Mr Blair, 67, was pictured at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair less than two weeks after returning from a two-day trip to the White House.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said Mr Blair was invited to an ‘international conference’ because of his ties to the Middle East peace agreement between Israel and the UAE.
He has been accused of ignoring the quarantine rules after a special dispensation from the rules was not awarded to him, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
His spokesman denied the claims and said Mr Blair ‘was told to follow the guidance on international conferences which he did’.
Tony Blair, 67, was pictured at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair less than two weeks after returning from a two-day trip to the White House
Mr Blair was pictured mingling with guests on the South Lawn of the White House on September 14. He held his face mask while posing for photographs
The ‘international conferences’ exemption to the rules applies to diplomats, staff at international bodies such as the UN and formal representatives at international conferences who have been ‘granted privileges and immunities’.
But Mr Blair is considered a private citizen since he left his role as Middle East envoy in 2015.
His spokesman said: ‘We believe he followed all UK and US government guidelines as advised.
‘Mr Blair was tested for Covid before departing the UK, on arrival at the White House, when he returned to the UK and has been tested several times since. All tests have been negative. No other meetings were attended.’
- Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson’s elder brother died of coronavirus, just hours after being taken into intensive care. The city is currently under Level 3 restrictions, having one of the highest infection rates in the country
- London’s hospitality sector warned profits were 85 per cent down during the first daytime trading session of Tier 2 lockdown, though drinkers emerged on to the city streets in the evening
- Tony Blair denied breaching coronavirus isolation rules after returning from a trip to Washington DC
- The House of Commons admitted breaching curfew by allowing MPs to drink in bars after-hours, but wouldn’t say whether Health Secretary Matt Hancock was in attendance
- Coronavirus cases continued to rise across Europe with countries hitting record one-day totals as lockdown-free Sweden said it is considering putting local measures in place
David Jones, a Conservative member of Parliament’s public administration committee, told the newspaper ‘it sets an appalling example to travellers if a former prime minister appears to flout the rules’.
Mr Blair was pictured mingling with guests on the South Lawn of the White House on September 14. He held his face mask while posing for photographs.
Returning to the UK on September 16, Mr Blair reportedly travelled by private jet on the £7,000-an-hour Falcon 7X.
He is believed to have had with him a team of Scotland Yard protection officers – paid for by the British taxpayer.
Ten days after his return, on September 26, he was pictured leaving ‘one of the most elegant and sophisticated private members’ clubs in London’.
David Jones, a Conservative member of Parliament’s public administration committee, told the newspaper ‘it sets an appalling example to travellers if a former prime minister appears to flout the rules’. Pictured, Mr Blair leaving the club
Those failing to follow the rules on self-isolation could be liable for a £1,000 fine, or potential prosecution.
Blair praises new Labour leader Keir Starmer for making party ‘competitive’ again after Corbyn
Sir Keir Starmer has returned Labour to being a ‘politically competitive’ party which is in a position to win a general election, Tony Blair says.
The former Labour leader and prime minister praised his successor’s performance in the three months since he won the contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Blair told the PA news agency: ‘Keir is doing a good job – a very good job actually – and I think he has put Labour back on the map. He has made them competitive again.
‘He will know and we all know that there’s a long way to go before a general election and many things to be done.
‘But in these months since he has become the leader, he has I think completely changed the image certainly of the Labour leadership amongst the public and he deserves respect and admiration for that.’
Asked if Sir Keir had made Labour a party that can win again, the former prime minister said: ‘He has put it in a position where it can.
‘There are a whole set of questions around policy and so on that in time I’m sure and know he will come to.
‘But has he made it politically competitive again which it hasn’t really been for quite a long period of time? Yes – and that is a huge step forward for the Labour Party.’
Labour has failed to win a general election since Mr Blair left office in 2007, with Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn all failing to secure majorities.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The FCDO provides travel exemptions to diplomats travelling on business relating to the interests of the UK, representatives of international organisations, and their families and dependants. Those issued an exemption will not need to self-isolate.’
As of last month, police forces have only issued 38 fines from over 4,000 referrals from public health authorities.
The story emerged as Britain recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in four months after another 150 victims were announced.
Department of Health statistics show the grim milestone hasn’t been reached since June 10 when 164 lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths were announced.
It is also a surge of 85 per cent compared to last Saturday, when 81 deaths were registered, and a rise of 16 from yesterday’s toll of 136 victims.
Health chiefs today posted another 16,171 cases, up only six per cent on the figure recorded last Saturday (15,166), in a sign that the UK’s coronavirus outbreak may be beginning to slow.
As many as 15,650 more positive tests were added to the tally yesterday.
Although still rising, the number of deaths from the virus remains miles off the levels seen at the height of the pandemic when more than 1,000 were being registered every day at the beginning of April.
More than half the population are also living under tightened coronavirus restrictions – with London entering tier two curbs and Lancashire joining Liverpool in tier three.
But Boris Johnson is resisting calls to plunge the whole country into a two-week circuit breaker lockdown, amid fears of the harm it could do to the economy.
In July, Mr Blair said infrastructure to stop the spread of the virus was critical as another national lockdown would not be possible, suggesting that people instead need to learn to live safely with the virus.
Mr Blair described the crisis as ‘the biggest challenge logistically and practically’ a government has ever faced, but criticised ministers for not yet putting in place an ‘infrastructure of containment’.
He said: ‘The reality is that we’re going to be living with Covid-19 – we’re not really going to be able to eliminate it.
‘And when you look at what has been happening in other countries, as lockdown has been eased, then more and more problems have appeared and many countries, having gone into lockdown then easing it, are finding spikes in the disease.
Coronavirus positive tests in London have increased dramatically since the beginning of September but changes in recent weeks suggest the rate of rise is slowing down, with a 37 per cent increase in the seven days to October 7, compared to the almost double 84 per cent in the third week of September
Some 136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned this could rise to 690 by the end of the month
‘You can’t be sure of this but there’s at least a 50/50 chance that you have a resurgence of the disease in the autumn and that’s why it is absolutely essential now to prepare for that.
‘And to put in place every single last bit of containment infrastructure that you possibly can to make sure that if that happens you are able to control the disease, because you’re not going to be able to go back into the lockdown that we endured in March, April and May.’
In August, he claimed ministers had got the Government’s travel quarantine policy ‘wrong’.
He took aim at the Government’s 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut ‘substantially’.
He called for ministers to take a more ‘sensible’ approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise ‘where the science ends and judgements begin’.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Middle-class jobs bloodbath
The pandemic has created a middle-class unemployment crisis that will get ‘much worse’ as Christmas approaches, experts warn.
