The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of Britain’s businesses and the jobs dependent on them. Thriving shopping malls, like Romford’s, are in meltdown, faced by a pandemic and on-line shopping. Tens of thousands of jobs are now unviable. The social and economic question is this: is this a new world or a temporary blip? In this cauldron, children are collateral damage. Andrew and the government’s problem is clear: should children go hungry because fighting the pandemic means work disappears? On 21st October the answer was ‘Yes’. Andrew didn’t speak in the debate but his definitive statement was his vote.
Andrew is said to be a loyal Conservative MP and always votes with his party and so ‘held his nose’ and voted as instructed. But Andrew doesn’t always vote with the party. In the Public Health debate, 13th October, 2020, Andrew voted against his party because he disapproved of the economic measures embedded in the government’s proposals. Andrew carefully chooses how he votes. Throughout the latter stages of the Brexit EU negotiations, he rebelled against Theresa May’s Conservative government. Andrew helped bring down a Conservative prime minister because he judged it was in the national interest. He’s a parliamentarian, not an unthinking ‘nodding donkey’.
His vote against the provision of Free School Meals for impoverished children over Christmas is calculated. Andrew believes it’s the right thing to do. The immediate implication of this is the abolition of Free School Meals altogether. The reasoning by many Conservative MPs justified children going hungry because the state has no responsibility for feeding hungry children.This repudiates the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act. This Act acknowledged that children were victims of circumstances and it was a grotesque injustice they be punished with hunger. Andrew’s vote on the 21st October is a reversion to Victorian attitudes towards children living in poverty.
Andrew’s prepared to rebel against Conservative whips when it suits him. His membership of the European Research Group helped destroy Theresa May’s government. He and 43 other Conservatives voted against Johnson’s proposals to fight Covid-19 because it was ‘uneconomic’: a lives against business argument. And now he’s voted against the proposals to provide minimal school meals from October, 2020 to Easter, 2021 because such claimants are scroungers. Andrew has a ‘safe’ seat and believes he’s immune to punishment in the ballot box. He may well be right but what happened to his moral compass?
For the Free School meal debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-21/debates/79C0CA8D-CADF-4562-9317-5A51810BB5DE/FreeSchoolMeals
I have created a selection from the debate which I think accurately gives the tone of it. See https://oedeboyz.com/2020/10/23/selected-quotes-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/
For the Covid-19 Public Health debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-13/debates/1081EDA2-9232-4C9E-9B01-4D5879390AAF/PublicHealthCoronavirusRegulations
For the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act see https://www.intriguing-history.com/school-meals-act/