Matt Hancock praises ‘DANIEL Rashford’ in live Sky TV blunder after Marcus Rashford forced Boris Johnson into free school meals U-turn – as Man Utd star jokes ‘I’ve been called much worse over the last couple of days’
- England star Rashford spoke on the phone with the Prime Minister after successful food vouchers campaign
- Matt Hancock praises his campaign before calling him ‘Daniel Rashford’ in embarrassing Sky News blunder
- The footballer had urged the Government to continue food vouchers with Covid-19 scheme set to end
- Boris Johnson U-turned this afternoon by saying there will be vouchers available during the summer holidays
- Manchester United striker already raised £20million to provide 3million meals for children during lockdown
- Star tweeted on victory: ‘I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together’
Matt Hancock blundered as he praised Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals calling him Daniel Rashford instead today – but the football star saw the funny side and admitted it was not the worst thing he’s been called this week.
The Health Secretary has been widely lampooned and criticised over the own goal on Sky News this morning where he was accused of ‘living in a bubble’ and ‘not being on top of his brief’. Mr Hancock later laughed about it in a later BBC interview, apologising and admitting he ‘misspoke’.
Gary Lineker was among those who poked fun at the error saying sarcastically: ‘Good to see @MattHancock finally giving credit to footballers and Daniel Rashford in particular’, to which Mr Rashford tweeted in reply: ‘I’ve been called much worse over the last couple of days’.
The England striker today revealed Boris Johnson phoned him and thanked him for using his profile to help feed vulnerable families as the football star said he is already considering his next child poverty campaign.
Manchester United star Rashford spoke with the Prime Minister on Tuesday, after he was forced into a U-turn and agreed that 1.3million children currently eligible for free lunches in England will get vouchers worth £15 a week that can be spent in supermarkets.
Speaking to the BBC, the 22-year-old said: ‘I was obviously shocked it’s a big decision for someone to make. I’m just grateful the Prime Minister did change his decision and he understood.’
On his conversation with the Prime Minister, he said: ‘He was just saying thank you for using what I’ve built in a positive manner, we was sort of thanking each other because he didn’t have to do what he done and neither did I.
‘He was grateful that someone had an opinion and shared it with people and had been that voice for people who didn’t have the platform to speak out as much as they’d like too.’
Revealing the campaigning will continue, he said his big win off the pitch had ‘bought an extra six weeks’ for him to ‘figure out what’s next’. He said: ‘I don’t want this to be the end of it because there are more steps that need to be taken and we just need to analyse the response. People are struggling all year around so we still need to learn more about the situation people are in and how we can help them best’.
Boris Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street on Tuesday, thanked Marcus Rashford in a private phone call on Tuesday
A banner has been raised in Wythenshawe, where Marcus Rashford grew up, celebrating his successful campaign
By Martin Robinson
Marcus Rashford is being hailed as the hero of lockdown as his successful free school meals campaign became yet another unlikely victory for a young footballer who has already defied the odds to become one of England’s top sportsmen.
The 22-year-old star says leaving home aged 11 to join Manchester United’s academy when his single mother Melanie struggled to feed the family has driven his campaign to ensure other children in the UK do not go hungry.
This week the England striker forced Boris Johnson into an extraordinary U-turn less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister refused to budge on finding £110million to give free school meals to £1.3million vulnerable children for six weeks over the summer. Rashford hailed the news this afternoon, tweeting: ‘I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.’
It caps an incredible lockdown for Marcus, who has used the past three months to recover from a double back fracture while also helping to supply three million meals for children out of school, raising around £20million along with charity FareShare. He is now joint-favourite to become BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Marcus, who earns £200,000-a-week at Man United and lives in a £1.8million mansion with a fleet of luxury cars, has not said how exactly much he has donated himself but admitted he started the fund with ‘£50,000 to £60,000’ of his own money with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and wealthy individuals handing over millions more.