Analysis reveals the extent of the jobs bloodbath in commuter towns, resorts and manufacturing hubs.
The number on the dole has already tripled in the hardest-hit towns and cities.
In the ten worst-affected areas there are 138,000 on out-of-work benefits – 75,000 more than before the pandemic.
The analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) raises fears that even well-off communities will become job wastelands as they are hammered by the coronavirus recession.
It reveals the hardest hit areas include Slough, Luton and Peterborough as well as affluent seaside resorts such as Brighton.
Economists predict that a million jobs will be lost in the next nine weeks after the furlough scheme ends on Saturday.
Doug McWilliams, CEBR’s deputy chairman, said: ‘The middle class is likely to get hit much worse as we go on. A lot of management jobs have gone, a lot of professional jobs have gone, and some specialist ones. The middle classes have a jobs crisis – their pensions are squeezed and house prices will be lower.’
The pandemic has created a middle-class unemployment crisis that will get ‘much worse’ as Christmas approaches, experts warn
The gloomy figures are drawn from Office for National Statistics data showing the increase in the claimant count in the 12 months to September 10. This combines those claiming Universal Credit who are looking for work and those on the Job-Seekers’ Allowance.
The CEBR has pinpointed the ten hardest-hit cities and towns, which have suffered from the virus’s impact on sectors of the economy such as aviation, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism.
The analysis excludes London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool – which currently have 635,440 claiming out of work benefits, up from 250,985 a year ago – to focus on the economic devastation in towns and regional cities, which typically find it harder to recover from recessions.
Tough new coronavirus restrictions announced last week will hit several regions highlighted by the research.
In Slough, which is heavily reliant on Heathrow, the number looking for work has more than tripled in a year from 2.6 per cent of the working age population to 8.5 per cent, or from 2,510 to 8,100.
In Luton, Easyjet’s headquarters, the number has risen from 4,025 to 11,690. Tougher coronavirus rules announced last week will hit several regions highlighted.
The proportion of claimants in Blackpool in Lancashire has doubled to 11.7 per cent, or 9,940 people, suggesting it is now the number one unemployment hotspot in Britain
Local leaders in Blackpool, now subject to the harshest Tier Three restrictions, say the resort is facing ‘the equivalent of three winters in a row’.
Like Brighton the town has suffered from a sharp fall in visitors.
Other seaside communities facing a sharp rise in unemployment include Hastings in East Sussex, Southend-on-Sea in Essex, and Torbay in Devon.
Northampton is one of several manufacturing hubs to shed thousands of jobs, while the number out of work in Wolverhampton has risen from 9,645 to 17,280 after Jaguar Land Rover and aerospace giant Collins slashed jobs.
Rhe hardest hit areas include Slough (pictured), Luton and Peterborough as well as affluent seaside resorts such as Brighton
The number of people out of work in Wolverhampton has risen from 9,645 to 17,280 after carmaker Jaguar Land Rover and aerospace giant Collins slashed jobs.
Britain on brink of double-dip recession because Covid restrictions are ‘squeezing activity’, economists warn
‘Squeezing activity’: Economists predict a GDP crash this winter as the second wave bites and jobs are lost
Britain is on the brink of a double-dip recession because Covid restrictions are ‘squeezing activity’, economists warn.
They predict a GDP crash this winter as the second wave bites and jobs are lost.
George Buckley, from Nomura, said the UK would experience a ‘lopsided W-shaped recovery’ with a ‘second, smaller dip in GDP over the winter’.
Capital Economics said the economy was taking a worrying turn after purchasing managers’ index scores fell for two months even before restrictions ‘begin to bite’.
Paul Dales, its chief UK economist, said: ‘The trajectory is worrying and suggests Covid restrictions in September are squeezing activity. It’s not looking good.’
In Hull the claimant count has risen from 5.1 per cent to 9.7 per cent – meaning 16,305 people are now claiming out-of-work benefits in the city – and in Peterborough 9,800 people are on the dole, more than double the number before the pandemic.
There are also now more than 26,000 people claiming out of work benefits in manufacturing hubs Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton, meaning the proportion of people on the dole is now more than ten per cent.
Since March tens of thousands of jobs have disappeared in professional consultancy, aviation, events, the arts and travel.
Small independent high street businesses are having to shed staff as shoppers order online. Covid restrictions threaten to kill off bars, pubs and hotels, hitting thousands of small suppliers. Theatres, music venues and galleries have shed staff, while the National Trust has made 1,300 redundant.
Large retailers such as Boots, John Lewis and Topshop owner Arcadia have looked to make saving by axing head office roles.
Ongoing restrictions threaten to kill off bars, pubs and hotels, hitting students, those starting out in the world of work, and thousands of small businesses which supply hospitality firms with food and equipment.
The airline industry is being decimated by the collapse in international travel, putting pilots, flight attendants and airport staff out of work, as well as specialist workers at firms such as Rolls Royce.
The arts have also been decimated with theatres, music venues and galleries shedding staff, while even the National Trust has been forced to make 1,300 redundancies.
Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak expanded his winter jobs scheme. Before his announcement economists were predicting unemployment, currently 1.5million, or 4.5 per cent, would exceed 2.5million by Christmas.
Before the announcement economists were predicting more than a million job losses in just nine weeks.
This would take unemployment to over 2.5 million by Christmas up from its current level of 1.5 million, or 4.5 per cent.
But the furlough scheme is still supporting millions of jobs, and experts are predicting a ‘cliff edge’ in some industries when it ends on October 31.
Last night there were calls for targeted government support for the worst-affected areas.
Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South, said: ‘We’ve been left behind for 40 years and we’ve had successive lost generations so this is not new.
‘Middlesbrough is a town that has struggled profoundly with the decline of heavy industry and the virus has exacerbated that.
‘We need game-changing investment – we are extremely vulnerable at the best of times, and these are the worst of times.’
Paul Maynard, the Tory MP for Blackpool North, added: ‘Any economy which is seasonal and is now facing the equivalent of three winters in a row will see a significant uptake of universal credit. We need to stabilise the situation, focus on making Blackpool as safe as possible and entice visitors back.’
Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, said: ‘The Treasury must provide more effective support to prevent towns like Brighton being left behind for a generation.’
Wayne Strutton, the Conservative opposition leader on Slough Borough Council, said: ‘Slough is losing jobs across the board. It has a huge impact, and I fear young people in particular will struggle.’
Britain records 19,790 more Covid-19 cases and 151 deaths – more than DOUBLE last Sunday’s total of 67
By Ross Ibbetson for the MailOnline
Britain has recorded a further 151 Covid-19 deaths today – more than double last Sunday’s total.
