A cabinet minister has rebuffed Marcus Rashford over his free school meals campaign, after criticising one of his claims about poverty.
Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, said the footballer was wrong to say poor parents could be left without water, tweeting: “Water cannot be disconnected though.”
The Manchester United star hit back immediately, tweeting: “I’m concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second and make a difference #maketheuturn”
The clash came as other senior Conservatives joined a growing revolt to force Boris Johnson to provide free meal vouchers over the summer, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish leader, and George Freeman, a former minister, echoed Robert Halfon, the chair of the Commons education committee, who called Mr Rashford “a hero”.
Rashford has rejected the footballer’s passionate pleas to pay for meal vouchers on the grounds that £63m is being handed to local councils in England to help the poor.
But that £63m is little more than half of the estimated £110m cost of providing free school meals – as happened at Easter and in May.
And, warned Mr Halfon, speaking on BBC Breakfast, “The problem with these kinds of programmes is its very bureaucratic.
“People have to apply to the council, whereas the free school meal programme is very simple, families understand it and it goes to those who need it most.”
Food campaigners are pointing out that 700 holiday clubs that provided free food to tens of thousands of poor families last summer are unlikely to be running this year