u-turn for the kids

by New Worker correspondent

MOUNTING pressure from Labour, teaching unions and Premiership footballer Marcus Rashford has forced Boris Johnson to U-turn this week over cutting school dinner vouchers during the school summer-holiday break. Last weekend the Tory government had made it clear that it was not going to extend the £15 per week coronavirus emergency voucher scheme for poor families over the summer.

But Rashford’s dramatic intervention and the threat of a Tory back-bench rebellion finally forced Johnson to bow again to the mood on the street. The Prime Minister personally called the England and Manchester United striker to explain the reversal, claiming that he had only become aware of the footballer’s interest in the issue earlier that same day.

Rashford’s appeal, backed by retired England player Gary Lineker, was supported by over 250,000 people on social media. The 22-year-old footballer had written to every MP for support after helping to raise £20 million for food for low-income families during the lockdown.

Rashford said he, himself, had grown up in poverty, relying on free school meals as a lifeline as a child. “Wembley Stadium could be filled twice with children who have had to skip meals during lockdown due to their families not being able to access food,” he said. “As their stomachs grumble, I wonder if those 200,000 children will ever be proud enough of their country to pull on the England shirt and sing the national anthem. Ten years ago, I would have been one of those children. This is England in 2020.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments have already said they will continue free meal vouchers over the summer holidays. Now the Government has extended the emergency scheme throughout England. The £120 million ‘COVID summer food fund’ will provide hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children with free school meals this summer.

Labour Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey welcomed the decision, which she said was “a victory for the 1.3 million children who were at risk of going hungry this summer. It is thanks to the amazing work of Marcus Rashford and campaigners that the Government has had no choice but to reverse their decision. The Government must now confirm that this new money will be for the direct provision of free school meals to all eligible children.”

Meanwhile, Labour is calling for a “Back to Work Budget” following reports that the Government has shelved plans for an emergency summer budget. This week Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds warned that the country cannot afford for the government to make the same mistakes on the economy as during the coronavirus health crisis. And she called on the Chancellor to publish an urgent package of economic measures with a clear focus on cutting unemployment.The Government’s slow health response to the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the economic damage, Dodds said.

“The Government was too slow to recognise the scale of the health crisis from coronavirus and we are already paying the economic price.

“We are increasingly worried that the slow and confused health response is now being followed by a slow and confused response to saving jobs. The window is closing to protect existing jobs and encourage firms to invest in creating new ones.

“That’s why we need a Back to Work Budget that has one focus – jobs, jobs, jobs. As a constructive opposition, we want to work with government to get the right solutions to the problems the country faces.”