Some 19,790 people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, marking a rise of just 16.5 per cent on the 16,982 cases reported last Sunday.
However, today’s daily death toll has skyrocketed by 125 per cent compared to the 67 deaths reported this day last week.
The 151 Covid-19 deaths across all settings – including hospitals, care homes and the wider community – reported today is the highest Sunday death toll since May 24.
Figures on Sunday are usually smaller due to a delay in processing over the weekend.
Wales reported 1,104 positive Covid-19 tests today along with five new deaths. Scotland reported 1,303 cases and one new death.
Northern Ireland has seen eight further Covid-19 deaths and 896 new cases.
It comes after a record 26,680 cases were reported on Wednesday, while the highest number of daily deaths last week was 241 on Tuesday.
There is usually under-reporting on weekends, however, so any decline in infections or deaths today compared to the last week must be viewed with caution.
It comes amid tightened restrictions across the United Kingdom, particularly in Wales which has imposed a 17-day full lockdown with people only allowed out of their homes for essential items and exercise.
In shocking scenes, plastic sheeting was draped over items deemed ‘non-essential’ by the Welsh Government, including books, children’s clothes and duvets.
The reports come amid another day of major Covid-19 news:
- Britain recorded a further 151 Covid-19 deaths – more than double last Sunday’s total of 67
- Some 19,790 people tested positive for coronavirus, marking a rise of just 16.5 per cent on the 16,982 cases reported last Sunday
- NHS workers are ‘set to get a vaccine in weeks’ as the Government accelerates timetable for a mass roll-out before Christmas – while ministers introduce new laws to bypass EU approval for jab;
- Coronavirus self-isolation could be slashed to seven days amid fears that Britons who come into contact with infected people are flouting the tough 14-day rules – as Tories call for testing tsar Dido Harding to quit;
- An extra ‘Tier Four’ level of Covid restrictions that would close restaurants and non-essential shops could be imposed for England if the infection rate does not drop;
- Wales is reviewing its ‘trolley police’ ban on shops selling non-essential goods amid huge backlash, with First Minister Mark Drakeford admitting ‘common sense’ is needed after a revolt at the draconian curbs;
- The government is under massive pressure to U-turn on its free school meals policy during the pandemic as Tory MPs threaten to vote with Labour;
- Thousands of pounds from the UK’s coronavirus bailout pot for the cultural sector is going to a music festival promoting ‘world control’ by China.
The number of new fatalities was at roughly 125 percent on the same day in the previous week according to the latest data
The number of new infections increased by around 17 percent today across the UK. It comes amid tightened restrictions across the United Kingdom
A member of the public passes the Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester, England, on Thursday
It comes amid tightened restrictions across the United Kingdom, particularly in Wales which has imposed a 17-day full lockdown with people only allowed out of their homes for essential items and exercise. Pictured: Shelves of childrens’ clothing covered in plastic sheeting in a Penarth Tesco
Barriers cordon off a clothing area in a Cardiff Bay ASDA store on Sunday. Supermarkets have been banned from selling non-essential items
Shelves of books were covered in plastic sheeting in a Tesco store in Penarth today due to a ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items in the country
In Northern Ireland a four-week tightening of restrictions, such as on household mixing, was introduced on Friday, while in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has outline five levels of coronavirus rules, similar to the English three-tiered system.
But hope was earlier delivered from across the Atlantic, as senior Donald Trump adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said that a ‘safe and effective’ vaccine could be ready by the end of next month.
It comes as an email sent by an NHS Trust chief revealed the health service has been told to have a staff vaccine scheme ready to go by early December.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Dr Fauci confirmed a claim from US President that a vaccine was nearly ready to go.
The United States has donated $1bn toward the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, securing 400million doses, as human trials of the vaccine started in the States last month.
The UK Government has pre-ordered 100million doses of the trial’s vaccine, should it be safe to use.
Dr Fauci told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December.
A sign reading ‘as part of the “firebreak” regulations, items deemed “non-essential” by the Welsh Government will not be available to purchase’ is seen on a shelf of lightbulbs
A sign instructing customers not to buy duvets is seen in a supermarket near Cardiff on Sunday
Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Dr Fauci said a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year, but most of the public would not have access to it until late 2021
Plans are being drawn up for frontline NHS staff to receive a coronavirus vaccine within weeks, as the Government moves to accelerate the timetable for a mass roll-out. An email sent by an NHS Trust chief to his staff, seen by The Mail on Sunday, reveals the Health Service is preparing for a national vaccination programme before Christmas. (Above, the memo, sent by Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire)
‘But the question is, once you have a safe and effective vaccine, or more than one, how can you get it to the people who need it as quickly as possible?
‘The amount of doses that will be available in December will not certainly be enough to vaccinate everybody, you’ll have to wait several months into 2021.’
Dr Fauci’s comments come after it was revealed that the Government has introduced new laws that would allow the UK to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31.
The move will boost optimism that a ‘game-changing’ vaccine will soon allow Boris Johnson to relax the social restrictions which have crippled the country since March.
A memo from Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire, suggested NHS staff would be receiving a vaccine before Christmas. In a memo to staff, he wrote: ‘Our Trust, alongside NHS organisations nationally, has been told to be prepared to start a Covid-19 staff vaccine programme in early December.
‘The latest intelligence states a coronavirus vaccine should be available this year with NHS staff prioritised prior to Christmas.’
He said healthcare workers will likely be prioritised first for any vaccine, as well as people considered at increased risk of complications.
Dr Fauci’s comments came after it was revealed that the Government has introduced new laws that would allow the UK to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31
Dr Fauci was asked for his thoughts after Donald Trump, speaking at a US presidential debate earlier this week, Mr Trump said a vaccine would be ready ‘by the end of the year’.
Dr Fauci said most Brits would not receive a vaccine until later in 2021.
He said: ‘That could start by the end of this year, the beginning of January, February, March of next year.
‘When you talk about vaccinating a substantial proportion of the population, so that you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, that very likely will not be in to the second or third quarter.’
Mr Burley added that the vaccine was ‘expected to be given in two doses, 28 days apart’ and urged his colleagues to have had their flu shot by the end of November so they can qualify for a Covid-19 jab.
Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Trust, told a recent hospital board meeting: ‘I’m hoping for a Covid-19 vaccine to be available to healthcare providers some time in December. It has not been confirmed yet but I’m hoping to be able to offer a Covid-19 vaccine to our staff.’