He grew up in a £150,000 terraced council house on the tough Northern Moor estate in Wythenshawe, where the hit series Shameless was filmed in an area of Manchester that has suffered badly from high crime rates, poverty and drug problems.
Mr Rashford revealed last week that leaving home aged 11 to join Manchester United’s academy when his single mother Melanie struggled to feed the family had driven his campaign to ensure other children in the UK do not go hungry.
And his mum has called him ‘about 10 times’ in recent days as his campaign hit the headlines, he said, adding it was ‘nice to see her smiling’ about the PM’s decision. He said: ‘When she was going through [the hardship], if someone had spoken about it then maybe the situation would’ve been different’.
Speaking at yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Johnson denied he was shamed into the dramatic climbdown and raised eyebrows by claiming he only became aware of the push by Rashford – inspired by his own tough upbringing – earlier on Tuesday. 24 hours earlier the PM’s spokesman commented the campaign – but rejected his plea for a free school meals extension.
Downing Street declared earlier that around 1.3million children currently eligible for free lunches in England will get vouchers worth £15 a week that can be spent in supermarkets.
The £120million Covid Summer Food Fund is a ‘one-off’ recognition of the struggles families faced as the coronavirus lockdown sends the economy into a tailspin.
A spokesman for 22-year-old Rashford said he had ‘thanked the Prime Minister for U-turning on a decision that could have been detrimental to the stability of families across the country’.
The government move followed a growing Tory revolt urging him to think again after initially rejecting the appeal from Rashford.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt was among those saying that the position would have to change, while education select committee chair Robert Halfon threatened to vote against the government in a Commons debate later.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey risked inflaming the situation by engaging in a Twitter spat with Rashford after he said children did not have access to showers.
Rashford hailed the news, tweeting: ‘I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.’
He added: ‘There is still a long way to go but I am thankful to you all that we have given these families just one less thing to worry about tonight.’
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: ‘This is another welcome u-turn from Boris Johnson. The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable. Well done to @MarcusRashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue.’
At Tuesday evening’s press conference, Mr Johnson was repeatedly pressed about why it took Rashford’s campaign to change the policy on free school meals.
‘I talked to Marcus Rashford today to congratulate him on his campaigning, which to be honest I only became aware of very recently – today,’ he said.
‘I thank him for what he has done. I think he is right to draw attention to this issue, and basically we’ve got large numbers of kids who haven’t been able to get back into school.
‘We’ve got a problem about getting kids back into school in the way that we would want, for the reasons that people understand, though actually there are lots of kids who could go back to school now who aren’t going back to school and I’d like to see that happen.
‘I do think it’s right that we should be looking after families of the most vulnerable and the neediest right now and that’s why we have got the Covid summer food plan, which we’ve announced today, and I hope it will make a big difference to those kids and those families.’
The PM acted as he faced being left isolated with Governments in Scotland and Wales agreeing to extend the school meals scheme.
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed at her daily coronavirus press conference that local councils in Scotland will be given a further £12.6million to extend provision until schools reopen from August 11.
The Scottish government has been funding lunches for around 175,000 children during the lockdown using hubs, supermarket vouchers and cash payments.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: ‘The PM welcomes his contribution to the debate around poverty and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues.’
At the daily coronavirus briefing, Boris Johnson denied he was shamed into the dramatic climbdown, and claimed he only became aware of the push by Marcus Rashford earlier on Tuesday
Marcus Rashford arrives for training at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground yesterday in his Mercedes G-Wagon amid growing pressure on Boris Johnson to u-turn on free school meals for children over the summer
Rashford hailed the news this afternoon, tweeting that it showed what could be done when ‘we come together’
Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, a vocal critic of Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit who quit when he prorogued Parliament in 2019, earlier urged him to change his mind and ‘feed the kids’ as the devolved
PM’s third major climbdown in a month
Boris Johnson’s change of heart on free school meals is the latest of three significant turnarounds in the past month.
He bowed to massive pressure to drop the NHS surcharge for foreign health and care workers last month.
