LONDON: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and three fellow ruling Conservative Party members of Parliament from northern England have been “barred for life” by a local pub and restaurant in their constituency region after they voted against free school meals for children during the holidays.
The Mill pub and its connected Il Mulino restaurant at Stokesley in North Yorkshire, which falls within Sunak’s constituency of Richmond (Yorks), took to social media soon after a vote in the House of Commons earlier this week on extending the government’s temporary free meals for schoolchildren as part of a campaign led by England team footballer Marcus Rashford.
“The government voted against extending free school meals. This is disgusting,” Alex Cook, the owner of the eatery, posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“What’s worse Matt Vickers MP, Simon Clarke MP & Jacob Young MP, Rishi Sunak all voted against the scheme. DISGUSTING! All 4 are now barred from The Mill & Il Mulino for life. I don’t want their business,” he said.
His angry post, which has been shared over thousand times and signed off as “Team Mill”, begins by saying that while he does not usually “do politics”, the vote against free meals for children in need had forced him to.
“I have never known a government which is consistently the wrong end of every argument. Forget the poor handling of Covid for a minute and concentrate on what happened yesterday [Wednesday],” he said, in reference to the Commons vote which the government won by 61 votes.
The pub, meanwhile, has announced that it will deliver 100 freshly cooked healthy meals to three separate food banks in the Middlesbrough area next week to try and make up for the government decision.
“Shame on our government, this is so wrong,” concludes Cook.
The issue of an extension of free school meals through the holiday period for struggling families was brought in earlier this year temporarily after a Rashford-led successful campaign for the summer holidays.
However, a further extension to it was defeated 322 votes to 261 in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The Opposition Labour Party failed to gather enough votes from within the government Tory benches for an extension to the scheme, which would have seen free school meals being provided to children from lower-income households during the Christmas and Easter school holidays into early next year.
One Tory MP, Caroline Ansell, resigned as a parliamentary private secretary to the environment secretary, saying she “could not in all conscience ignore” her belief that the proposed policy would have benefitted families struggling during the pandemic.
The government’s stand has been that it has a universal benefits system and other support in place for struggling families and therefore did not see the need to further extend the scheme.
However, several local authorities and businesses up and down the country, such as The Mill pub, have rallied around with offers of free meals and support for what is a school half-term holiday period in England this month.