In other developments related to Covid:
- Elderly Covid patients were denied intensive care during the height of the pandemic. It’s been revealed a triage tool drawn up at the request of England’s chief medical officer stopped over 80s from receiving potentially life-saving treatment in a bid to try and stop the NHS from being overrun;
- Welsh ministers have admitted a ban on shops selling non-essential items is not working, while threatening to impose another ‘firebreak’ lockdown after Christmas;
- Professor Neil Ferguson, the controversial academic whose modelling heavily influenced the national lockdown in March, was accused of scaremongering after saying that people ‘will catch Covid-19 and die’ if families are allowed to mix on Christmas Day;
- As 1.4 million people across South Yorkshire were plunged into the highest Tier 3 restrictions, another 151 deaths and 16,982 new cases were announced Sunday;
- Hotel tycoon Sir Rocco Forte called for Matt Hancock to be sacked for his ‘shambolic’ handling of the crisis as a poll found 49 per cent of people think the Health Secretary breached a drinks curfew in a Commons bar, compared with just nine per cent who thought he did not;
- Rishi Sunak has asked Treasury officials to find ways of illustrating the crippling financial toll of the pandemic and is pushing to publish it alongside the statistics for cases and deaths;
- Banks faced fury as it emerged Barclays has set aside £745 million for bonuses, more than last year, and Lloyds will let most of its 65,000 employees work from home until at least next spring;
- Psychologists said Covid-19 may cause birth rates to fall, people to stay single for longer and for women to become more promiscuous;
- The global death toll exceeded 1,147,000, while police fought with young protesters angry at restrictions in the Italian city of Naples and the Polish president Andrzej Duda revealed that he had tested positive for the virus.
Clinical staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while caring for a patient in the Intensive Care unit (ICU) on May 5 at the Royal Papworth Hospital, operated by the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Cambridge
Despite facing continued criticism, Mr Hancock has pushed through new laws to strip the European Medicines Agency of the power to approve the vaccine if it is ready before the end of December. Instead, British watchdogs will be able to fast-track its production.
A health official said: ‘Although we still think it most likely that the vaccine will be ready early next year, Matt wants the freedom to operate if it all moves more quickly.’
The official added that under changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which took effect on October 16, the UK was ‘no longer beholden to the EU process if a vaccine is developed before 2021 and has strong evidence proving it is safe, high quality and effective’.
They added: ‘Should a vaccine be available before the end of the year, we have put in place robust measures to allow the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to authorise the vaccine for UK patients. This will only happen if there is a strong public health justification and the EU process is taking too long.’
The regulator will have autonomy to approve vaccines for the UK from 2021 in any case.
A senior Government source said: ‘We have made sure that if a vaccine is proven safe and effective we won’t be held back from deploying it by the need for approval from Brussels.’
NHS staff are most likely to receive the vaccine being developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which is in the final stages of trials.
The Government has already bought 100 million doses of the drug, which is administered in two doses. Under Government plans, frontline NHS staff and care home workers will be vaccinated first, followed by those aged over 80.
Human trials of the Oxford vaccine have been under way since April, involving about 20,000 volunteers worldwide. Scientists have reported a ‘robust immune response’ and no serious side-effects.
Last night, David Eltringham, managing director at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, said: ‘We don’t have a definite date for delivery of the vaccine, but we are making ready to deploy the vaccine from the beginning of December.’
‘I worried over putting food on the table’
Dave Day was hit by redundancy in July and is now worried he will struggle to pay his mortgage and ‘keep food on the table’.
The 51-year-old had worked at Brighton charity Impact Initiative for more than four years in outreach, caring for families and elderly people with dementia.
Mr Day, who has a 12-year-old son, was furloughed in March and hoped to return to work after the pandemic. But in July he was told his £20,000 a year job was no longer sustainable and he was made redundant.
Dave Day was hit by redundancy in July and is now worried he will struggle to pay his mortgage and ‘keep food on the table’
Mr Day, from Brighton, said: ‘It came as a blow as I really didn’t know how we were going to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Like everyone else we had to tighten our belts massively. We had to cut out things we loved… and we had to take advantage of school meal vouchers.’
After being contacted by families still desperate for the personal care he offered while at the charity, Mr Day went freelance.
He said people were ‘still desperate for help’ and added that ‘it’s going to take a long time for some charities to recover from this’.
Mother-of-two Hayley Morton has been struggling to make ends meet after being made redundant from her job after 15 years.
Miss Morton, 33, was a customs expert for a company supplying in-flight entertainment, called Panasonic Aviation, which is based at Heathrow airport.
Mother-of-two Hayley Morton has been struggling to make ends meet after being made redundant from her job after 15 years
She was not on furlough during lockdown, and spent much of her time working in the office. She turned down voluntary redundancy, but bosses at her firm axed her job a week later.
Miss Morton, a single parent from Slough, said she is now worried about how she will provide for her two sons, who are seven and ten. She said: ‘It’s hard not to worry, it’s going to take six weeks at least until I receive any support from the Government. In the meantime, I have to afford my rent and food and everything for my boys.’
Thea McCarthy-Curless was left devastated after losing her dream job at a luxury fashion events company.
The 27-year-old had helped put on events for designers including Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Bulgari, but was made redundant at the start of October.
Thea McCarthy-Curless was left devastated after losing her dream job at a luxury fashion events company
She said: ‘Everybody in my industry is suffering so much through the pandemic. I’m trying very hard to be positive but it is tough.
‘It wasn’t like it was just any old job to me, it was my whole career.
‘My industry has been hit worst by this crisis as nobody has any clue when we’ll next be able to put on events at the same scale we had been doing previously.’
Miss McCarthy had been employed by Soho production agency My Beautiful City, which produces events for some of the biggest names in fashion.
Miss McCarthy, from Haggerston, east London, will now focus on freelance work. She said: ‘I’m getting my last pay check next month and I know I will have to savour that.’
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Get the soapbox… it’s a big vote for cliches in this lame political thriller
As Oscar Wilde nearly said, to lose one character in a violent car accident is unfortunate. To do so twice in a single episode looks like careless driving.
Sleazy Cabinet minister Peter Laurence, played by Hugh Laurie in Roadkill (BBC1), was heading home in his vintage Mercedes to confront his wife about his infidelity, when he ploughed into a deer.
Peter was on his mobile at the time, which apparently meant he couldn’t look at the road.
Sleazy Cabinet minister Peter Laurence, played by Hugh Laurie in Roadkill (BBC1), was heading home in his vintage Mercedes to confront his wife about his infidelity, when he ploughed into a deer
Before cellphones, lazy dramatists had their characters fiddle with the cassette player or the cigarette lighter when they wanted to engineer a crash. The phone lends a modern twist to an old cliche.
When he glanced up, there was a deer, staring at him like . . . well, since we’re doing cliches, like a deer in the headlights.