And on May 21 the PM declared that the £400-a-year levy would be dropped after senior Conservatives complained it was ‘immoral’ and ‘mean-spirited’ that those on the frontline of the coronavirus battle were being forced to pay.
Hassan Akkad, a BAFTA award winning filmmaker who has been working as an NHS cleaner during the outbreak, had campaigned for the change.
That shift came 24 hours after another climbdown, on excluding foreign NHS porters and cleaners from the coronavirus bereavement scheme.
That meant relatives of those who died might be kicked out of the country.
The families of all staff who die from coronavirus are now being granted indefinite leave to remain.
She said: ‘Am baffled why [Westminster] colleagues are picking this hill to die on. I didn’t have or need free school meals, but I went to a school where a huge % did. Food security during the holidays so important. It’s basic. Feed the kids.’
Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon MP has described Mr Rashford as ‘an inspiration and a hero of our time’ and said finding the £110million to extend the scheme ‘is the right thing to do’.
Fellow Tory MP George Freeman also tweeted: ‘Free School Meals are a lifeline for many v low income families. Let’s do the right thing: extend FSM thru summer.’ While former Tory adviser to Theresa May, Nick Timothy, said: ‘Congratulations to Marcus Rashford, who I expect will be able to declare victory some time before this afternoon’s opposition day debate’.
Mr Johnson was previously forced to carry out another U-turn on making migrant health workers pay the NHS levy, after resisting for days.
Ms Coffey was blasted as ‘cold’ and ‘uncaring’ after her blunt response to Mr Rashford’s claims about poorer families being deprived of running water.
In a string of tweets yesterday repeating his call for Mr Johnson to change his mind, the 22-year-old star wrote: ‘When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown #maketheuturn.’
However, Ms Coffey then replied: ‘Water cannot be disconnected though’.
Piers Morgan told Good Morning Britain viewers the tweet was ‘shameful and disgusting’, while Rashford took exception to the minister picking out one of his posts from dozens about the campaign.
He then tweeted in reply to Ms Coffey: ‘I’m concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference.’
The Manchester United star and England star, 22, who has been backed by a string of Tory and Labour MPs and Gary Lineker, said that changing the Prime Minister’s mind is the ‘trophy’ he wants this summer with the hashtag #maketheuturn trending on Twitter this morning.
In a string of tweets yesterday repeating his call for Mr Johnson to change his mind, he wrote: ‘When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown #maketheuturn.’
And amid a gale of criticism the Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal tweeted Marcus directly saying: ‘Hi @MarcusRashford, I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society – a passion we share. We are working to the same aim’.
Headteacher at Rashford’s former school says he is a ‘hero’
The headteacher of Marcus Rashford’s former primary school has spoken of the community’s pride as he persuaded the Government to extend a ‘lifeline’ free school meal service
Headteacher Emma Roberts said the Manchester United footballer was already a ‘hero’ to children at Button Lane Primary School in Wythenshawe, which has twice the national average number of pupils eligible for the free school meal scheme.
Following the Government’s U-turn on Tuesday, when it announced a £120 million fund to feed children in England over the six-week summer period, Ms Roberts said staff had been sending messages to each other saying they were ‘really proud’ of the England international.
She told the PA news agency the 22-year-old striker continued to be part of the community where he grew up and often visited the school.
‘He is like a hero to the children,’ she said. ‘I think they all feel like he’s their friend.’
She added: ‘We are working to the same aim. I & this Govt will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond.’
Piers Morgan blasted Mr Coffey for her ‘tone deaf’ and ‘heartless’ response.
‘People wonder why we shout at these people. I would probably shout at her right now, if she was on, Therese Coffey – wouldn’t you?’ he said.
‘That’s her response. One line. Unbelievable. The tone-deafness of that response just about epitomises this government – devoid of empathy.’
Yesterday, Rashford continued his campaign for free school meals over the summer with a blizzard of tweets and a newspaper article demanding the Government carry out a u-turn.