The writer of Roadkill, Sir David Hare, must be very pleased with his title because just five minutes earlier he wiped out maverick journalist Charmian Pepper (Sarah Greene) by mowing her down with a speeding van on a backstreet in Washington DC. Did Peter engineer her murder?
Fortunately for the plot, moments before her demise, Charmian spilled all her secrets to a stock character, the bloke she barely notices even though he is besotted with her. His name, as if it matters, is Luke.
Now Luke (Danny Ashok) can plunge into an obsessive hunt for The Truth and sacrifice himself for Charmian’s memory. At least, if he has watched House Of Cards and countless other political thrillers, he will know this is what is expected of him.
Roadkill is a disappointment. In its second week, lumpen dialogue squandered Laurie’s charismatic performance as a populist MP.
‘You can get away with anything if you just brazen it out,’ Peter announced, stating the obvious so baldly, even Donald Trump might think the line lacked subtlety.
His confrontation with prime minister Helen McCrory, which should have been a highlight, turned into an excruciating undergraduate debate about prison reform.
The PM is a flog-em-and-hang-em hardliner, while Peter has improbably discovered his inner Malcolm Muggeridge since learning that the daughter he has never met is in prison.
As they droned on, the camera tilted. Every shot of the PM leaned to the right. Every shot of Peter leaned to the left. It’s a visual metaphor — geddit?
The Danish police drama DNA (BBC4) was just as big a letdown. It stars half the cast from Denmark’s outstanding crime serial The Killing but lacks all the layered cleverness of its predecessor.
Anders Berthelsen is Rolf, a detective so dedicated that, when he couldn’t find a babysitter for his six-month-old daughter, he took her with him on a case.
The Danish police drama DNA (BBC4) was just as big a letdown. It stars half the cast from Denmark’s outstanding crime serial The Killing but lacks all the layered cleverness of its predecessor
This case involved a ferry crossing to Poland in a storm. Naturally, when seasick Rolf nipped into a bathroom to be ill, he left the baby in her pushchair on deck — in a howling gale and lashing rain.
As he explained to his wife later, it was only for a couple of minutes. Why would he bother bringing her inside?
To his astonishment, when he emerged, the pushchair had been blown down a flight of steps and the baby was gone.
Mrs Rolf says their child must have been washed overboard and not to worry, but Rolf feels quite guilty about it. And he has always suspected she was kidnapped.
I prefer to believe that a snatch squad of seagoing social workers grabbed the baby for her own safety. It’s no more unlikely than anything else. Anyway, I have no intention of watching the rest to find out.
Blow-out of the weekend: Peckish after days of chopping logs, the competitors on The Bridge (C4) voted to skip work and have a feast instead. Heaps of chicken, cake and champers arrived. This endurance test looks more like a holiday camp.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Allies say Boris Johnson ‘WILL u-turn and provide more cash to feed poor children’
Allies of the Prime Minister say he will u-turn and provide more funding to feed poor children amid a backlash of Tory MPs threatening to join forces with Labour.
Boris Johnson has been battling with the prospect of a major revolt over the refusal to extend free school meals over the holidays – as a petition by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford nears 900,000 signatures.
Pressure was heaped on Mr Johnson this morning as Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that he will force another Commons vote on the issue soon.
And senior Conservatives made clear they could line up behind the motion this time, with some saying they ‘regretted’ supporting the government in a decision last week.
Meanwhile, children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield has delivered an excoriating condemnation of the spat, saying it was like ‘something out of Oliver Twist’.
Former ministers are leading a Conservative revolt on free school meals as they warned the PM he must think up ‘something better’ or they would vote against his Government.
As many as 100 Tory MPs were sharing angry messages over the Government’s handling of the campaign, describing it as ‘shockingly inept’, a ‘political disaster,’ and ‘hopeless communication’, The Times reported.
Figures at Downing Street now say that work is being done on more support for eligible pupils outside of school term time.
The PM is facing the prospect of a major Tory revolt unless he thinks again on the refusal to extend free school meals over the holidays
Senior Tory MPs Bernard Jenkin (left) and Tobias Ellwood (right) are among those criticising the government’s policy
It comes as a petition by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford (pictured with his mother Melanie while helping at a food bank in Greater Manchester) has reached more than 800,000 signatures
Pressure was heaped on Mr Johnson this morning as Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that he will force another Commons vote on the issue soon
And more than 2,000 paediatricians had signed an open letter to Mr Johnson urging a rethink.
As Tory angst builds, Liaison Committee chair Sir Bernard Jenkin warned that the Government has ‘misunderstood’ the mood of the country over free school meals.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘I think we have to admit that we have misunderstood the mood of the country here.
‘The public want to see the Government taking a national lead on this. I think the Government will probably have to think again on that, particularly if there’s going to be more votes in the House of Commons.
The open letter by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to Boris Johnson in full
As paediatricians we are shocked by the refusal of the UK Government to extend the provision of free school meals in England to children from low-income backgrounds during the school holidays.
Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics.
Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat.
Every day, we see the impact of hunger and malnutrition in our work as paediatricians.
It is not unusual for us to care for children who don’t have enough to eat or who don’t have access to a substantial meal outside of what is provided in school.
Good nutrition is at the heart of health, wellbeing and development for children and young people.
Without it, children’s health outcomes worsen, and with that, so do their life chances
More than 4 million children in the UK live in poverty and around one third of those are reliant on free school meals.
The pandemic has entrenched and exacerbated this reality; families who were previously managing are now struggling to make ends meet because of the impact of COVID-19.
It is not good enough to send them into the holiday period hoping for the best, while knowing that many will simply go hungry.
Food vouchers will not solve this problem, but they offer a short-term remedy.
We call on the UK Government to match the pledges of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, to continue to provide children from low-income backgrounds with free meals over the coming weeks and to then extend this at least until the Easter school holiday, as they have done in Wales and Scotland.
We pay tribute to Marcus Rashford and his powerful campaigning. His advocacy for children and young people has been a source of inspiration in difficult times.
We are proud to stand with him on this issue.
‘When you have got the chairman of the Education Select Committee (Robert Halfon) not supporting the Government on this – and he’s a Conservative – I think that the Government has to listen to the Conservative Party.’
Asked how he would vote in any further Commons divisions, Sir Bernard said: ‘I shall wait to see what the Government says and how they respond to the situation.’
Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood was asked on Times Radio if he regretted voting with the government last week.
‘I suppose, yes, if I’m honest about it,’ he said.
‘I regret the way the debate came about because one thing that is happening here is we’re losing the national resolve if you like.
‘Politicians and the politics of this whole Covid-19 I’m afraid is not going in the right direction.
‘The more parties work together and support a collective direction of government the easier it is to manage an enduring emergency.’
Meanwhile, Ms Longfield said she had been ‘horrified and really disappointed’ by the recent debates over the extension of free school meal vouchers for vulnerable children.
‘We’re a wealthy country, it’s 2020,’ she told Sky News.
‘To have a debate about whether we should make sure that hungry and vulnerable children have enough to eat is something that is strikingly similar to something we’d expect to see in chapters of Oliver Twist – a novel published in the 19th century.
‘Let’s stop the divisive and distracting conversation, and let’s start focusing.’
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended the Government’s stance.
He said ministers had increased Universal Credit and were providing £63million to local authorities to help people in their communities at a time of hardship.
‘I know this is a very emotive issue. It is a sensitive issue. It is something that affects families in my constituency as well as round the country. I think the position we have taken is the right position,’ he told Sky News.
‘What we are looking to do is ensure that we deal with child poverty at the core, putting the structure in place that means even in school holidays children can get access to the food that they need.’
In the letter organised by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the doctors say they are ‘shocked’ by the government’s refusal to extend the scheme to children from low-income backgrounds in England during upcoming school holidays.
The college has called for the government to match pledges made by authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – who have agreed to extend the schemes across the Christmas, February and Easter breaks.
Speaking about the letter, Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH, said: ‘I’ve rarely seen such anger among our members.
‘We care for children who don’t have enough to eat. We see far too many of them.
‘It is heartbreaking that it has become a normal part of our jobs and hunger is all too common for millions of families in the UK.
‘There is an opportunity to put this right. It is pointless to talk about levelling up the country, an ambition which we support, while refusing to offer temporary relief to children and families.’
The college says there are four million children living in the UK in poverty with the pandemic ‘entrenching this reality’.
Bosses say children ‘desperately need government support’ and that, while food vouchers will not solve the problem of child poverty, they do offer a short-term remedy for children that don’t have enough to eat.
Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement at the RCPCH said: ‘We’re a rich country. This isn’t about money, it’s about making sure people have food to eat, and it’s about doing the right thing for children who need a hand up.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended the Government’s stance despite rising criticism from all sides
Children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield (left) said the spat was like ‘something out of Oliver Twist’. Russell Viner, pictured right, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which has slammed the government for refusing to extend free school meals over the holidays
‘We shouldn’t have to fight for food vouchers when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.’
It comes as a petition by Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, calling for an end to child food poverty, this morning nears 800,000 signatures.
The striker was also mentioned in the open letter by RCPCH, who praised his campaign and said they were ‘proud to stand with him’ on this issue.
Two Tory MPs were criticised for controversial remarks about the Manchester United player’s call for the meals to be funded over the school holidays until Easter 2021, with one suggesting that the money went to ‘crack dens and brothels’.
The other implied hospitality firms which stepped in to offer free food did not need Government help.
It came as No 10 moved quickly to stress that an aide to Chancellor Rishi Sunak who promised a ‘detailed statement’ on the issue was speaking in a personal capacity and not signalling a U-turn.
A Deltapoll survey for the Mail on Sunday found 71 per cent of voters support Rashford’s campaign, with 18 per cent opposed.
The 22-year-old, who was made an MBE for his successful campaign for free meals to be issued during the national lockdown, launched his new drive after Parliament rejected proposals to provide the free meals for vulnerable children.
The striker said that he was ‘truly overwhelmed’ by the fact that his online petition has garnered more than 700,000 signatures, and praised local communities for providing half-term, stop-gap measures.
Downing Street yesterday insisted it would not back down on calls made by the Manchester United player Marcus Rashford for school meals to be funded over the school holiday until Easter 2021
Parliamentary adviser to Mr Sunak, Tory MP James Cartlidge, defended the Government’s position on Twitter by saying the criticism was ‘wholly disproportionate… given we have the same reasonable position Labour had in every year of govt… that schools aren’t responsible for feeding pupils outside term time’.
However, he added: ‘But accept more to it than that and will make detailed statement in due course’.
No 10 later clarified the MP was ‘speaking in a personal capacity’.
Mansfield MP Ben Bradley triggered a storm by replying to a tweet in which another user described the free school meals programme as ‘£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel’, by saying: ‘That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did…’
After he was accused of stigmatising working-class families, he said his remarks had been ‘taken out of context’, and claimed he meant giving children who live in difficult situations an ‘unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever’ wasn’t ‘helpful’.
And in a now-deleted post on Facebook, North Devon MP Selaine Saxby 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’.
Conservative MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley triggered a storm by replying to a tweet about the free school meals campaign
Meanwhile North Devon MP Selaine Saxby was also criticised for controversial remarks about the footballer’s calls
Ms Saxby also claimed she had been taken ‘out of context’.
Her controversial comments came just days after the MP was barred from a Devon pub because locals were angered by her voting against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have helped to protect farmers against being bankrupted by cheap, substandard food imports as part of post-Brexit trade deals.
Responding to the offers of free food from tea rooms, churches, farms and takeaways, Rashford said: ‘Even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell.
‘I couldn’t be more proud to call myself British tonight.’
McDonald’s has also offered support to families, announcing a partnership with food waste charity Fare Share UK to provide one million meals for families in need.
Tory MP Robert Halfon, who voted in support of extending free school meal provision, said it should be a ‘no brainer’ for the PM to meet Rashford to come up with a free meals strategy.
Downing Street said: ‘We are committed to making sure the most vulnerable in our society are protected and we’ve put in place a strong package of support to ensure children and their families do not go hungry during this pandemic.
‘The Prime Minister has said free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids as they need to do.’
More than 700,000 people sign a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals
By Raven Saunt
More than 740,000 people have already signed a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals.
Earlier this week, a motion to offer food aid to vulnerable families over school holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated in the House of Commons by 322 votes to 261.
But the defeat sparked fierce backlash with Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, who championed the campaign, calling on people to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children.
The latest petition, which was launched on 38 Degrees, said: ‘MPs have voted against extending free school meals into the holidays for the poorest children in the UK, in the middle of a pandemic.
‘They should under no circumstances benefit from free or subsidised meals out of public funds themselves.’
More than 740,000 people have already signed a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals (parliamentary canteen pictured)
The petition has nearly reached its target of 800,000 signatures (figures from Sunday)
MPs are currently allowed to eat and drink alcohol in parliamentary restaurants and bars which, while not directly subsidised, run at a loss. Pictured: Members’ Dining Room menu in September 2019
MPs are currently allowed to eat and drink alcohol in parliamentary restaurants and bars which, while not directly subsidised, run at a loss.