Rallying his supporters, he tweeted this morning: ‘We are trending no 1 and 2 in England. I need everyone’s help to keep this noise going as I head to training but before I go, to ALL MPs in Parliament, this is not about politics. The same way us players put rivalry aside when we put the England shirt on, please #maketheuturn.’
Earlier, he had written in The Times: ‘Today I focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football.
‘A U-turn on the decision to stop the free food voucher scheme continuing over the summer holidays could help us reach the next round but we still have a very long way to go as a country to eventually lift the trophy. In this case, the trophy is combating child poverty.’
But the Government is refusing to budge with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisting they have been ‘wrapping its arms around the community’ via the furlough scheme and payments to local government bodies instead. But there are growing numbers of backbench Tories who believe Boris Johnson should change the policy immediately.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, he said: ‘It is usually the case that over the summer holidays, free school meals are not available, schools are not there’.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said he was worried that Britain is facing ‘an ice age for vulnerable children’ as the latest figures show ‘2.5 million children are not learning’ while away from school and food insecurity has ‘nearly doubled’.
The Tory MP said extending the free school meals programme ‘would be the right thing to do’ but ‘there are mixed views’ among Conservative politicians.
He said: ‘Families have not only faced health worries but enormous financial anxieties and enormous stress, many of them being made redundant.’
Mr Halfon added: ‘There are lots of food programmes across different Government departments. If they just consolidated those programmes, they would almost have the money for the free school meals programme over the summer, which would cost roughly £110 million’
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was among the famous figures congratulating Rashford on changing the policy yesterday
Rashford’s mother Melanie persuaded United to allow him into their academy a year early because she was struggling to feed her five children
Gary Lineker appeared on BBC Newsnight last night and he urged the Government to consider the struggles of impoverished families during the coronavirus crisis.
‘Obviously these are strange times. Kids wouldn’t ordinarily be fed during the summer holidays, I understand that. But you’ve got to look at it and go ”These are very, very difficult times for a lot of people and a lot of families”,’ the former England striker and Match of the Day presenter said.
‘There are a lot of young people, young children, in this country that are going hungry. And in a country like ours, a country of quite substantial wealth, that seems to be largely unacceptable.
‘Hopefully the powers that be will listen. It seems strange that we have to be in a position where we are desperately arguing to try to get young people fed, and stop them being hungry.’
Lineker also praised Rashford, saying: ‘When you look at it, though, he’s a 22 year old footballer. He shouldn’t be the one having to do this. But the fact that he is, is important. It’s impressive. He’s a very fine young man, and he’s a credit to his sport and his family.’
Rashford wrote a column in The Times newspaper on Tuesday addressing the meal voucher issue and the broader subject of childhood poverty.
‘I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education,’ Rashford wrote.
‘I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because ten years ago I was one of them.’
‘Thousands of children will also receive additional support through our Holiday Activities and Food programme, which offers activities and free meals throughout the summer holidays,’ they added.
Yesterday No10 said the PM would reply to the footballer by letter.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The PM will respond to Marcus Rashford’s letter as soon as he can – he has been using his profile in a positive way to highlight some very important issues.’
A food voucher scheme was set up to make sure children on free school meals would be fed during lockdown after schools shut in March.
Vouchers worth £15 were given to families each week in supermarkets.
But the scheme was set to end next month.
In a letter to the House of Commons, the Manchester United forward wrote: ‘Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?
‘The Government has taken a ‘Whatever it takes’ approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England.
‘I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension. This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance.
‘Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.’
Boris Johnson (right) made the U-turn after Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was caught up in a spat with Rashford on Twitter (left). The footballer mentioned that ‘parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown’, to which Ms Coffey replied ‘Water cannot be disconnected though’. The footballer said he was ‘concerned’ Ms Coffey had only acknowledged that particular tweet
As the coronavirus crisis hit, Marcus Rashford felt obligated to do something to help the young and potentially vulnerable children who may begin to suffer without free school meals
England international Rashford penned a powerful letter to the Government on Sunday
He urged the Government to provide free meals for vulnerable children during school holidays
Rashford relied on breakfast clubs and free school meals while growing up in Manchester. He wrote: ‘As a black man from a low-income family… I could have been just another statistic.