This means that public money is effectively spent subsidising the overall catering operation.
The petition has so far received more than 740,000 signatures out of its 800,000 target.
Portia Lawrie, who started the petition, said: ‘I only started this petition because I was so angry that some MPs had rejected the chance in parliament, and Marcus Rashford’s campaign, to extend free school meals into the school holiday.
‘I wanted to point out the clear hypocrisy between that and the food and drink the public subsidise for MP’s whilst denying support to those most in need of it.’
‘I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching unfold as hundreds of thousands of people threw their support behind it in less than 24 hours.
‘It’s simply unfair that the government is refusing to use OUR money for one of the most basic responsibilities of a compassionate society – feeding hungry children. And the level of support this petition is getting shows clearly the level of hurt caused by those who voted against it.’
The link to the petition has since been shared by a range of famous faces including actors Angela Griffin and Tamzin Outhwaite.
The link to the petition has since been shared by a range of famous faces including actors Angela Griffin and Tamzin Outhwaite
It comes after Rashford tonight tweeted to ask people to ‘rise above’ disappointment, describing abuse of MPs and their families in recent days as ‘unacceptable’ and unnecessary’.
He wrote: ‘I want to take a quick second to acknowledge that a number of MP’s, and their families, have received unacceptable abuse over the last couple of days, especially on Twitter.
‘Believe me, as a Premier League player, I know all too well what that feels like, and it’s unnecessary. We are all bigger than that.’
He said he cannot and does not condone personal attacks on females in particular.
Calling for ‘collaboration’ and ‘togetherness’, he added: ‘Disappointment is a natural reaction, but we must rise above it.’
Earlier this week the athlete told BBC Newsnight that he ‘couldn’t be more proud to call myself British’ after his campaign to provide free meals to children this Christmas sparked an outpouring of support on social media.
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, who championed the campaign, called on people to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children
The Manchester United footballer thanked hundreds of cafes, pubs and restaurants which came forward to offer half-term food for vulnerable children following the vote.
In a statement released to the flagship programme, the ace also responded to criticism of his decision to start the campaign, saying those who wanted to talk about ‘celebrities’ and ‘superstars’ would find them in his Twitter feed.
Dozens of hospitality businesses have shown they ‘stand with Rashford, not the 322’ MPs who rejected the motion, by supporting families during the school holidays.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, the England star said: ‘Growing up we didn’t have a lot, but we always had the safety net of the community. That community was my family.
‘When we stumbled, we were caught with open arms. Even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell.
Hospitality giants, councils and small firms rally to help vulnerable children
Local businesses and organisations:
- The Greystones – Sheffield
- Kingfisher Fish and Chips – Hull
- The Courtyard – Birmingham
- Farm Fresh – Nottingham
- Rayrayz – Liverpool
- Birchwood Autumn – West Lancashire
- EJF Buffets and Banquets – Solihull
- St James Church – Rawstenall
- The Loft Cafe Bar – Bingley
- The Gilt Rooms – Essex
- Oliver’s – Surrey
- Delphine Fish and Chips – Sheffield
- Pearson’s Bar – Hull
- Toast 2 roast – St Helens
- The Panda Club – Liverpool
- Manjaros – Middlesbrough
- Mumtaz – Leeds
- Barry’s Tearoom – Cumbria
- The Rhubarb Shed Cafe – Sheffield
- The Vale Cafe – Rothbury
- Warrens Fruit and Veg – Watford
- Jenny’s Brackley – Brackley
- The Fun House – Whitehaven
- Jo’s Place – Wilmslow
- Bowring Park Cafe – Shropshire
- Greenfields Farm – Telford
- Minikin Art Cafe – Manchester
- Babuls – Teesdale
- The Sandwich Shop – Rotherham
- Khandoker – Didsbury
- The Hawthorne – Warrington
- The Watering Can – Liverpool
- The Pudding Pantry – Nottingham
- Patna – Leek
- Astoria Bar – Urmston
- Belluno – Devon
- Aubergine Cafe – Wirral
- The Crown Inn – Bristol
- The Courtyard – Wigan
- The Handsworth – Sheffield
- Bakers – Bolton
- Lucid Games/Tranmere Rovers – Wirral
- Royal and Derngate – Northampton
- The VIllage Fish Bar – Bamber Bridge
- Bik Smoke Brew Co – Surbiton, Kingston, Hammersmith, Weybridge, Chichester, Wokingham
- Pavilion Street Kitchen – Cornwall
- Count House Cafe – Cornwall
- The Art House – Eastbourne
- Market Hill Fisheries – Winterton
- Kingfisher Fish and Chips – Hull
- The Poachers – County Durham
- Cafe Baraka – Cleethorpes
- Jordan’s Cafe – Worthing
- Duke’s Head – Great Yarmouth
- Weoley Castle – Birmingham
- Portofino Ristorante – Harrogate
- Lillies Coffee Shop – Rotherham
- Kimble’s – Billingham
- No Bones – Hastings
- Tintinhull Village Hall and Coffee Shop – Yeovil
Councils and regional authorities:
- Greater Manchester City Region
- Telford and Wrekin
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Cheltenham Borough Council
- Hammersmith and Fulham
- Portsmouth City Council
- North Tyneside
- St Helens Borough
- Manchester City Council
- Birmingham City Council
- Sheffield City Council
- Knowsley Council
- Birmingham City Council
- North Tyneside Council
- St Helens Borough Council
- Hackney Council
- Portsmouth Council
- Shropshire Council
- City of Wolverhampton Council
‘I couldn’t be more proud to call myself British tonight. I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
‘You want to talk about ‘celebrities’ and ‘superstars’, look no further than my Twitter feed and that’s exactly what you’ll find.’
Some business giants are involved in the campaign, with McDonald’s set to deliver a million meals for children in the next few weeks.
Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson backed a campaign to provide free meals to vulnerable children, seeing it pass £35,000.
Ms Lawson tweeted: ‘It shouldn’t have to be this way, but it is more important to feed a hungry child than argue about how it’s done.
‘Or rather, donate if you can and then do what’s necessary to stop those who make children going hungry policy.’
Councils including Redbridge Borough Council, Southwark Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Liverpool City Council also said they would help out.
And smaller firms such as Aubergine Cafe in the Wirral, which is managed by Andrew Mahon and his wife May, have launched their own rescue missions for children.
Announcing plans for food vouchers via the Co-op, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham tweeted: ‘Was good to tell @MarcusRashford that we, his home city-region, aim to be the first in the country to achieve his vision.’
After unveiling a similar scheme in his city, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson tweeted: ‘Families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. No child should have to go hungry and in Liverpool we won’t let them. Thanks for your hard work and campaigning @MarcusRashford.’