‘I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.’
The 22-year-old’s open letter has received support from education leaders and teachers’ unions
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, the country’s biggest teachers’ union, said the union ‘fully supports’ Rashford’s demand to provide free school meals over the summer.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘If the Government is genuinely committed to social equity, it must extend the provision of free school meals to continue during the summer holidays.
‘Disadvantaged families are likely to have been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, and the very least we can do as a society is ensure that children from these backgrounds have something to eat.’
Former education secretary Justine Greening also backed the footballer’s demands. She said: ‘I know from my experience that there are lots of difficult decisions for ministers to take – this is an easy one.’
Rashford, who has raised £20 million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare, has admitted to using food banks and receiving free meals as a child.
He said he wants to help the families that need it the most, knowing how it felt to go hungry.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, added: ‘Holiday hunger has always been a great concern for school leaders and this summer is likely to be especially challenging for many low-income families given the impact of lockdown on finances.
‘We agree with Marcus Rashford that the Government must not let children go hungry over the summer and should provide funding to extend free school meals.’
Rashford benefited from the free school meals system while growing up, dreaming of football. Here he is pictured posing in a Manchester United shirt, the club he has always supported
The Labour Party had called an opposition day debate in Parliament later to call on the Government to continue to directly fund the provision of free school meals over the holidays.
Labour launched a Holidays Without Hunger campaign on Sunday.
Shadow education secretary Rebecca Long Bailey will say: ‘Any government that is willing to let the poorest children in the country go hungry needs to take a long hard look at its priorities.
‘Shamefully, children go hungry every year, but this summer will be especially difficult for many families as job losses and reduced incomes hit household budgets.
‘It would be deeply callous of the government not to take this small step to ease the financial pressure on households and ensure children can eat during the summer holidays.’
Former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw added his name to the cause, saying the Government ‘should be bending on this one’ and that Mr Rashford was ‘absolutely right to draw attention to this’.
‘I know lots of head teachers who are so worried about their children who are on free school meals, their poorest children, who have lost out the most during this crisis,’ Sir Michael told Newsnight.
‘Those head teachers are going to bringing those children in over the summer break, they’re going to be inviting their staff into school over the summer break to teach them, to make sure they don’t lose out any more.
‘Now if they’re going to be doing that, and those children are going to be coming into school over the summer break, to catch up, they need food.’
MPs reveal own personal struggles with poverty growing up – and how free school meals helped them
Several MPs backed the continued use of free school meals – by revealing how the scheme helped them whilst they were growing up.
Three Labour representatives gave honest accounts of how the scheme aided them and their families during difficult scenarios.
Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, revealed the meals were a ‘godsend’ as his mother struggled with mental health when he was 14, meaning his father and other relatives had to pull together to support him and his two siblings.
Three Labour MPs, including Naz Shah (left) and Florence Eshalomi (right), revealed they benefited from free school meals while growing up
He said: ‘We were children in a single parent home in the South Wales valleys. We benefited from free school meals and clothing grants through our early years. At those times, those meals were a godsend.’
Shadow equalities minister Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, also benefited from free school meals when she was younger.
She added: ‘What it’s like to live in poverty is when you’re palmed off, like I was as a child, to social services to go away for a whole week at a time to Scarborough, like I did.’
‘That’s what poverty is. It’s not memories you want to recall as an adult even in mid-forties.’
Florence Eshalomi, Labour MP for Vauxhall, even admitted that she was the subject of bullying due to her free school meals.
‘I remember having to go to reception on a daily basis in the morning to collect my voucher and hand it over to the dinner ladies.
‘And I remember the bullying and the stigma I faced as a child because of that. But that was in the late 80s and early 90s, and it’s shocking that we still need free school meals today.’
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