A host of celebrities also offered their support to the England star, with journalist Caitlin Moran tweeting: ‘Marcus Rashford’s timeline swells your heart – people across the country doing something about feeding kids at Christmas.’
Musician Tim Burgess, a fellow Mancunian, tweeted: ‘Wow, @MarcusRashford is a true hero of our times. So many MPs should feel shame over the fact that a footballer is helping the needy, more than they are.’
Support also came from across the football world, with ex-England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker posting: ‘Well played @MarcusRashford. Check his timeline. Extraordinary from a remarkable young man.’
A top regional Conservative politician has since waded in to the furore, blasting the Government’s ‘last-minute’ decision-making.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the Government should make ‘a clear decision’ on whether it would or would not fund free school meals over holidays ‘well in advance’.
Asked if the Government should have to fund half-term meals, he said: ‘I think – at the last minute – you probably do have to fund it, is the answer to that.’
He added: ‘It should not be a last-minute thing, this should be planned for, there should be a national approach on this.’
He said the lack of planning meant there was now an ‘indiscriminate arrangement’ across the country as to whether free school meals would be provided over the break.
McDonald’s funding will enable charity FareShare to redistribute food to families who need it most in the coming weeks.
UK and Ireland CEO Paul Pomroy said: ‘As a business we are committed to supporting and serving the communities in which we operate.
‘In these challenging times, we know it’s more important than ever to support those most in need.
‘When we temporarily closed our restaurants in March, our people, franchisees and suppliers rallied to provide surplus food and support to food banks and charities.
‘We were pleased that we were able to donate surplus food through FareShare and other organisations earlier this year, and we admire the fantastic work that FareShare continues to do to support families facing very tough situations.
‘I am pleased to support the distribution of one million meals to the families most in need this Autumn, and I wish to thank and congratulate FareShare for everything they’re doing.’
FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell added: ‘McDonalds is showing real leadership in supporting the most vulnerable in society to get access to healthy food at this critical time.
‘The funding will enable the equivalent of 1 million meals to be redistributed to our charity network very swiftly, and we are very grateful for their urgent support.’
STEPHEN GLOVER: Do the right thing on free school meals… and see off Labour
Comment by Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail
Are the Tories again the ‘nasty party’, as critics of the Government’s refusal to extend provision for free school lunches over this week’s half-term and the Christmas holidays contend?
Or is No 10 being perfectly reasonable, having provided extra welfare giveaways during the pandemic of some £9billion?
Are the Tories being wrongly depicted as mean-minded by a devious Labour Party, which said yesterday that it intends to force a second vote on the issue this week?
The Government’s position is that it offered free school meals for around 1.3million children in England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements – during the summer holidays.
That was an exceptional concession after a spirited campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford.
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has provided children with free meals for the last two years
Now the Government is reverting to the status quo, while pouring extra money into the welfare system and giving local councils an extra £63million to help with food shortages.
Moreover, Tory MPs are surely right to stress that it should be the responsibility even of poor parents to feed their children wherever possible, and this is not the proper business of the State.
The Government can’t go on providing free school meals outside term-time for ever.
These are respectable arguments. There’s absolutely no evidence that No 10 is being beastly – far from it. Those attempting to paint it in such terms are playing party politics.
But I do think the Government has got this wrong, and I won’t be surprised if in a day or two it again changes its mind, and announces that there will be free school meals for needy children during the Christmas holidays.
The Government’s mistake has been to underestimate the extremely damaging effects which Covid-19 and accompanying restrictions have had on a significant minority of families.
Through no fault of their own, millions of hard-working people have found themselves furloughed (which entails surviving on a reduced income) or out of work.
The number of unemployed is certain to rise over the coming months. There will be greater hardship.
These people are the casualties of exceptional circumstances, of a once-in-a-generation scourge that has turned their lives upside down. Some of them may be unable to provide for their children as they would like.
The Government’s response is that improved universal credit and handouts from councils should, in fact, be effective in ensuring that hungry stomachs are filled. Well, maybe.
The trouble is that such payments can take time, and some people always fall through the cracks in any welfare system.
The beauty of free school lunches is that they go directly to the right children. A system already exists which ensures that those in need immediately get what they require – a decent meal.
Of course, it is heartening that many local businesses are undertaking to supply children with food during half-term. But one wonders whether such arrangements can ever be as comprehensive as those overseen by the authorities. I very much doubt it.
Footballer Marcus Rashford, who is calling on the Government to fund school meals until Easter 2021, visiting FareShare in Greater Manchester
Why is No 10 holding out against retaining its scheme? I suppose it is because it doesn’t think government should take over parental duty for feeding children for a protracted period of time. Where will it stop?
It’s a fair point. The answer is that this is a national emergency, and so it is reasonable for the Government to take on responsibilities for as long as the emergency lasts – which may be until next spring – in order to offer vital protection to children, who are entirely innocent victims.
The irony, of course, is that the sums involved in maintaining the scheme are minute compared with the tens of billions of pounds already shelled out by the Government. Keeping it going until March 2021, as Labour demands, would probably cost around £100million.
So despite having been creative and far from tight-fisted in keeping the economy afloat since March, No 10 is being berated for its supposedly hard-hearted refusal to provide free school meals for a few more months. It looks like a political own goal.
Which Labour is successfully exploiting. Tory MP Ben Bradley perhaps unwisely tweeted of his home town Mansfield: ‘One kid lives in a crack den, another in a brothel. These are the kids that most need our help, extending free school meals doesn’t reach these kids.’
This was reasonable, if somewhat irrelevant. Yet it was deftly taken out of context by some on the Left. According to deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, ‘this stigmatisation of working-class families’ was ‘disgraceful and disgusting’. What tripe.
Nonetheless, Labour is winning the propaganda war, and is succeeding in making the Tories appear mean-spirited.
Rashford visiting FareShare, a charity fighting hunger and food waste, with his mother
In fact, they are mainly guilty of a lack of imagination after successive economic hand-outs which, because all of it is borrowed money that must be paid back, have arguably been too munificent.
A growing number of Conservative MPs are expressing disquiet. When senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin – no softie, he – admits that the Government has ‘misunderstood the mood of the country’ on free school meals, it really is time to put up the white flag.
Will Boris Johnson do so? He will be reluctant to provoke the inevitable catcalls from those who will claim he has executed an ungainly U-turn for the umpteenth time. But the jeering will soon pass.
Much better to do the right thing, which is to help vulnerable children directly for as long as this national emergency persists, and see off Labour’s false though persuasive accusations of heartlessness.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
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